TWIH: A League Cup Epic
14 years ago this week, on 12 January, 2000, Martin O’Neill’s Leicester City won an incredible match against Fulham in an epic fifth round League Cup tie under the Filbert Street floodlights. Those of us who saw the game will never forget it.
Leicester City were in their final season under Martin O’Neill. They had finished in the top half of the Premier League for the three previous seasons, and had been League Cup Finalists for two of them, winning the trophy in 1997. During this time they had played in Europe and both Emile Heskey and Steve Guppy had been selected for England’s game against Belgium a few weeks previously. City were in eighth position in the Premier League when they faced Fulham 14-years-ago this week. They were determined to win their way through to a Wembley League Cup Final for the third time in four years.
Although things were going well on the pitch, behind the scenes, the Club had been torn apart by divisions on the board, and by controversy over the proposed Bede Island Stadium.
To make matters even worse, the Club was suffering an injury crisis. Neil Lennon, Muzzy Izzet, Andrew Impey, Steve Guppy, Steve Walsh and Ian Marshall were among those struggling with injuries.
In the build up to the game, the hugely influential Neil Lennon, who was to miss it with a hamstring injury, wrote in the local press that it would be“the most important game of the season for us because then we are only one step away from Wembley again with a semi-final against either West Ham or Aston Villa. But Fulham is not going to be an easy game for us. They had a cracking 3-1 win over Tottenham in the last round and although they are in the First Division (now the Championship) they have a lot of Premiership quality in the team. It won’t be easy, but we’ve had the taste of Wembley and we want more. The memory of last year’s disappointment (a last minute defeat in the final by Spurs) is fresh and we want to make up for it.”
The match was played on a cold Wednesday evening. Lennon watched the dramatic events unfold from the stands. He later said: “The first half wasn’t too impressive but the finish was straight out of Roy of the Rovers. You certainly get value for money at Filbert Street these days.”
Leicester were 2-0 down with six minutes to go and looked well beaten. Then it all changed. Ian Marshall and Steve Walsh scored in the 85th and 87th minutes making it 2-2. Fulham scored early in extra time, Marshall equalised, and Leicester went on to win the penalty shoot-out 3-0 before going on to lift the trophy at Wembley the following month.
Lennon’s view was: “I thought we were beaten. And then Marshy (Ian Marshall) goes and gets the goal, which gave us a chance and the equaliser couldn’t have gone to a better bloke than Walshie (Steve Walsh). He made a bad mistake for their second goal and a lot of players would have gone into their shell and hidden for the rest of the match, but not Walshie! It shows the measure of the man that he was up there to score what was a brilliant goal. In extra time the lads were out on their feet, and no wonder with the number of games we have played in such a short space of time. But even when Fulham scored again, we didn’t throw in the towel and Marshy came up trumps again.Then came the penalties and Arnar [Gunnlaugsson], Robbie [Savage] and Graham [Fenton] tucked them away to make it an incredible exciting night. What a finish!”
I was recently privileged to talk to both Walsh and Marshall about this game, whilst preparing a feature for the Matchday Magazine.
Steve said: “I thought you might mention my mistake leading to their second goal! It made us 2-0 down and we looked completely out of it. There was a reason. I’d torn my groin. I’d hit so many long balls that night I thought I’d just pass a short one to Gerry Taggart. It got intercepted and I was down on my knees just watching them score. That hurt me. I was towards the end of my career and I didn’t want to go out on a bad note, but the never-say-die attitude was instilled in us then.
“I nodded one down on a plate for Marshy, (just like I did in Madrid!) so I got us back into the game.
“My own goal a couple of minutes later was one of the best I’d scored technically. Marshy repaid the favour. There was a long ball into Marshy. He knocked it down for me, I knew where he was going to put it and I did the rest. We were good at setting each other up. We used to do it in training every Friday. We called it ‘Smash and Grab’. I was ‘Smash’ and Marshy was ‘Grab’”.
“I remember the penalties. Gunnlaugsson took the first. We called him the ‘Ice Man’. This was one of my last games. I’d picked up the groin injury and was then sent off stupidly at Chelsea. I got suspended so I missed the final (after having appeared in City’s six previous Wembley Finals).”
Ian Marshall remembers the game vividly. He said: “Don’t forget that we were 2-0 down because of a horrendous back pass from Walshie! Make sure you mention that! He didn’t look like he had a groin strain when he was marauding up front in the 119th minute!
“I’d been out injured for quite a while so was pleased to be picked. I ended up playing 120 minutes and was so exhausted at the end I felt that I was too shattered for the penalty shoot-out. Fortunately I wasn’t needed!
“For one goal, the ball squirmed out to me and I remember hitting it and it creeping into the bottom corner. The other one was a scissor kick, but not a Wayne Rooney one! More like a granny’s scissor kick!
“Walshie’s was a great goal. That’s the measure of the lad. He makes a real howler and he came back determined to make amends...and he did.”
Header. Leicester Goalkeeper Pegguy Arphexad is mobbed by teammates after saving from Fulham’s Geoff Horsfield in the penalty shoot out.
Picture 01. Steve Walsh’s equalising goal.
Picture 02. Ian Marshall’s ‘scissor kick’ goal.
Picture 03. Anar Gunnlaugsson’s penalty
Picture 04. Robbie Savage’s penalty
Picture 05. Graham Fenton’s penalty.
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