Yunus Akgün

Birmingham Win Books Leicester's FA Cup Progress

Second-half goals from Jamie Vardy, Yunus Akgün and Dennis Praet sent Leicester City into the fifth round of the Emirates FA Cup on Saturday, courtesy of a 3-0 success over Birmingham City at King Power Stadium.
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After riding a storm in the first half, a much-changed Foxes side found its stride after the break, with Vardy’s 47th-minute header putting Enzo Maresca’s men in front. A super hit from Galatasaray loanee Yunus – his first goal for the Club – put the tie beyond the visitors in the 72nd minute and Praet completed the scoring with a minute to play. The 2021 FA Cup winners will now discover their fifth-round opponents in Sunday’s draw, which is set to take place at approximately 2pm GMT.

A First Team debut for Brandon Cover – a full Jamaica international from the Academy – was the headline among 10 changes to Maresca’s XI. The midfielder-turned-full-back has been at the Club since he was seven. Youngster Arjan Raikhy would also emerge from the bench to make his Foxes bow. Vardy, on the other hand, was making his first start after a nearly two-month absence through injury. A crowd of 28,396 was up for the cup in the second of a three-game home run over eight days for Leicester. Swansea City are next due in the East Midlands on Tuesday night in the Sky Bet Championship.

Early on, the impressive Jakub Stolarczyk was called into action. Keshi Anderson seized on a loose ball in the box and hit it low, but the young Polish stopper was able to spread his body and make the save with his left leg. City’s first chance, meanwhile, arrived shortly afterwards. It came from a Marc Albrighton corner, goaded by the visiting Birmingham fans, recalling his formative years at rivals Aston Villa. The delivery was a good one and found Ben Nelson, another Academy product in the line-up. The defender’s effort, off his knee, looped up and bounced onto the roof of John Ruddy’s net.

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Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy takes in the plaudits after breaking the deadlock.

Leicester last faced Blues as recently as December, sealing a thrilling 3-2 victory in the Championship. Much has changed for the St. Andrew’s club since then, with experienced manager Tony Mowbray replacing Wayne Rooney in the hotseat. A mini-revival in form – two wins on the bounce – has eased concerns of this season turning into one of peril in the Second City. As the half wore on, Birmingham began to lay siege on the home goal, but to no avail, thanks to the excellent Stolarczyk. As he was last month, Kōji Miyoshi became a menace on Filbert Way. A first-time curler which flew narrowly over the bar was a warning of the Japan winger’s talents. Cover also had to get in the way of a close-range effort from Anderson moments later. Then, two super Stolarczyk stops were all that prevented the visitors from taking the lead just before the half-hour.

Jordan James combined well with Jay Stansfield down the middle before bursting into the box, ahead of his man, closing in on goal. Stolarczyk had to stretch his 6ft 4in frame to the max, but was able to make a brilliant one-handed stop to his left. He was there again to palm away Anderson’s first-time shot from 10 yards out moments later too. Mowbray’s men were camping in Leicester’s final third now. When the ball flashed across goal and off Stansfield’s boot, Stolarczyk didn’t have long to sort his feet, but nonetheless did exceedingly well to get a hand to it. Stansfield was in space again with Birmingham’s next advance, but glided a low drive comfortably wide. His next was diverted over by Conor Coady. A Leicester starting line-up with five Academy graduates, and two across the backline, were being put to the test before the break.

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Yunus Akgün

Yunus Akgün toasts his first Leicester City goal.

Stansfield – his side's top goalscorer with nine this term – was getting closer. On 40 minutes, the ex-Fulham man spun on the spot, arrowing the ball off the near post. Stolarczyk then pushed Anderson’s latest strike behind. This was the Pole’s first-ever senior outing at King Power Stadium and he was proving his value. It will have come as a relief at half-time that the scores were still locked at 0-0 but Birmingham's shot at victory had come and gone. A triple change was to arrive at the break for the Foxes, with James Justin, Ricardo Pereira and Kasey McAteer all introduced. Callum Doyle, Cover and Wanya Marçal were those to make way. Within two minutes of the restart, the tweaked City side were in front.

It was a nostalgic combination, too, with Albrighton’s pinpoint, deep cross being effortlessly glanced into the bottom corner by Vardy in front of the Spion Kop. That was the 37-year-old striker’s eighth goal of the campaign in all competitions. If Birmingham rued their first-half profligacy, the trend was continuing into the second. Another Anderson hit flew over the crossbar on 52 minutes. Mowbray’s men were handed a reprieve later on as Vardy rounded Ruddy and finished smartly into an empty net – but the linesman’s flag was up. Now on top, Maresca's men looked to wrap it up. 

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Dennis Praet

Dennis Praet added a third goal for the Foxes late on.

That was to be Vardy’s final opening of the day, being replaced by Tom Cannon, but Leicester had an eye for goal now. A second of the afternoon arrived with 18 minutes to play. More good work from Albrighton saw the FA Cup winner cut inside, giving the ball to Cannon, on the edge of the box. The former Everton striker was smothered by defenders, but the ball bobbled to Yunus, who belted it into the roof of the net with a magnificent first goal for City. Nelson so nearly capped off a brilliant defensive display with a goal of his own late on. His side-footed attempt, though, was straight at Ruddy. Praet was the scorer of Leicester's third, calmly finishing into the bottom corner having met Cannon's cutback as Ruddy scampered across his line. The Championship leaders can now return their focus to league matters safe in the knowledge their FA Cup journey goes on. 

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