Leicester City 2:0 Fleetwood Town
Kelechi Iheanacho scored twice to ease Leicester past Fleetwood in the FA Cup Third Round replay on Tuesday night, his second strike making history as the first ‘VAR goal’ in English football…
Having been matched by Fleetwood ten days previously, Claude Puel fielded a slightly stronger side, with Iborra and Silva partnered in midfield, Mahrez made captain, and Vardy on the bench.
On a cold night, the KPS was just over half full, with the East Stand closed.
After an attacking spell for the League One side right from the kick-off, City then got a grip on the game and had a huge share of the possession. But they struggled to create chances against a deep-lying and dogged Fleetwood defence.
It was Fleetwood who looked more threatening on their occasional breaks upfield, Hiwula went down in the area under a challenge from Amartey but appeals weren’t considered for VAR, and then McAleny sent a shot straight at Jakupovic.
Two minutes later McAleny forced a good save from Jakupovic as Fleetwood again caught City on the break.
City went close in the 33rd minute when Mahrez curled a 25 yard free-kick inches wide of the left hand post.
Benalouane then put in a heavy challenge on Hiwula near the technical area and was lucky only to see a yellow.
Another Fleetwood charge upfield then saw Dempsey firing off a shot that looked to be dipping under the bar before Jakupovic tipped it over.
But, two minutes before the break this tie finally offered up a goal.
A clever ball from Slimani sent Iheanacho through and his composed finish beat Neal to put City ahead with their first shot on target.
There were no changes for either side for the second half and City should have doubled their lead after four minutes. Iheanacho teed up Slimani, but his first time effort skewed wide from close in.
Soon after this Slimani was substituted for Albrighton, and didn’t look too happy about it.
City had the ball in the net in the 63rd minute when Mahrez played Gray down the right and he cut back for Iheanacho to finish, but the ball had gone over the goal-line before Gray reached it. Although Jon Moss had his finger to his ear, VAR intervention was not necessary.
Another ‘earpiece moment’ followed when Iborra protested that he had been held back in the area while trying to reach an Albrighton free-kick, but again play continued without outside interference.
However, we finally saw VAR kick-in in the 77th minute.
Mahrez slipped a ball through to Iheanacho, who dinked the ball over Neal for a fine finish, but celebrations were halted by the linesman’s flag for offside.
It looked very close and we had a long delay while Jon Moss had a chat with the VAR.
With the tension building, Moss eventually picked the ball up and headed for the halfway line – goal. The delayed celebrations felt a bit bizarre and we had witnessed a piece of football history. And perhaps another step towards robots taking over the world.
Fleetwood were beaten now, and the remainder of the game saw City enjoying possession. Puel brought on Vardy and Okazaki for Iheanacho and Mahrez, but City couldn’t add to the scoreline.
Peterborough await in the 4th round, and hopefully a strong City line-up will be able to do the job at the time of asking.
Claude Puel was happy with Iheanacho’s performance: “Kelechi showed a good attitude, worked hard for his teammates and got between the lines. His first goal showed a lot of quality and the second was a fantastic move between him and Mahrez.”
Leicester: Jakupovic, Amartey, Dragovic, Benalouane, Fuchs, Mahrez (Vardy 81), Silva, Iborra, Gray, Iheanacho (Okazaki 81), Slimani (Albrighton 56).
Substitutes: Hamer, Maguire, Ndidi, Barnes.
Fleetwood: Neal, Jones, Pond, Bolger, Bell, Hunter, Glendon, Schwabl (Grant 72), Dempsey, McAleny (Burns 65), Hiwula-Mayifuila (Cole 65).
Substitutes: Coyle, Cairns, Sowerby, Cargill.
Referee: J Moss. Attendance: 17,237.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber