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Leicester, Chelsea reach FA Cup Final

Leicester, Chelsea reach FA Cup Final

FOOTBALL: Leicester reached the FA Cup final for the first time in 52 years as Kelechi Iheanacho’s solitary goal earned a 1-0 win over Southampton in front of 4,000 fans at Wembley yesterday (Apr 18). They will face Chelsea who defeated Manchester City 1-0 on Saturday thanks to a Hakim Ziyech goal.

FootballFA-Cup
By AFP

Monday 19 April 2021, 11:15AM


Leicester striker Jamie Vardy celebrates at the final whistle as his team progress to the FA Cup Final against Chelsea on May 15. Photo: AFP.

Leicester striker Jamie Vardy celebrates at the final whistle as his team progress to the FA Cup Final against Chelsea on May 15. Photo: AFP.

The biggest crowd for a football match in England for 13 months was made up of key workers and local residents as part of a test event for the return of fans in bigger numbers in the coming weeks.

An 8,000 crowd will be in attendance at Wembley next Sunday for the League Cup final between Manchester City and Tottenham, while 21,000 will welcome Leicester back to the home of English football for the FA Cup final against Chelsea on May 15.

“Even thought there were only 4,000 it felt great,” said Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers.

“It will be amazing when we get supporters back into stadiums. I did hear some Leicester supporters in there and it was really nice.

“We have the chance to create history. That is what this game is about, creating a memory. I have been made aware since I’ve been at Leicester how important this cup is for the supporters.”

There was little for the neutrals to get excited about on the field, though, as Leicester struggled to put away an out-of-sorts Southampton, who had been relying on Cup glory to save their season.

Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men have won just two of their last 14 Premier League games since the sides last met in January.

“We left everything on the pitch today, but we had no shots on target,” said Hasenhuttl, whose focus now turns to ensuring his side’s top-flight survival.

Leicester were the better side throughout, but failed to test Fraser Forster before half-time as Jamie Vardy fired over from a narrow angle before Wilfred Ndidi’s header dropped onto the roof of the net.

The breakthrough came 10 minutes into the second half as Vardy’s pace left Jan Bednarek trailing in this wake.

From his cross, Iheanacho fluffed his first effort, but the ball broke kindly back to the Nigerian to slot home his 12th goal in as many games.

“The FA Cup loves me and I love the FA Cup,” said Iheanacho. “I watched the FA Cup when I was little and now I get the chance to play in the final. It is such a big dream for me.”

Leicester substitute James Maddison twice was inches away from wrapping up the tie with powerful shots that flashed just off target.

But Southampton never looked like getting back on level terms as the Foxes comfortably held out for a shot at winning the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

Blues end City quadruple hopes

On Saturday, Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final.

A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup final, where they face Tottenham, and the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea were good value for another impressive win under Thomas Tuchel and will be favourites for the German’s first silverware in English football when they face Leicester on May 15.

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“It was a very strong performance. I’m very happy and proud,” said Tuchel, who has lost just twice in 19 games since replacing Frank Lampard in January.

“We took the opportunity to show up on the highest level and see how we are. You can only win against City if you have everybody on the top level.”

Tuchel could land an even bigger prize in the Champions League by the end of his first five months in charge.

Chelsea and City could meet again in the final in Istanbul next month should they see off Real Madrid and PSG respectively in the last four and Tuchel’s men proved they can get the better of the runaway Premier League leaders despite a 20-point gap between the sides in the table.

The physical demands of City’s bid for a clean sweep of trophies was shown as Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the side that beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek with goalscorers Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez among those rotated.

A much-changed side looked disjointed and Chelsea took advantage in a bright start.

Timo Werner’s cross was swept home by Ziyech after just six minutes, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the German international.

De Bruyne concern

City got to half-time without any damage on the scoreline, but suffered a potentially huge blow to their hopes of still clinching a treble of trophies early in the second-half.

Just 11 days before the first leg of the PSG tie, De Bruyne appeared to roll his ankle in a challenge with N’Golo Kante and was replaced by Foden.

“It doesn’t look good, he has pain,” said Guardiola. “Tomorrow we will do a test.”

City were still reeling from the loss of the Belgian midfielder when they were finally caught out by the Chelsea counter-attack.

Guardiola’s decision to retain Zack Steffen in goal for domestic cup competitions backfired as the American was caught in no man’s land when Werner raced in behind and once again squared for Ziyech to roll into an empty net.

“In these kind of games, the margin is so tight and the coin fell down on their side,” added Guardiola.

Steffen made some measure of amends moments later to deny Ziyech a second when the Moroccan was clean through.

City took until the final 20 minutes to get going, but their best chance of sending the game to extra-time came from a corner as Ruben Dias headed over from close range.

Instead, it was Chelsea who found the net again through Christian Pulisic in stoppage time only for the offside flag to again come to City’s rescue.

But there was no saving a bid for history for Guardiola’s men as they cannot now better Manchester United’s treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup from 1998/99.

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