Newport County 2:1 Leicester City
City were knocked out of the FA Cup at the first hurdle on Sunday, losing 2-1 to a fired-up Newport County at Rodney Parade…
For the rest of the nation, watching live coverage on the BBC, this was a hugely entertaining FA Cup giant killing. For Leicester City fans it was all so painfully avoidable.
Claude Puel once again demonstrated that cups are not his priority, making seven changes to his side, bringing Matty James back after ten months out, and leaving Jamie Vardy at home.
The compact little ground was producing a big atmosphere as the teams came out, and you could already feel that City were facing a stiff challenge.
City had the better of the opening ten minutes, dominating possession and had a chance in the 4th minute. Okazaki wriggled through County’s defence setting up Ghezzal for an angled drive that Day tipped round the post.
Okazaki then had a shot on the turn from the edge of the area, but it went straight at Day, as did another shot from Ghezzal in the 9th minute.
But City were rocked in the 10th minute, when County took the lead from their first meaningful attack. Willmott raced down the right, leaving Fuchs in his wake, before delivering a fine cross that caught Morgan out and landed on the head of Matt who glanced it in off the far post leaving Ward rooted to the spot.
If it had looked like a game not to be taken lightly before, City were now facing a huge task.
Newport were the better side now and went close again in the 17th minute when Simpson gave away a free kick, grabbing Semenyou by the shoulders 25 yards out. Dolan’s curling free-kick was heading for the top left hand corner but Ward managed to grab it from the air.
City pressed forward again and had two great chances within a minute. A long crossfield ball from James sent Fuchs in on the left. The Austrian’s cut-back set up Albrighton for a shot that was deflected over the bar. From the corner Okazaki betrayed signs of rustiness heading wide from close in.
From a well-worked corner Dolan then fired in a shot that Ward saved with his legs.
As play moved from end to end Ghezzal was brought down 20 yards out. He took the free-kick himself but it drifted wide.
Newport threatened again when Amond crossed for Matt, but his first touch presented the ball to Ward who gratefully smothered it.
Albrighton then tried his luck from the edge of the box, but it went straight at Day again.
In the minutes leading up to half time Newport retreated a little, eager to take their lead in at the break. City went close when Fuchs crossed from the left and Okazaki produced a side-footed volley, but Demetriou blocked and it was League Two 1-0 Premier League at half time.
Claude Puel made a change for the second half, bringing Maddison on for Okazaki, but City appeared to lack urgency early on.
Then Amond tried an audacious overhead kick that flew well wide and City appeared to wake up. Iheanacho, with virtually his first meaningful touch of the game, rose to meet a Ghezzal cross but he shouldered it too close to Day.
Albrighton went close two minutes later, cutting in from the left to launch a curling shot from the edge of the area that smacked the top of the crossbar.
With Maddison directing things from midfield City were now gaining control of play, but struggling to get through an amber wall.
Puel made his second change just before the hour, with Simpson replaced by Gray and Albrighton moved back to right back, despite being City’s best threat going forward.
A rare defensive error for Newport saw Demetriou make a hash of a clearance and Iheanacho had a chance that he hurried, electing for a shot on the turn that went wide, when he had more time.
Gray and Maddison both had shots blocked as City maintained the pressure, before Puel brought King on for James in the 72nd minute. It was a mystifying decision with the game crying out for the introduction of Ricardo against tiring defenders, rather than someone who hadn’t played for over a year.
Newport continued to hold out, with Willmott blocking a Ghezzal volley, but with time beginning to run out City finally made the breakthrough in the 82nd minute.
Albrighton’s cross from the right was nodded down by Iheanacho to Maddison whose improvised volley was well saved by Day. The grounded Franks could only clear the ball to the edge of the area where Ghezzal met it with a fierce drive into the net.
But the huge sense of relief only lasted for three minutes…
As Newport broke upfield Neufville crossed from the left and the ball struck the outstretched arm of Albrighton. It was clearly handball and Amond stepped up, sending Ward the wrong way with an assured spot kick.
City looked stunned as they tried to find their way level again. King sent a tame effort straight at Day, and Maddison fired a shot inches wide of the right hand post.
But there was no way back, and a huge roar erupted around Rodney Parade at the final whistle as The Exiles had beaten a side 74 places above them in the league.
Claude Puel insisted that he had put out a side strong enough to win the game, but the proof was in the scoreline – he hadn’t.
City’s season is now reduced to seeing which mid-table position they will occupy, and another opportunity for a cup run has been sacrificed on the altar of ‘resting players’.
Newport: Day, Hornby-Forbes (Pipe 67), Franks, Demetriou, Neufville, Bennett,
Dolan (O’Brien 86), Willmott, Amond, Semenyo, Matt (Bakinson 77).
Substitutes: Marsh-Brown, Sheehan, Foulston, Townsend.
Leicester: Ward, Simpson (Gray 60), Morgan, Evans, Fuchs, Choudhury, James (King 72), Ghezzal, Okazaki (Maddison 45), Albrighton, Iheanacho.
Substitutes: Söyüncü, Ricardo, Jakupovic, Mendy.
Referee: Chris Kavanagh. Attendance: 6,705.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.