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FA Cup Match Report: Leicester City 0 - 1 Chelsea

One defensive lapse knocks the Foxes out of the Cup

Leicester City v Chelsea FC - FA Cup: Quarter Final
Cags had the opportunity to do this at both ends of the pitch today.
Photo by Rui Vieira/Pool via Getty Images

Leicester City were knocked out of the FA Cup by Chelsea by a score of 1-0 at the King Power on Sunday. The Foxes dominated the first half but couldn’t find the breakthrough. Chelsea made three changes at the half and took the lead through a Ross Barkley goal. The Foxes had a great chance late from Çağlar Söyüncü but couldn’t find a breakthrough.

The biggest shock in the team news was the absence of James Maddison from the squad. Without his preferred left-winger, manager Brendan Rodgers reverted to a 4-3-3 with Kasper Schmeichel in goal and a back four of James Justin, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Chelsea target Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi anchored the midfield three alongside Youri Tielemans and Dennis Praet. Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes got the nod on flanks on either side of Jamie Vardy.

He is...*checks notes*...the Premier League’s leading scorer. He’ll probably keep getting chances.

The Foxes broke from the gate strongly, carving out a clear chance in the first minute. Teenage midfielder Billy Gilmour turned the ball over to Barnes in midfield. The former West Bromwich Albion loanee slid in Vardy, who returned it with his first touch, but the winger couldn’t get anything on his shot. This typified the run of play in the first five minutes. Chelsea couldn’t handle Leicester’s press and the Foxes were running at will into the visitors’ box, but the final touch was too heavy, too light, but never just right.

The pace of the match inevitably fell off and Chelsea started to see some of the ball but the Foxes were still on top. Barnes won a free kick on the left. Tielemans lofted it into the box and found an unmarked Ndidi, but he couldn’t get any power on his header and it was easily gathered by Willy Caballero. Shortly afterwards, Gilmour fired an errant pass directly to Tielemans, The Belgium man strode forward and fired in a low strike that Caballero did will to turn around the post for a corner.

Chelsea had their first clear chance on the half hour mark. Christian Pulsic was allowed to drift inside the center of the area. The USA international created an inch of space and fired in a snap-shot that Schmeichel reacted to smartly and pushed over the bar. At the other end, Barnes wasted a glorious opportunity when a loose ball fell to him alone at the edge of the area, but he couldn’t hit the target from a tight angle.

Leicester City v Chelsea FC - FA Cup: Quarter Final
This is easily the thinnest selection of photos I’ve ever scene to use for a match report, so pretend that this is a shot of Kasper is about to make a fantastic leap and deny Pulisic.
Photo by Tim Keeton/Pool via Getty Images

The Foxes had a little flurry at the end of the first half. Vardy finally got a ball over the top to run on to, but he scuffed the half-volley and sent it wide. The Foxes won three consecutive corners with time running down, but only got to take two as referee Mike Dean blew his whistle. No goals for either side, but the Foxes turned in their best half of football since the restart.

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard made three changes to start the second half, and it was the Blues who started the period on the front foot. The Foxes struggled to deal with the press, forcing Leicester into needless turnovers in their own half. Tammy Abraham had the ball in the back of the net, but he was rightly adjudged to have been offside. At the other end, Justin made a fantastic run down the right and laid the ball into the path of the onrushing Tielemans, but his touch was heavy and the chance was lost.

Leicester City v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
I mean, this photo isn’t even from this match, is it? No clue what’s going on, but it’s a decent photo of Youri and Brendan, isn’t it?
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Rodgers only waited ten minutes to change things up to regain the momentum. Hamza Choudhury and Marc Albrighton were introduced for Praet and Perez. The Foxes hit the woodwork moments later as Barnes and Chilwell combined down the left. The England left back swung in a teasing cross to the far post that very nearly found the top corner instead, striking the top of the crossbar.

Disaster struck just after the hour mark. Chilwell was isolated against both Azpilicueta and Willian on the left. The Brazillian received the ball without any pressure as Chilwell screamed for help. You can’t leave Willian alone for that much time. He picked out substitute Ross Barkley’s run and the former Everton man finished it well with a first time strike.

The Foxes started to find a little rhythm after the goal but chances still weren’t coming. Rodgers hauled off Barnes and brought on Demarai Gray on the former Birmingham City man’s 24th birthday. His first action was to make a great run down the left outside Chilwell, but the fullback took the shot himself and hit the target but didn’t trouble the keeper.

The Foxes should have leveled on 85’. Albrighton did remarkably well to whip in a cross that evaded Caballero and fell to the surprised Söyüncü, who headed it into Azpilicueta when he should have hit the open net. The Foxes had a period of sustained pressure but failed to get a shot in and Chelsea broke four-on-two but couldn’t get the ball into the net.

Leicester had four minutes of time added on to try to send the match into extra time. The Foxes huffed and puffed but failed to do anything remotely close to getting the equaliser. Time ran out on a match that was very even in all ways except for the one that count and the Foxes were out of the FA Cup.

It’s a funny old game. The performance was miles better than what we saw against Brighton or Watford, but the result was worse. The match was about as dead even as you could have wanted and, on another day, in another, better world, we’d be through to the semi-final. Alas, we’re in a world that is far from the best of possible worlds and it was Chelsea who found the breakthrough.

Counterpoint: “Should have wrapped it up inside 20 minutes” makes this the best performance in months.

I am, obviously, in the minority here in not feeling that it was a dire performance. It wasn’t great, but we created chances, we had energy, and we should have wrapped it up inside 20 minutes. That’s something we can build on. Unlike, say, Brighton or Watford, when it was just all bad, all the time. We were the Barcelona of the East Midlands compared to those efforts.

To these untrained eyes, Wilfred Ndidi was the star of the show today. He dominated a Chelsea midfield featuring one N’Golo Kante and looked much more comfortable as the lone holding midfielder. Tielemans showed some signs of rounding into form and Praet gave us a nice hour of work before going off. Of the substitutes, it was Albrighton who looked most likely to create opportunities (and help his fullback tracking back in defense and yes, that is whatever the match report version of a subtweet would be).

The silver lining is that this match has no impact on the table and the table is where we need focus. The remain in 3rd place a single point ahead of Chelsea and only three ahead of 5th-placed Wolves. The Champions league is very much on the line in the remaining seven league matches. We travel to Goodison Park on Wednesday to face Everton and then it’s Crystal Palace at home the following Saturday.