Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Iheanacho sends Leicester into FA Cup fifth round


Kelechi Iheanacho’s fortuitous second-half strike broke the resistance of League Two side, Walsall and sent Leicester into the fifth round of the FA Cup.

After Youri Tielemans missed a penalty, 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 in-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 win amid their struggles in the Premier League.

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 score line. 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.

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.