Walsall 0 – 1 Leicester City. Kelechi Iheanacho’s fortuitous second-half strike broke the resistance of League Two Walsall and sent Leicester into the FA Cup fifth round.
After Youri Tielemans had missed a penalty on a testing afternoon for a strong Foxes side, Iheanacho’s effort from the edge of the box deflected off Brandon Comley and looped over Saddlers goalkeeper Owen Evans in the 68th minute.
It was the Nigeria international’s 17th goal in 23 FA Cup appearances – the most by any player since Iheanacho made his debut in the competition in 2016.
Walsall, one of the form sides in League Two, had defended admirably against the 2021 Cup winners, cheered on by a capacity crowd at a sold-out Bescot Stadium.
Evans made a series of smart saves while Tielemans struck the post with his spot-kick moments after half-time, after Patson Daka was fouled by Isaac Hutchinson.
A point-blank stop from Evans denied Iheanacho a second in the final 10 minutes and kept an entertaining tie alive until the finish, but Leicester held firm for a much-needed Cup win amid their struggles in the Premier League.
On paper this tie had the makings of an FA Cup upset – a Premier League team without a league win in five games, visiting an in-form fourth-tier side who had won nine of their last 12 games in a charged-up atmosphere.
Walsall made the game a contest from the opening seconds by charging out of the blocks to close down the Leicester defenders. At the end their fans applauded the players from the field despite the scoreline.
Leicester, whose team included James Maddison for his first start since the World Cup and a debut off the bench for £17m signing Victor Kristiansen, had been made to work.
For more than an hour it looked as though wastefulness in the first half, from Daka in particular, and Tielemans’ miss would cost Leicester despite domination of the ball.
When needed, Walsall’s defenders had thrown themselves to block shots while Evans’ double save from Tielemans and Daka was particularly impressive.
Unfortunately for the Saddlers, it was one of those blocks which proved crucial – Comley a little too slow to close down substitute Iheanacho.
It resulted in the Foxes’ second successive 1-0 win against League Two opposition in the FA Cup this season.
Iheanacho, a man fast becoming an FA Cup specialist, has scored the winner on both occasions.
Walsall manager Michael Flynn, who led Newport to a Cup upset against Leicester in 2019, admitted he was frustrated at the manner of the winning goal.
“I am a very proud manager of the players – not just the performance but their application throughout the week,” he said.
“You almost wish they scored the penalty and not the deflected goal. It happens. I am sure we will have a bit of luck in the rest of the season.”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said: “We could have been more comfortable with some of the chances we missed but the attitude of the players was excellent.
“There were lots of positives today as well as the result, [including] James Maddison coming back in.”
source – BBC