A tale of two halves as City ease into Fifth Round

Brentford 1 v Leicester City 3

Brentford Community Stadium, Emirates FA Cup. 24th January 2021

Report by Colin Murrant

On paper this fourth Round FA Cup tie at Brentford seemed tougher that the equivalent match at Griffin Park twelve months earlier. Since the match in January 2020, Brentford have moved to their new home at the Brentford Community Stadium where they have beaten both Premier League Fulham and Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup. Add to that wins in the same competition away at West Bromwich Albion and Southampton, before losing to Tottenham in the semi-final, and it suggested that City would need to be at their best to progress in the competition.

City were without Jamie Vardy, who has now had his hernia operation, although it would have been doubtful if he played in the match anyway. Rodgers made eight changes but still fielded a strong team with Çağlar Söyüncü, Ricardo Pereira, Cengiz Ünder and Danny Amartey returning to the starting line-up after injury. Apart from Vardy, Schmeichel and Praet, the starting XI and substitutes were still made up entirely of first team squad players. Brentford also made several changes with only a few players retaining their place from the side that beat Luton mid-week. If the absence of Vardy was a blow to City then, similarly, leading scorer Ivan Toney missed the game for Brentford, owing to suspension.

The pitch was snow covered earlier in the day and the ground-staff had done well to get the pitch clear and it was certainly playable. The match didn’t start particularly well as some players took the knee and others started playing: Referee Michael Oliver blew his whistle and this time everyone took the knee. City started brightly and Ünder broke down the right and into the box, he pulled the ball back to the edge of the penalty area where Perez shot just wide of the far post. Then a move crafted in Turkey as Söyüncü played a long diagonal ball to his compatriot Söyüncü who again broke into the box. This time the wide-player chose to take the shot himself but the ball was saved by Daniels for a City corner. At this stage, Stevens, the young Bees full-back, was getting a bit of a roasting from Ünder who had started well: to be fair to him, the teenager played better as the game progressed.

As so often happens, it was the team who were under pressure that scored first. Amartey gave away a needless corner and Brentford scored from the subsequent ball into the box after seven minutes. The ball eventually dropped onto Mendy’s knee and bounced up for Sorensen to score from close range. City responded well and Maddison slid a good pass into Perez’s path, his shot was blocked by Pinnock. Pinnock made another vital block for a corner as Barnes cut in from the right and got his shot away. City again wasted the corner, lacking the ingenuity of the one they scored from against Chelsea. City’s record of conceding from corners and failing to score from them, still haunts them.

On 22 minutes, Zamburek was booked for a foul on Perez, Maddison’s free kick going narrowly wide of the post. City had the majority of the ball but lacking a cutting edge. It was then Brentford’s turn to take the initiative and Ward had to be sharp to save well on two occasions. Firstly, another corner fell to the unmarked Fosu at the far post; his shot, into the ground and from the corner of the six-yard box, needed a strong hand from Ward to tip round the post for another corner. Secondly, a Söyüncü foul on the edge of the penalty area gave Brentford a free kick; Ghoddos took the kick and Ward tipped over.

As the whistle went for Half Time it was feeling like the match was now even in terms of control but, with City having failed to really test Daniels and with Brentford having had by far the best of the chances, a Cup upset might be on the cards. Whatever the players drank at Half Time, more likely though what Rodgers said to them, worked a treat as within six minutes City had the lead. Before sixty seconds passed, Maddison battled through a ruck of Brentford players with a lot of skill and determination. He passed through to Ünder who, from the right-hand side of the box, bent the ball into the far corner of the net for a sumptuous goal.

Four minutes later, and as Tielemans broke into the area he was clipped by Fosu: referee Oliver had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Tielemans got up, rubbed himself down and stroked the ball perfectly into the corner of the net.

Between the goals City had created other chances as Tielemans whipped in a ball that Perez headed just over the bar. Then Barnes, on a run, set up Perez who’s shot was parried by Daniels up and over his head and, for a moment seemed, the ball seemed to be dropping into the net until the keeper recovered his positioning.

Just past the hour mark, Tielemans put Ricardo through wide on the right, the full-back’s cross was met by Ünder who should have done better with his shot. The goal that secured the tie came after 71 minutes; Barnes ran into the box and got his shot away only for Daniels to save but the keeper was not able to hold the ball. As Daniels desperately stretched for the ball, Maddison gambled and got to the ball first, shooting the ball hard into the empty net from close range. Twice in a week Maddison has scored from opportunities within the penalty area which reflects a new dimension to his game. This was Maddison’s first ever FA Cup goal in his 100th City appearance.

City comfortably saw the rest of the match out and were well in control in what had been an exceptional second half performance. It was very pleasing to see Ricardo and Söyüncü back making strong tackles and blocks (a particular one from Ricardo at point blank range sticks in the mind); it shows that they are both winning the physical and mental battles following their long lay-offs.

Brentford are a Club on the rise and they will hopefully be a Premier League team in the near future. It was nice to see Danny Amartey in long conversation with Bees’ manager Thomas Frank at the end, Frank a Dane, no doubt knows Amartey from the player’s time at Copenhagen. But this was City’s day and, at the final whistle, The Foxes were worthy winners and now look forward to a home tie against Brighton in Round 5.

Brentford: Daniels; Roerslev, Pinnock, Sorensen, Stevens; Janelt (64), Zamburek (84), Ghoddos (79); Fosu, Canos (64), Forss

Substitutes: Raya, Henry, Jensen (64), Dalsgaard, Pressley (64), Gilbert (79), Haygarth (84), Gordon

Leicester City: Ward; Ricardo (70), Amartey, Söyüncü, Thomas; Mendy (70), Tielemans, Ünder (76), Maddison, Barnes; Perez (81)

Substitutes: Jakupović, Fofana, Evans, Castagne (70), Justin, Ndidi (70), Choudhury, Albrighton (81), Iheanacho (76)

Referee:  Oliver

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