Kelechi Iheanacho

Iheanacho Sends City Into FA Cup Fourth Round

Kelechi Iheanacho netted his 16th goal in 22 Emirates FA Cup appearances to seal a 1-0 third-round victory for Leicester City at Gillingham on Saturday.
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Although 79 places sit between the sides, a close encounter was settled by Iheanacho's close-range hit 11 minutes into the second period. Leicester's 55th win at this stage means their name will be in the hat for Sunday's fourth-round draw. 

There was a full debut for Kasey McAteer in City’s starting XI, which included fellow youngster Lewis Brunt in a starting 3-5-2 shape. Brendan Rodgers made eight changes in total from last week’s 1-0 Premier League home loss to Fulham – with Çağlar Söyüncü, Papy Mendy and Iheanacho among the players coming into the line-up.

Vice-captain Marc Albrighton skippered the Foxes in Kent, with other experienced heads including Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Pérez and Jamie Vardy in attacking areas. Daniel Iversen, on the other hand, was between the sticks. Ahead of kick-off, there was a moment’s applause for Pelé, Gianluca Vialli and David Gold – who sadly died over the past fortnight.

It was a typically raucous FA Cup atmosphere which greeted Leicester at kick-off which, combined with bitter, swirling winds, added a different variable to matters at Priestfield Stadium. The 1,893 Foxes fans in the unsheltered away end, though, will have been grateful that the morning’s drizzle had faded once City’s 357th FA Cup tie got underway.

There were chances for both sides inside the opening six minutes, Gills ‘keeper Jake Turner rebuffing Vardy’s close-range effort first, before Iversen got a hand to Dom Jefferies’ powerful drive soon after. There were also muted calls from McAteer for a penalty after Cheye Alexander appeared to clip the wing-back in the area. The residents of the Rainham End – behind the Gillingham goal – clearly disagreed and so too did referee Samuel Barrott.

Gillingham, bottom of the Sky Bet League 2, almost took the lead on 40 minutes. Robbie McKenzie’s long throw-in was carried by the wind, helped along by Max Ehmer and glanced towards goal by captain Shaun Williams. Iversen, though, had tracked it all the way to make the save.

Iheanacho was unfortunate with seconds to go until the interval, curling narrowly wide of the far post after creeping into the 18-yard box on the right. Frustration for the Foxes, but Iheanacho's time would come.

With the wind now behind them, Leicester started the second period more brightly, and Albrighton almost caught Turner out with a looping, side-footed half-volley. The Gills ‘keeper did just about enough to tip it over the bar. Neil Harris’ hosts were digging into the battle and they carved out the next opportunity, as Alexander scuffed wide just inside City’s area.

Two vital moments were next. When Jefferies’ drive was blocked by Jannik Vestergaard, it opened up – albeit briefly – for Hakeeb Adelakhun, who skidded it wide. It was a nearly moment which galvanised the large home crowd, but it would be City’s travelling supporters making all the noise moments later.

After absorbing some substantial pressure, City struck, with Iheanacho tucking the ball away after McAteer had been denied from the left. That’s now 16 goals in 22 FA Cup appearances for Leicester’s No.14.

It could have been two on the day for Iheanacho and City seconds later, as the Nigeria international side-stepped Will Wright and locked his sights onto Turner’s bottom right corner. Saved. When Iheanacho teed it up for Vardy, the 35-year-old burst into action, charging down the right flank and watching his side-footed strike nudged around the post by Turner.

Iheanacho was stopped again by Turner, and Vardy struck well wide as Rodgers' visitors searched for a late second. A cutting counter also wilted when McAteer's through-ball to Vardy dropped slightly behind the former Fleetwood Town man. 

With 10 minutes to go, Vardy's number was raised on the fourth official's board, prompting some derision from the home support. A smirking Vardy replied with a bow, later applauding the Gills faithful. Patson Daka and Wilfred Ndidi were now on – replacing Vardy and Mendy. Luke Thomas soon followed, coming on for fellow Academy graduate McAteer.

Gillingham had plenty of the ball in the latter moments, but failed to land any blows on Leicester. It's the Foxes who progress. 

Major moment – Iheanacho's winner

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Kelechi Iheanacho

Kelechi Iheanacho races over to the Blue Army to celebrate his decisive strike.

In the space of 120 seconds, the Foxes had gone from surviving a sizeable scare, as Hakeeb Adelakhun missed the target for Gillingham, to toasting a winner. Kelechi Iheanacho's strike, his second goal of the season, would be the difference. 

Who impressed? – Goalscorer Kel

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Kelechi Iheanacho

Ex-Manchester City forward Kelechi Iheanacho was praised by Matt Elliott at full-time.

Matt Elliott, a League Cup winner at Leicester City, said live on LCFC Radio's commentary: "In the second half, by some distance, Kelechi Iheanacho has been the classiest performer out there. Youri Tielemans and Marc Albrighton led by example as well. A mention has to go to Lewis Brunt, who looked like he'd played there all season too."

Where do we stand – Into the fourth round 

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Çağlar Söyüncü

Çağlar Söyüncü was one of several players to return to action for Leicester City.

Leicester will be ball no.21 in the draw for the fourth round of the FA Cup. The draw takes place on Sunday, ahead of the third-round tie between Manchester City and Chelsea.

Coming up – Cup action & Forest away

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Brendan Rodgers

Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers watches on from the sidelines in Kent.

It’s a trip to St. James’ Park next up for the Foxes, who take on Newcastle United in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup on Tuesday evening (8pm kick-off). An East Midlands derby then awaits on Saturday – away at Nottingham Forest – in the Premier League (3pm kick-off). All times GMT.

The details 

Leicester City Crest

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