Leicester City beat Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinal by a score of 3-1 at the King Power on Sunday evening. A first half goal by Kelechi Iheanacho was equalled by a Mason Greenwood strike to level the score at the half. The Foxes pulled away in the second half with goals from Youri Tielemans and a second Iheanacho strike.
The Overused Meme Advisory Board are going to allow this one.
With Ricardo out through injury, manager Brendan Rodgers made one change to the side that thrashed Sheffield United last weekend, and it was the change you would have expected. Or, at least, the change I expected and I just presume you think like I do. Kasper Schmeichel captained the side from the back behind a defensive three of Wesley Fofana, Jonny Evans, and Çağlar Söyüncü. The midfield four was comprised of Timothy Castagne and Marc Albrighton out wide flanking Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi. Ayoze Perez returned in his role as a false nine/true ten between strikers Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho.
The opening exchanges were cagey, with both sides enjoying long spells of possession but neither able to do anything interesting with it. There were no shots in the opening ten minutes and few incidents of note. The visitors did win a corner shortly afterwards and found Harry Maguire’s prodigious forehead with the cross, but it was a tame effort that was never going to trouble Schmeichel.
The Foxes’ first chance arrived just after the quarter hour mark. A turnover by Fred deep in his own half gifted the ball to Ayoze. He found Vardy on the left, who attempted to cross to Iheanacho. The ball was deflected directly back to the former Fleetwood Town man, whose first time shot was parried by Dean Henderson and no blue shirt could get to the rebound before it was cleared.
The next great chance saw the ball in the back of the United net. Henderson played a short ball to Maguire. The former Fox defender’s pass sold Fred short and put him under pressure, causing him to play a hurried pass back towards Henderson. Iheanacho was on it in a flash, rounded the stranded keeper, and tapped it into the empty net.
United attempted to hit back quickly, and Fred nearly redeemed himself when he played a wicked cross into the box that Schmeichel just got a finger to to turn out for a corner. Alex Telles’ ball found Maguire again, but his glancing header was as close to the corner flag as it was to the net.
United did get back on level terms with their first serious attack against the run of play just before the 40’ mark. Pogba received the ball on the left and slipped a low cross in towards Donny Van de Beek. The former Ajax man let it run through his legs to Mason Greenwood, who hit it first time, and Schmeichel was never going to get near it.
The Foxes were inches from retaking the lead as injury time approached. Another United turnover gave Albrighton the ball on the right wing. He found Perez in the middle, who took out three defenders before lifting a delicate chip towards the far corner. It drifted just outside the post to the relief of Henderson, who wasn’t going to get there in time.
That was it for the half, which was probably just about fair given the chances created. Leicester were slightly the better side, but not by enough to say the scoreline was an injustice.
Neither manager made any changes at the half, which always makes my job a little easier. Leicester came out of the gates quickly, with Castagne and, um, Ndidi getting free on the left to attempt crosses with their weaker left feet with predictable results (assuming you predicted “comfortably into the arms of Henderson”).
The Foxes restored their lead just five minutes into the half. Tielemans played a neat one-two with Iheanacho and was allowed to run all the way into the box. Vardy’s run across the Belgian took Victor Lindelöf out of the way, and Tielemans finished neatly into the far corner.
The lead should have been doubled just before the hour mark. Iheahnacho’s through ball found Vardy with just Maguire to beat. He left the centre-half for dead and smashed the ball towards the near post, beating Henderson but putting his effort just wide.
The Foxes were well on top at this point, with Vardy’s runs terrorizing the back line. Tielemans and Perez both went, well, not close, but they both should have gone close. Red Devils’ manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, sensing the match slipping away, made a quadruple substitution, introducing Scott McTominay, Edinson Cavani, Bruno Fernandes, and Luke Shaw.
United had a brief spell of dizzying attack before the Foxes regained a grip on the proceedings. Rodgers made his first change with twenty to play, hauling off Ayoze and sending on Dennis Praet for his first action after a long layoff due to a hamstring injury. Praet moved out on to the left wing as City settled into a 3-5-2.
Whatever the shape, it worked, as the Foxes doubled their advantage just moments later. Praet was clever to win a free kick off McTominay on the left side. Albrighton whipped in a cross that not only beat the first man, but beat the keeper and all defenders. Iheanacho was left alone at the far post to nod in to the empty net and take some of the pressure off the defense.
Can we talk about that ball from Albrighton— Olly Mattock (@MattockOlly) March 21, 2021
Can and will, Olly. Couldn’t have been better, which is why we call him GOATbrighton in these parts.
With seven minutes of regular time to play, Rodgers withdrew Vardy and sent on Hamza Choudhury to see out the match. Choudhury’s first contribution was to give away a free kick gainst Maguire in a dangerous position. Fernandes’ effort was goalbound, but Schmeichel was alert to it and turned it over the bar.
United had another opportunity deep into injury time when a cross found the bonce of Martial, but his header was gathered by the Danish stopper. That ended any sense of urgency, and the match came to a close with the Foxes deserving 3-1 winners over Manchester United.
Leicester were the clearly the better side tonight and the win was surprisingly comfortable. Outside of one brilliant move in the first half and a flurry of action in the second half after the substitutions, Manchester United offered shockingly little going forward and what little there was didn’t overly trouble the defense.
With the draw for the next round happening at the half, the Foxes knew that victory would earn them a semi-final against Southampton in April. This marks the first time City have reached this level in this competition since 1982.
The international break is up next and we can certainly use it as we next square up against Manchester City on 3 April at the King Power and then it’s off to London to face West Ham on the 11th.