Leicester City

City's 2021/22 FA Cup Journey Begins With Watford Win

Leicester City's defence of the Emirates FA Cup trophy began with a 4-1 success over Watford at King Power Stadium in the third round on Saturday.
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With a significant number of players unavailable through injury, illness or international duty, manager Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to his starting XI, with only Hamza Choudhury and James Maddison remaining from the 1-0 success over Liverpool. Development Squad youngster Lewis Brunt was handed a maiden senior start at the heart of midfield, while Marc Albrighton captained the side.

It could have been a dream debut for Brunt, too. When Youri Tielemans' deflected cross looped up into the air, he was there to nod towards goal, however Daniel Bachmann was able to save on four minutes.

The Foxes, though, did have an opportunity to take the lead inside the opening 10 minutes when Jannik Vestergaard was brought down in the box by Francisco Sierralta – a decision confirmed by VAR. Tielemans stepped up and slotted into the bottom corner for his sixth goal of the season.

Former City manager Claudio Ranieri's men went in search of an equaliser and only a good block from Choudhury, operating at centre-back alongside Vestergaard, stopper another ex-Fox, Tom Cleverley, from testing Danny Ward with a long-range effort. 

Midway through the first half, Watford threatened again, however captain Moussa Sissoko was unable to direct his first-time drive on target. At the other end, a direct run from Harvey Barnes saw him flash a ball across into the six-yard box, but Ayoze Pérez couldn't get there in time to convert.

More good defending from Leicester followed, with Vontae Daley-Campbell, deployed at left-back, standing strong to halt the run of Sissoko. Vestergaard then headed over from a Maddison corner as both outfits were presented with goalscoring opportunities.

Such was the nature of the game, a second goal arrived with 25 minutes gone. Skipper Albrighton located the lively Ademola Lookman, who took a touch before feeding Maddison, and the No.10 applied a cool finish to chip the onrushing Bachmann for 2-0.

Watford were back in it almost immediately, however, with João Pedro finishing past Ward after Ashley Fletcher managed to hook the ball into the forward's path. Three goals inside 30 minutes of entertaining FA Cup action.

Choudhury showed his defensive capabilities once again with just under 10 minutes of the first half to play as he tracked back and swept the ball away from Fletcher's feet to prevent the frontman from advancing into the City box. Shortly after, Daley-Campbell received a yellow card for a late challenge on Jeremy Ngakia.

At the end of a chance-laden first half, Ward made a good save with his feet to stop Cucho Hernández's low strike, before the Wales international pounced on the loose ball ahead of Fletcher, who came close to despatching a follow-up attempt.

On a booking, Daley-Campbell came off at the interval in place of Wanya Marcal-Madivadua, who slotted into midfield for his debut for the Club, while Brunt dropped into left-back.

With only 40 seconds of the second half gone, Albrighton did well to set up Maddison, who couldn't get the ball out of his feet deep in the Watford box. Ozan Tufan then drilled over as both sides traded blows on Filbert Way.

Superb footwork from Marcal-Madivadua saw him dance past two Hornets markers before his strike deflected wide of the mark as the youngster looked to make an impact on his senior bow. Fletcher then sent an effort wide via the body of Vestergaard as the second period started with a high tempo.

Academy graduate Barnes had the ball in the back of the net on 54 minutes after slotting home Lookman's perfectly-weighted pass, and while the flag went up for offside initially, VAR intervened and the goal stood – 3-1 to Leicester, much to the delight of the Blue Army.

A brief floodlight outage on 58 minutes led to a pause in proceedings, and shortly after Brunt positioned himself well in the City area to clear his lines before Hernández could pull the trigger. Vestergaard then put in big block to turn João Pedro's close-range effort onto the underside of the crossbar. 

Rodgers introduced Kasey McAteer on 74 minutes, with the youngster replacing Pérez for his second senior appearance of 2021/22. Just moments later, Lookman lifted an attempt over from Maddison's free-kick as City searched for more goals in their third round encounter.

Having opened the scoring from the spot, Tielemans looked to complete it with a second goal of the game, however his daisy cutter, coming on 83 minutes, was well held by Bachmann in the Watford net.

There was still time for a fourth goal of the afternoon. Maddison's dummy in the box, with Barnes and McAteer involved in the build-up, saw the ball fall to Lookman, and while Bachmann was there to make a fine stop, Albrighton smashed home the rebound for 4-1.

Then came another debut, this time for 16-year-old forward Will Alves, who replaced Lookman. He shone immediately, and looked comfortable in possession against seasoned professionals.

After the fourth official's board signalled nine minutes of added time, only a wayward free-kick from Hernández threatened the scoreline, although it would have only counted as a consolation.

Major moment

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James Maddison & Harvey Barnes
James Maddison & Harvey Barnes

James Maddison and Harvey Barnes celebrate the latter's goal, confirmed by VAR after initially being chalked off.

After three first-half strikes saw the Foxes head into the break with a 2-1 advantage, the next goal would be a decisive one. Harvey Barnes was the man to grab it as his first-time finish, assisted by Ademola Lookman, put City firmly in control.

Who impressed?

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James Maddison
James Maddison

The City No.10 scores his seventh goal in just 10 appearances in all competitions.

Speaking on LCFC Radio's Matchday Live at full-time, co-commentator Matt Elliott said: "Starlight away my eyes are drawn to Hamza Choudhury. There have been a couple of instances where he's done well. Lewis Brunt did well, as did Ademola Lookman, but for me, James Maddison was the Man of the Match."

Where do we stand?

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Will Alves
Will Alves

Forward Will Alves, 16, thanks the Foxes faithful after making his first-ever appearance for City.

City enter the fourth round, and will discover their opponents at approximately 4:50pm on Sunday, when the draw takes place live on ITV.

Coming up...

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Youri Tielemans
Youri Tielemans

The Belgium star set City on their way with a first-half penalty.

A Premier League trip to Goodison Park to tackle Everton follows on Tuesday 11 January (8pm kick-off), before the Foxes travel to Turf Moor to face Burnley on Saturday 15 January (3pm kick-off). 

The numbers...

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