Leicester City survived a torrid first half to run out 3-0 winners over Birmingham City in the 4th round of the FA Cup on Saturday at the King Power. Jakub Stolarczyk kept Leicester in the match with a string of fine saves during a goalless first half. In the second period, Jamie Vardy, Yunus Akgun, and Dennis Praet all found the net to send the Foxes through to the next round.
Tonight was a victory for Maresca-ball as much as anything. Having made 10 changes from the previous match and including a debutante in the starting lineup, Leicester looked out of sorts in the first half. The problem was less a lack of quality than a failure to adhere to The System. The gaffer made three changes at the half, but, more importantly, stressed moving the ball more quickly and reminded Hamza Choudhury that he was not a #8 tonight.
That’s not to take anything away from the impact of the substitutes. In particular, Ricardo brought a calmness to the side when in possession that was entirely absent in the first half. It was one of those sneaky performances that didn’t make much of a statistical impression but changed the game nonetheless.
And, speaking of the #8s, both of them were on the scoresheet tonight. Yunus and Praet both had positive, albeit uneven, performances. We’ll need for them to continue that sort of form with Ndidi out, Casadei gone, and...what’s this we hear about Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Brighton? We’ll talk more about that one later.
Congratulations to Brandon Cover and Arjan Raikhy for making their senior debuts this evening. They both contributed and looked comfortable playing at this level. Cover, in particular, was probably our best outfield player in the first half and was a little unfortunate to come off at the break.
The victory sees us through to the 5th round of the FA Cup. The draw will take place tomorrow afternoon. We won’t play in the Cup again until the last week of February or early March, so we have plenty of time to make our little aluminium foil replica cups. Next up, we host Swansea this Tuesday evening. One week from today, we travel to Staffordshire to find out if we can do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke.
I so want to put this audio with this video...
Leicester City: Jakub Stolarczyk, Brandon Cover, Conor Coady, Ben Nelson, Callum Doyle, Dennis Praet, Hamza Choudhury, Yunus Akgun, Wanya Marcal, Marc Albrighton, Jamie Vardy (C)
Birmingham City: John Ruddy, Krystian Bielik, Emanuel Aiwu, Lee Buchanan, Ethan Laird, Keshi Anderson, Ivan Sunjic, Jordan James, Jay Stansfield, Siriki Dembele, Koji Miyoshi
Key Moments and Notes
1’- Close! Birmingham City come out pressing and they force Choudhury into a hurried pass that sells Coady short. His first touch is heavy and Anderson is in for the “Blues” (they’re wearing their red away kit today). Stolarczyk makes a fine skate save with his left peg to keep it out.
7’- Against all odds, the shape looks very much like what we see every week. Cover is, um, covering the Ricardo role, Choudhury is today’s Winks, and Praet and Yunus are the #8s. Yunus looks very lively today with his pressing.
13’- Nelson concedes a corner and Anderson tries to take it with the ball a good foot outside the quadrant. The City supporters voice their displeasure until referee Craig Pawson comes over and makes him place the ball properly. Nothing comes of it.
19’- Cover plays a magnificent ball into Vardy’s path. It’s almost a carbon copy of Fuch’s ball for Jamie’s 11th in a row. Alas, the former England striker’s first touch is far too heavy, and it runs to Ruddy.
28’- Close! Stolarczyk’s distribution hasn’t been spotty and he plays himself into trouble. Stansfield taps the ball to James, who gets behind the entire Leicester defence. The keeper makes amends for his mistake with a fine save from a close-range effort.
34’- Close! The visitors are carving up the Leicester backline far too easily. This time it falls to Stansfield and again Stolarczyk is forced to make a smart save.
38’- Close! After a series of desperate, lunging challenges by the Foxes’ defence, the Blues work the ball to Stansfield in the six-yard box. He has his back to the goal, but he turns smartly and fires...off the post.
40’- Close! This time it’s Dembele, who is alone just 8 yards from the goal line. His shot is on target, but it’s too close to Stolarczyk. It is all Birmingham City at this point. It has been all Birmingham City for some time if I’m being honest.
As bad as it’s been for a while, which is saying something.— Jamie Thorpe (@thorpie54) January 27, 2024
Midfield non-existent, Cover the only one coming out with any credit. #lcfc
HALF TIME: Leicester City 0 - 0 Birmingham City
46’- Three changes for the Foxes at the half. Kasey McAteer, Ricardo Pereira, and James Justin are on for Cover, Doyle, and Marcal.
47’- GOAL! What’s a run of play? McAteer taps it to Yunus in the centre of the park. He sprays it out wide to Albrighton. He does the thing he always does, curling it into the middle to find Vardy, who heads past Ruddy.
Just old times— Leicester City Xtra. (@XtraLeicester) January 27, 2024
Albrighton To Vardy ⚽️
Vardy heads home pic.twitter.com/mYe3gdWrNU
71 years between the two of ‘em.
55’- Vardy has the ball in the net again but the flag is up. Praet lays a perfect through ball into the striker’s path and he neatly rounds Ruddy and taps home. Was he offside? I’m not sure, but it doesn’t matter as VAR is sitting this match out.
66’- Tom Cannon comes on for Jamie Vardy. The GOAT blows kisses to the supporters (not saying which supporters) on his way off the pitch.
71’- GOAL! Yunus gets his first City goal and it’s a cracker. Cannon is dispossessed at the edge of the area but it falls to the Galatasaray man who just puts his left boot through it and gives Ruddy no chance. 2-0 to the Foxes.
81’- Arjan Raikhy makes his debut for the Foxes, coming on for Yunus. I know nothing at all about the young man, so I’m just going to assume he’s going to be the best player we’ve ever had.
82’- Close! A corner comes off Ruddy and falls to Nelson. It’s awkward but he gets it on target. Unfortunately, that target is a grateful Ruddy.
89’- GOAL! Cannon latches on to a ball over the top, getting there ahead of Ruddy. The striker is forced wide, but he finds Praet’s late run with an inch-perfect pass. The Belgium man keeps his cool and slots home to ensure the Foxes are going to be in the 5th round draw.
FULL TIME: Leicester City 3 - 0 Birmingham City