Leicester City edged past Brentford in Saturday’s FA Cup action at Griffin Park. An early Kelechi Iheancho goal saw the Foxes through the to the 5th round of the cup despite the Bees being the better side for most of the second half.
With the League Cup semi-final looming on Tuesday, manager Brendan Rodgers made multiple changes to his starting XI. Danny Ward got the nod in goal behind a back line of James Justin, Wes Morgan, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Christian Fuchs. Wingers Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray flanked Dennis Praet and Hamza Choudhury in central midfield. Ayoze Perez and Kelechi Iheanacho partnered in attack.
It was almost a perfect start for the Foxes. A clearance on the Bees’ left wing struck Gray. The carom fell to Iheancho, who spotted Ayoze’s run and slipped him in one-on-one with the Luke Daniels. The Spaniard rounded the keeper, but a fine last-ditch challenge prevented him from tapping the ball into the net.
It took all of four minutes for the Foxes to take the lead. An absolutely brilliant ball from Praet in the center circle was met by Justin on the right wing. He whipped it across the face of the goal just as Iheanacho was arriving. The Nigeria man made no mistake from close range, giving Leicester a deserved early lead.
Iheanacho makes it 1-0, but let's talk about Dennis Praet's pre-assist first pic.twitter.com/ORYNPKfEAE— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) January 25, 2020
Watch it before it gets pulled down. It’s pretty special. Update: I found an official one that won’t get pulled down.
After a comfortable opening quarter-hour for the visitors, Brentford made their first serious foray into the Leicester half and carved out a decent chance. Mads Roerslev created a yard of space on the Leicester left to cross the ball into the box. Choudhury got a foot to it, but only deflected it as far as Emiliano, who took a touch and blasted the ball into the side netting.
This marked the start of a good spell of pressure from Brentford as the Foxes struggled to find each other with outlet balls. The energy and aggression of the opening ten minutes waned and the hosts started to win every loose ball. As time went on, the same disease began to afflict the hosts and we had fifteen minutes of some pretty poor football.
Leicester had a golden opportunity to double their advantage right before the half-time whistle. Iheancho made a marauding run down the middle and did well to slip in Ayoze, but Daniels stood tall and managed to block the shot. The rebound fell to Brentford, but the clearance bounced off of Gray and Albrighton was the first to react. Unfortunately, he put his header just over with the goalmouth at his mercy. The proved the last action of the half, sending the Foxes into the tunnel with a 1-0 lead.
The Foxes emerged unchanged from the tunnel at Griffin Park to start the second period. If you returned late from whatever it is you do at half-time, you didn’t miss much. The first fifteen minutes of the half were some of the most dull football you’re likely to see. It was utterly bereft of quality, but, to be fair, it was equally bereft of goalmouth action.
The Bees very nearly got off the mark on the hour mark. Fuchs did well to turn a low cross back out of the area. The ball came right back and just clipped Söyüncü’s heel, directing the ball back towards goal. There was nothing Ward could do about it, but it came back off the post when it could just as easily have gone in.
Perhaps with an eye to Tuesday’s semi-final, Rodgers hauled of Iheanacho on 65’ and handed a senior debut to academy product Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall. I’d like to say that his introduction brightened the match, but both sides seemed intent on producing a performance that matches the dull, gray sky over Hounslow.
Speaking of “Gray”, it was Demarai who was taken off next in favor of James Maddison on 78’. His twinkling toes and questionable facial hair failed to provide the spark Rodgers wanted. In fact, it was Brentford who were looking the more likely. A corner fell to Luca Racic, whose thunderous Volley was just tipped over by Ward. The Bees had the ball in the back of the net from the ensuing corner, but Bryan Mbeumo was correctly adjudged to have been offside.
After the brief flurry of abject terror, the match petered out in a hail of misplaced passes, missed communication, and general poor play. This was not a good second half from the Foxes, who failed to put a shot on target in the final 45 minutes. Nonetheless, it was enough as Brentford just didn’t have the quality to force a replay.
I woke up before dawn to watch this?
If you slept in, you didn’t miss much. Leicester came out of the gate like gangbusters, got a goal and then...pfffft. File this one under “job done” however as the Foxes avoided a replay, got some pitch time for the reserves, and didn’t pick up any knocks. It was a good result, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch the highlights.
LCFCFoxes insuring that we draw Man City in the 5th round.
Kelechi Iheanacho continues to impress. Every phase of his game is working right now and he’s the primary reason we haven’t suffered when Vardy has missed games this year. Praet put in a very workmanlike performance punctuated with a moment of absolute brilliance, and Justin looked good going forward. Danny Ward gets a mention today for being called into serious action exactly once and for answering the bell when he was.
The victory gets us into the draw for the 5th round of the FA Cup. The draw will be held Monday night before the Bournemouth/Arsenal match. On Tuesday, we travel to Villa Park for the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against Aston Villa. League action resumes on 1 February when we host Chelsea at the King Power because it would be silly for us to “host” them anywhere else.