Leicester City 1 v 0 Brighton & Hove Albion, FA Cup 5th Round
Let us start with a significant outcome from this match. Apparently, this is the first time that City have made it through to the Quarter Finals of the FA Cup in successive years since 1968/69, and we all know what happened that season.
The game, sadly, had nothing in it of similar historic interest. Both managers made seven changes to their line-ups, and the result was a disjointed, frankly dull affair from start to just-about finish.
From Leicester’s point of view, seeing Vardy and Ndidi in the starting line-up was encouraging, although Brendan Rodgers was explicit in his pre-match interview that he intended only 60-minutes’ play from each of them. Justin – more of him later – started on the left of a back three with Amartey and Söyüncü. And there was a first start for right wing-back Daley-Campbell and also a start for Thomas.
Mike Dean refereed, immediately following the reported death threats and controversy around his two recent matches. The death threats – indeed pretty much all social media sniping at referees – is completely inappropriate. This match, however, had nothing of controversy – in fact very few decisions for the referee to make at all.
I wrote nothing at all in my notebook for the first fifteen minutes; City had more of the ball but nothing constructive occurred. In that fifteenth minute, Brighton won their first corner and – as so often this season – City looked panicky in defending it; but defend it they did. By my reckoning, the first foul of the match did not occur until a minute later – there was neither fluidity by the team with the ball, nor bite from the team without it.
City won a couple of corners. Both were badly played in by Tielemans and both led to chances for breakaway attacks by Brighton, but City defended them. In the entire first half Brighton managed a couple of poor long-range shots on goal and Leicester just one – high and wide and not very handsome from Tielemans. City’s performance was summed up when they finally managed a trademark three-on-three break. Despite the usually reliable Perez/Vardy/Ünder combination being in the break, it simply petered out. City generally looked a bit slower than usual, and there was little connection between the midfield and the attack. Even the usually irrepressible Ünder was quiet.
The lack of significant events to record meant that when Pérez was booked a minute before half-time, for a slip which resulted in a late challenge – I actually noted that it was the third time he had slipped over. When the efficiency of Perez’s footwear becomes a feature, you know you are not watching a classic!
Neither manager made any changes at half-time. City did start to play with a bit more pace and purpose, albeit not much. Vardy got in a cross-shot that was easily smothered. A clearance by Burn hit his knee and flew closer to his own goal than any attacking attempt by either side. Justin, finding himself in central midfield momentarily, played a decent through ball for Pérez to chase, but the Brighton ‘keeper was just quick enough, resulting in a tumble for Pérez which left him visibly limping for five minutes before – on the hour – Rodgers made the pre-determined substitutions, with Iheanacho replacing Vardy, Choudhury for Ndidi, and also Maddison replacing the hobbling Pérez.
A couple of minutes later, Brighton played a neat through-ball for Zeqiri to flick the ball over Ward into the net, but it was clearly offside. A couple of minutes later, determined work by Iheanacho led to a blocked shot that span to Ünder who shot the ball into the net, but Iheanacho had been marginally offside.
A couple of minutes later still, Brighton created a decent-half chance that was shot just wide from a tight angle. More importantly, in the build-up Justin fell awkwardly and looked to have seriously damaged his knee, resulting in him being stretchered off and replaced by Fuchs. Justin has been such an integral part of the Leicester team all season that any long-term injury for him will be a major blow, and we wish him well.
In the eighty-third minute, Brighton made the first shot on target by either team, forcing a routine save from Ward. City finally began to wake up and forced a couple of chances. As the clock ticked to the final additional minute of five, Daley-Campbell was tenacious in the box resulting in a corner.
Everyone relaxed as the final whistle seemed imminent. ‘Everyone’ included the Brighton defence, but not Ünder or Tielemans. Ünder took a tap quick-corner, Tielemans took a couple of paces, composed himself and chipped a perfect cross for Iheanacho to head home, unchallenged, from three yards whilst the Brighton defence was still sorting out its positions. It was a moment of speed, purpose and quality amidst ninety-five minutes which had largely lacked all three … and it was the win.
The positives from the match, aside from the final result of course, were the appearances of Vardy and Ndidi. Daley-Campbell had a decent game, particularly going forwards.
The clear negative was what looked like a potentially serious injury to Justin.
The other very mild positive was that the skewed timing of lockdown matches for television meant that swapping at full-time to the Everton versus Spurs ‘basketball game’ meant that one could watch five goals being scored from that nine-goal match – a reminder of what a cup tie CAN be like!
Leicester CityWard, Amartey, Söyüncü, Justin, Daley-Campbell, Ndidi, Tielemans, Thomas, Ünder, Vardy, Pérez
Schmeichel, Evans, Maddison, Albrighton, Iheanacho, Barnes, Choudhury, Fuchs, Tavares
Brighton & Hove Albion
Walton, White, Dunk, Burn, Karbownik, Groß, Lallana, Moder, Alzate, Tau, Zeqiri
Connolly, Bissouma, Maupay, Mac Allister, Welbeck, Steele, Caicedo, Veltman, Weir
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