Millwall 1 City 0
Report by Colin Hall
Leicester City's quest to land the FA Cup for the first time ever has been postponed for another year, after a 5th round 1-0 defeat at Millwall which was abject even by this season's subterranean standards.
Not for the first time in this wretched season, the Foxes looked bereft of spirit, character and leadership as they meekly capitulated to third-tier hosts who were forced to play with 10 men following the 52nd minute dismissal of defender Jake Cooper.
And once again, sadly the team and supporters were not well served by a performance from our manager which combined arrogance, ignorance and ineptitude in equal measure.
The starting line-up showed 10 changes from the side that had crashed so badly at Swansea the previous week, with only Gray retaining his place. Loan signing Wague was brought in for his City debut in an experimental centre-back pairing with the rarely-seen Benalouane.
Despite the omissions, there were still seven full internationals that started the game at the Den, and many of them began strongly as City sought to make their superior quality count early on. The Polish youngster Kapustka impressed many in the visiting contingent with some clever touches and incisive passes.
Musa, Gray and Okazaki all came close to opening the scoring during a half which City dominated for long spells. But the lack of a cutting edge in attack provided encouragement for the opposition, who gradually inched their way back into the game.
Indeed, indecision at setpieces – a familiar failing on City's travels in recent months – forced Zieler into making two saves in quick succession as the interval approached. Cooper's reckless follow-through on him, after the second of these, earned him the first of his yellow cards when many in the City ranks were looking for a more stringent punishment.
Shortly after the resumption, though, the Millwall men pushed his luck too far when scything down Musa. Referee Craig Pawson, of Stoke infamy, was left with no option to dismiss him and give the visitors an advantage.
This should have been the cue for City to bring on a couple of big guns from the bench, step up the pace and complete what appeared to be a straightforward task. Instead, though, they retreated into their shell, apparently content to see out the draw in the anticipation of finishing the Lions off at home.
With 20 minutes remaining, City suffered a significant blow when Wague, who had looked composed and assured during his debut, fell awkwardly and dislocated his shoulder. The manager chose to replace him with the veteran Wasilewski when other more attacking options were available. The consequences of this misjudgement would prove fateful for us.
As the home side tired on a heavy pitch, City had chances to hit them on the break, but on too many occasions a overhit pass or a heavy touch brought moves to a frustrating close.
Nevertheless, the visitors had a glorious opportunity to secure redemption when sub Vardy flicked on an Albrighton cross into the path of Okasaki, whose first touch took him clear on goal, but a moment of undue hesitation allowed home keeper Archer to smother the shot.
With seconds of normal time remaining, the worst fears of the travelling Foxes duly came to pass when a loose ball by Benalouane was intercepted and quickly launched into the City box.
Right-back Cummings, showing levels of ambition and bravery beyond those of his City counterparts, seized his chance, shrugging off a couple of weak challenges before firing past Zieler and sending the sides of the Den into ecstacy.
Millwall, aided by a certain degree of indulgence from referee Pawson, were able to play out the five minutes of stoppage time in some comfort and secure their passage to the next round. City, meanwhile were left to reflect on what had been yet another day where dreams had been brutally shattered.
The most dispiriting aspect of this afternoon was that the home side did not even have to play particularly above their level. The scene was set by a team selection which bore too many imprints of complacency and over-indulgence – factors which had played a role in several cup upsets in recent weeks, and duly did so again here.
Travelling fans had every right to expect far better from a manager who, lest we forget, was named FIFA coach of the Year as recently as last month. Unfortunately, since his trip to Zurich, he has reminded us all too often why so many of his previous clubs have invariably lost patience with him.
While he continues to command the gratitude of the City owners, even they must be concerned at the club's current slump, which is as bad as anything suffered under the very worst of Foxes managers during the last 30 years.
The day of reckoning for the manager has been too long delayed. But sooner or later it will not be denied. If his departure is needed to avoid a damaging, demoralising return to the lower leagues (and venues such as this), than so be it.
Millwall (4-4-2): Archer: Cummings, Webster, Cooper, Craig; O'Brien (Gregory 78), Butcher (Abdou 75), Williams, Ferguson (Romeo 86): Morison (c), Onyedinma. Subs not used: King, Hutchinson, Worrall, Smith.
Booking: Cooper. Sent off: Cooper.
Scorer: Cummings (90)
City (4-2-3-1): Zieler, Amartey, Wague (Wasilewski 70), Benalouane, Chilwell; King (c), Mendy; Kapustka (Albrighton 64), Musa, Gray (Vardy 73); Okazaki. Subs not used: Hamer, Ndidi, Mahrez, Fuchs.
Attendance: 18,012 (3,114 away fans) Referee: Craig Pawson
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation