In a re-run of the 2000 final – the last time the three-time winners lifted the famous three-handled trophy – second-half goals from Wilfred Ndidi and Jamie Vardy were the difference at Prenton Park. It means that Sky Bet Championship topping Leicester’s record-breaking start to the new season continues – never before has any City outfit started a campaign with six wins. They’ll discover their next opponents in the competition in Wednesday evening's third-round draw.
"It's never easy to win a game," Manager Enzo Maresca said. "I'm happy with the result and the performance. We have many things we have to improve, but that's normal. I'm happy for Wilfred. I'm especially happy with the second goal that we scored because the assist was good. The next game (vs. Hull City) is important and then we're into the international break. It's a big game at home with our fans. It won't be easy but with our fans there to support us, it'll be good."
Six changes were made to the XI which sealed victory at Rotherham United on Saturday – sending Maresca's men hurtling to the second-tier summit. There was a full debut for Cesare Casadei – who has made two appearances from the bench since his loan move from Chelsea. Fellow new signing Yunus Akgün – on loan from Galatasaray – would later emerge from the bench to make his maiden outing in royal blue in Birkenhead. Quite amazingly, Joe Murphy, the Tranmere goalkeeper who lined up against the Foxes at Wembley 23 years ago was in Rovers’ side at the age of 42.
Yunus Akgün toasts Wilfred Ndidi's goal for the Foxes at Tranmere.
Shooting towards the Bebington Kop, Leicester’s first chance came on seven minutes when Harry Winks blasted a half-volley inches wide from outside the box. Sixteen minutes in, meanwhile, midfielder Casadei sprung into action inside the area, later seeing his cross almost diverted into his own net by Jordan Turnbull. Midway through the half, visiting goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk had his first save to make – calmly palming Dan Pike’s long-range effort away from danger. The Polish 'keeper was nearly caught out of position moments later when Josh Hawkes tried to chip him, but it was another simple stop in the end.
Casadei was a threat, nodding Marc Albrighton’s corner over with around 10 minutes of the half to go. It wasn’t quite working for either side in truth. Maresca’s half-time response was to make four changes at the break. Ricardo Pereira, Wanya Marçal and Ndidi arrived from the bench – as did Turkey winger Yunus, who joined the Club until the end of the season on Saturday. Tranmere were pushing at the start of the second half. Brave blocks from Callum Doyle and then Ricardo halted their advances. It may have been from 25 yards out, but Kieran Morris had the locals on their feet when he belted a low effort towards Stolarczyk’s bottom corner. Leicester’s No.41 followed it all the way and was able to get his body behind it, though.
The two goalscorers share a moment at Prenton Park.
The Foxes were patient as per their Manager’s instructions – a method which has served them well this season. They were raking Tranmere from side to side, making their opponents chase after the ball. The Sky Bet League 2 side couldn’t keep up and, on 56 minutes, the ball landed at Ndidi’s feet, off to the right of the box. The Nigerian drilled it across the face of goal, slamming it off the base of Murphy’s far post, before watching it trickle over the line. That was his second goal of the season – linked in all likelihood to the advanced position Maresca has deployed him in this term. In the blink of an eye – courtesy of the forehead of a Foxes legend – it was 2-0 to Leicester. Ndidi was the provider this time, clipping Yunus’ through ball from the right-hand side into the six-yard box, inviting Vardy to nod home from close range.
Manager Enzo Maresca shows his appreciation for the Blue Army.
There was chaos in the Tranmere box later on as Marçal's shot hit Tom Davies before Murphy got in the way of Ndidi’s follow-up. Vardy then tried to tee Yunus up for the perfect debut, although the Turk couldn’t make the required contact in the middle of the box. Ndidi also cannoned a powerful drive straight at Murphy. There was a proud moment for Ben Nelson in the latter moments, with the 19-year-old defender replacing James Justin to make his senior debut for the Club. It turned into a comfortable night for the Foxes. With just one test to come before the international break – a tough one against Hull City at King Power Stadium on Saturday – the 100 per cent record goes on.
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