Leicester City came back to defeat Brentford by score of 3-1 in snowy West London in their fourth round FA Cup tie on Sunday. The Bees took a shock lead through Mads Bech Sörensen in the first ten minutes, but second half strikes by Cengiz Ünder and James Maddison on either side of a Youri Tielemans penalty saw City ease through to the fifth round.
Manager Brendan Rodgers had the luxury of ringing in the changes and still fielding a star-studded side. Danny Ward got the nod between the sticks behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Daniel Amartey, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Luke Thomas. Captain Youri Tielemans partnered with Nampalys Mendy anchoring the midfield behind attacking midfielders Cengiz Ünder, James Maddison, and Harvey Barnes. Ayoze Perez lined up as the lone striker.
The Foxes came out of the gate flying, with Ünder getting behind the defense twice in the opening first five minutes. The first time Ayoze met his cut-back but put his first time effort wide. The next time, the Turkey international took it himself and forced a save from Bees’ keeper Luke Daniels.
The Gods of Ironic Justice saw this one-sided start and decided to throw a spanner in the works. The first time the hosts ventured into the Leicester half, the Foxes conceded a needless corner. It was swung in from the left, causing a panic in the box. Mendy turned the ball towards goal. He was saved from an own goal when Brentford defender Mads Bech Sörensen got a foot to it and guided it past Ward.
After surrendering the lead, City resumed their serial creation of chances with Barnes, Ünder, Tielemans, and Madders all seeing presentable efforts turned wide or just going wide without any defensive intervention. Brentford seemed to employing a somewhat cynical and highly effective strategy of giving up corners and free kicks at the first sign of danger. Given that Leicester had yet to score from a dead ball this season, it wasn’t a bad idea.
By the half hour mark, Brentford finally started to get a foothold in the game and were seeing more of the ball (and yes, I know how odd a statement that is when the Bees are leading). The hosts showed us what a well-worked corner routine looked like, finding Tariqe Fosu at the back post but Ward read it well and palmed it to safety.
As the half wore on, Leicester started to look like they were pressing a bit and the passes weren’t finding blue shirts as frustration was starting to creep in. Brentford fashioned a couple of opportunities from free kicks that Ward did well to clear. The half petered out with the Bees on the front foot but no more significant action in either penalty area.
There were no changes to personnel at the half, but something changed in the Leicester side as they leveled in the opening minute. A turnover halfway inside the Brentford half gave Madders an opportunity to run at the Bees’ defense. He beat two men before sliding it to an unmarked Ünder on this right. He struck it first time and gave the keeper no hope of getting a hand to it, let alone saving it.
The Foxes completed the turnaround on 50’. After near-misses from Ayoze and Barnes, Tielemans was brought down in the area. And by “brought down,” I mean “there may have been some contact but it might well have been overturned by VAR but there is no VAR in Brentford so a penalty it is!” The Belgium international took it himself and sent the keeper the wrong way and buried inside the post.
Youri is great isn’t he?— Matt (@Leicester_matt) January 24, 2021
Our team of fact-checkers find no flaw with this tweet.
As it seemed unlikely that City would keep up their two-goals-every-five-minutes pace, things were bound to slow down. Slowed, yes. But stopped? Not at all. Ünder and Maddison failed to convert nice chances set up by Madders and Ricardo, respectively. Barnes had an opportunity trickle just wide after fine work by Thomas on the left.
As the 70’ mark approached, Rodgers hauled off Ricardo and Mendy and sent Wilfred Ndidi and Timothy Castagne into the fray. Just moments later, the match was put to bed. Ünder’s cross-field ball found Barnes on the left. The winger’s first touch was a beauty, and he was in on goal. His low drive was parried by Daniels, but only as far as the lurking Maddison who tucked it away for his 9th goal in all competitions.
That was the end of Ünder’s day as he was taken off and given a playful tousle of the hair by Rodgers. Kelechi Iheanacho came on, with Ayoze moving to the wing and the Nigerian spearheading the attack. This stood for approximately three minutes as Marc Albrighton took over for the Spaniard on the right.
It's Albrighton time pic.twitter.com/RMfB71WSc8— Foxes of Leicester (@FoxesofLCFC) January 24, 2021
I live in Texas, so pictures of snow still have some novelty to me.
The Bees had a golden opportunity to claw one back on 85’. A speculative shot from distance was spilled by Ward directly into the path of Aaron Pressley, who fired over with the entire goalmouth beckoning. Leicester spent the rest of the match playing keep-ball, seeing out a very professional performance and advancing to the 5th round of the Cup.
After a frustrating first half that saw Brentford take the lead in spite of a very positive start for the Foxes, Leicester kept their cool and turned the game around in the second half and in the end looked very comfortable doing so. Even without Vardy, they created chance after chance and the only cause for concern was the ongoing problem with set pieces at both ends of the pitch.
The victory sees Leicester through to the 5th round of the Cup, which will see us host Brighton & Hove Albion the second week in February. We return to Premier League action on Wednesday, travelling to Lancashire to face Everton at Goodison Park. We close out our January schedule next Sunday playing host to Leeds United.