Wilfred Ndidi is one of the brightest young midfielders in the Premier League. Someday, he could be one of the league’s – or Europe’s – best. He could star for Nigeria at World Cups as soon as next summer.
But if he hoped his 21st birthday would be an opportunity to celebrate and reflect on his success and development … well, his plans took an unfortunate turn on Saturday.
Ndidi’s Leicester City conceded twice in the first half in a 3-0 home loss to 18th-place Crystal Palace. As the Foxes sought a route back into the game, Ndidi made his way into the Palace penalty box and received the ball at his feet. Then he took a tumble under something between minimal and no contact. Referee Martin Atkinson spotted the lack of contact, whipped out his cards, and showed Ndidi the yellow one, then the red one.
Ndidi had been booked less than 10 minutes earlier, in the 52nd minute. Atkinson clearly felt he had no choice to issue a second yellow.
The one excuse for Ndidi might be that there appeared to be slight contact on the back of his left leg from the trailing Crystal Palace player. But it’s clear that isn’t what caused him to fall down. His reaction was delayed. The yellow was deserved. Ndidi’s birthday was ruined. And any Leicester comeback hopes were foiled.