Foxes 1 Southampton 0
Match report by Graham Tracey
When we’ve waited nearly 40 years for a semi-final, and the majority of our fans weren’t alive in 1969, we deserve a bit of luck when it matters. And it arrived in the 55th minute at Wembley, as Vardy hared down the left wing and centred for Iheanacho. His first shot was miles off target, but it rebounded perfectly from a bemused defender for our cup hero to calmly stroke home a historic goal for the club. We will have to play much, much better to overcome Chelsea, but come what may I think we will put in a better performance in May than this nerve-stricken showing.
There were memorable and slightly surreal scenes at full time, with our players showing how much it meant to them, and a good number of the supposed neutral 4,000 local crowd celebrating in Leicester colours. What a day awaits for our city in May, either for the lucky ones who will get a ticket, or for the many more watching in Leicestershire.
I am sure we will have the support of the whole country given Chelsea’s involvement in the breakaway league – all borne out of the nuisance factor of the likes of Leicester threatening to ‘steal’ places on merit. What a story for Jamie too – the first player who will have played in every round (including preliminary and qualifying) of the tournament – an echo of Andy King’s three divisions winners record.
The occasion seemed to get to us, but it got to Southampton more. Perez was predictably preferred to start ahead of the not match fit Maddison, with a surprising wing back flank switch with Castagne given the right and Ricardo the left. I don’t think this is the best permutation, although not a bad problem to have. I hoped for a quick start, but it soon became clear that it would not be a free-flowing and attacking game. There were a number of clumsy or ill-judged fouls, most worryingly when Vardy needed treatment in the first five minutes but was okay.
Perez was finding space, Ndidi was intercepting as usual, but no one had a sure touch and both sides were giving the ball away with frequency. We couldn’t get Tielemans on the ball with any meaning in the first half hour. One notable difference to league games was though that we weren’t scared to clear our lines in the old-fashioned way of the hoof, which I much prefer in an all or nothing game rather than the usual impression that our defenders’ match bonuses are based on how many times they can put Kasper under pressure with his feet.
Luckily, Southampton were faring no better, and Evans looked secure and Little Wes right on top of his game. There were no dangerous free kicks for Ward-Prowse to capitalise on. We did have the best two moves of the first half. A Perez – Vardy combination led to the Spaniard’s cross just eluding Iheanacho, and then when Vardy was sent through by Tielemans, he opted for an extra touch which took him just too wide for his dink over Forster to hit the target.
Hopes for a higher gear in the second half were again dashed, and the Saints looked stronger until the goal out of nothing. The rest of the game seemed to last for ever despite there ultimately being no scares – Southampton failed to have a shot on target all game, but it never felt like a done deal.
My main worry is that we would end with ten men, as Soyuncu didn’t moderate his game following a yellow card. One blatant shoulder barge on Ings could easily have changed the game. Substitutions in a one-off cup game are also tricky when extra time is in play – you can’t just shut up shop and aim for a draw at worse. However, we made two really good ones – Albrighton for Ricardo and Maddison for Perez. Madders would have stolen the headlines for sure if he had sealed the win with either of two strikes from outside the box, one with each foot, which both went narrowly over or wide.
I am sure the final whistle was a poignant moment for many, who over the decades will have lost parents who introduced them to footy and City without ever getting to see a final with them. I am confident that we will finish the final with no regrets, and of course will spend every waking and dreaming moment of the next four weeks hoping that the trophy is lifted by our current players rather than Chilwell and Kante!
FOXES: Schmeichel 6, Castagne 6, Soyuncu 5, Evans 6, Fofana 7, Ricardo 6 (Albrighton 7), Ndidi 7, Tielemans 7, Perez 6 (Maddison 7), Vardy 7, Iheanacho 7.
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