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FA Cup Match Report: Nottingham Forest 4 - 1 Leicester City

Foxes’ defense of the FA Cup ends in the worst of all possible places.

Nottingham Forest v Leicester City: The Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Leicester City were easily defeated by Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup on Sunday afternoon by a score of 4-1. The hosts scored three first-half goals before Kelechi Iheanacho got one back at the half. City couldn’t find a way through in the second period as Forest added a fourth.

No one was happier than manager Brendan Rodgers to see Nigeria crash out of the Africa Cup of Nations and he wasted no time in getting his returning internationals into the starting XI: Danny Ward, James Justin, Daniel Amartey, Çağlar Söyüncü, Luke Thomas, Youri Tielemans (C), Wilfred Ndidi, Ademola Lookman, James Maddison, Ademola Lookman, and Kelechi Iheanacho.

The Foxes dominated the early going, with Iheanacho spurning an early opportunity and Barnes failing to control a ball in a good position. Forest were struggling to get out of their area, but they did ring the warning bells when they hit the post from a set-piece delivered to the far post. Would City heed the warning?

They would not.

Another ball delivered from the Leicester left found an unmarked Keinan Davis at the far post. He knocked the ball down for Philip Zinckernagel who bundled it home from close range. There were suspicions of a shove by Davis and, while the broadcast was still showing replays, the Reds scored yet again.

Attacking down the right this time, Amartey won the ball near the corner. Instead of putting it out of play, he centred it directly to Brennan Johnson, who turned and nutmegged Ward to double the Forest lead. There was less than one minute between the two goals, leaving City with a mountain to climb.

Birmingham City Women v Leicester City Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League
The Leicester women are through to the next round, so today wasn’t a complete disaster. Close, though...
Photo by Nathan Stirk - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

That mountain got even taller just after the half-hour mark. After a sustained period of pressure, the hosts won a corner on the left which was pumped into the centre of the box. Defender Joe Worrall brushed Ndidi aside and bounced a header into the far corner, evading both Ward and Tielemans. For those of you not keeping score, this made it 3-0 to Forest on just 32’.

Leicester needed to get one back and the Trees were happy to oblige. Luke Thomas beat the high press and the ball was worked to Madders who played a brilliant curled ball into the path of Iheanacho. Forest keeper Brice Samba decided to come for it, but the Seniorman tapped the ball past him and then finished from a very unlikely distance and angle at full stretch. It was quite exceptional, but an equally ridiculous error by the keeper.

Pigeons were a big talking point during the match. That’s seldom a good sign.

That was it for the half, but, in truth, that was more than enough. Would Brendan be able to work his halftime magic? Don’t ask me, I write these as the match is happening. I will say that, despite some horrific defending, this match is still there for the taking.

The gaffer made on change at the half, withdrawing Barnes in favour of Patson Daka and switching from a 4-2-3-1 to know, I’m not really certain what the shape was. Both Thomas and Justin were on the left so make of that what you will.

It’s funny to say this, but the game was decided on the hour mark. Forest turned the ball over in their own half. Lookman tapped the ball to Iheanacho, whose brilliant return ball put the former Fulham man in on goal. He went over with a defender going through his back, but referee Michael Oliver wasn’t interested, there was no VAR, and there were no replays on the broadcast. Forest went down to the other end, Zinckernagel tapped it to Spence, and it was 4-1 Forest.

If you think I’m going to show Forest goals, you’re sorely mistaken. Pigeons it is!
Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

As if to add insult to injury, the next time down the pitch, the Foxes got the ball into the hosts’ box. A clearing header was brought down by a Forest defender with both hands directly in front of the referee, but nothing was called. However, let me make this perfectly clear: The referee ain’t why we lost.

Rodgers responded by hauling off Lookman and Tielemans and introducing Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Ricardo Pereira. This left the Foxes in a...3-1-4-2? Who knows? It was almost certainly a shape.

The highlight of the last ten minutes for the Foxes was an “out of the blue” moment that, like everything else this evening, didn’t quite come off. Forest cleared a ball out of their own box as far as Amartey on the edge of the area. He took it on the volley and hit it as cleanly as he’ll ever hit a ball. The dipping drive was just saved by Samba, but it was a hell of an effort.

In the spirit of completeness, we also saw Cags make a clearance that could have been a penalty, Ricardo went close with a rasping drive, and that was about it. The whistle couldn’t come soon enough.

All of our demons showed up for this one: We gave the ball away cheaply in dangerous positions, we couldn’t defend a set-piece, we couldn’t cope with a more physical side, and we were wasteful when chances came our way. Do “inscrutable shapes” and “baffling substitutions” count as demons, or are they more like gremlins? Regardless, if you put all of that together and you get arguably the worst performance of the Brendan Rodgers era.

No Vardy, Fofana, Evans, Schmeichel, or Castagne. The fact that this seems like a relatively full squad just underscores how bad it has been.

The defeat knocks us out of the FA Cup, which would bother me less had we not played our strongest available side in an attempt to defend the trophy. Next up, we attempt to do the double over Liverpool at Anfield on Thursday, and then we square up against West Ham on the King Power a week from today.