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A chance to create history – Leicester reach first FA Cup final since 1969

Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers says his side have “the chance to create history” after reaching their first FA Cup final since 1969 at the expense of Southampton at Wembley.

Kelechi Iheanacho’s second-half goal proved decisive for the Foxes, whose last major final of any description came in 2000, when they lifted the League Cup.

“I have been made aware since I’ve been at Leicester how important this cup is for the supporters.

“We have the chance to create history. When we arrived here, that was the ambition. From a football perspective we wanted to be able to compete and we have been able to do that. Now we have a trophy to genuinely go for.”

Iheanacho, who benefited from Jamie Vardy’s fine work to score at the second attempt 10 minutes after the interval, added: “It is a dream come true. I watched the FA Cup when I was little and now I get the chance to play in the final.

“I think the FA Cup loves me and I love the FA Cup.”

The game was played in front of 4,000 supporters as part of a pilot scheme, with research being carried out on allowing fans back in to sporting events as coronavirus restrictions are eased.

Tickets were limited to residents of Brent – the north London borough where Wembley Stadium is situated – and key workers.

Those inside Wembley witnessed a mainly dour game but Leicester, playing in their first semi-final since 1982, will not care – and neither will their followers.

Southampton were strangely lacking in intensity, barely threatening Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel. Ibrahima Diallo went closest to an equaliser for the Saints but his powerful drive went just wide.

Rodgers’ side will now face Chelsea in the final on 15 May, their first appearance in the showpiece since they lost 1-0 against Manchester City 52 years ago.

Leicester deserve FA Cup final place

Kelechi Iheanacho scores for Leicester
The past four FA Cup goals at Wembley have been scored by African players – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Hakim Ziyech and Kelechi Iheanacho

Leicester fully merited their victory as they were much the more composed and ordered side in a low-key semi-final with few chances.

It took Iheanacho, who scored the winner against Brighton in the fifth round and was on target twice in the 3-1 win against Manchester United in the quarter-final, to make the decisive contribution.

His goal secured a place in the final against Chelsea, who the Foxes beat in the Premier League in January.

And while they will be underdogs, Leicester have enough quality and resilience to be quietly confident.

This FA Cup final appearance is further evidence of the fine work being done by Rodgers, who also has Leicester right in the mix for the Champions League places next season.

Now they have the chance to turn all this endeavour into silverware at Wembley against Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Southampton come up short

Southampton will leave Wembley with bitter regrets as they failed to produce anything near their best and can have no complaints about the outcome.

They showed little of the intensity and energy that is their trademark when at their best under manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

The Saints lacked ambition and positive intent apart from a brief revival a couple of minutes after Leicester scored, when Diallo was not far off target and there was a scramble after a corner.

Main marksman Danny Ings cut a frustrated figure, starved of service and reduced mainly to chasing lost causes.

“That such a goal decides such a game is a pity for us,” said Hasenhuttl.

“In the end, especially in the final third, we didn’t have good moments. We couldn’t get a shot on goal and this is not enough.”

This will be a real blow to Southampton, who fancied their chances in the FA Cup this season and had a big opportunity to reach the final, but they came up short and must now return to ensuring their Premier League status.

Fans make Wembley return

This was the biggest crowd at a football match in England since the country went into lockdown in March last year – and what a glorious sound it was as the Leicester and Southampton players came out to cheers from 4,000 fans inside Wembley, reciprocating the gesture as they lined up before kick-off.

It did not have the partisanship and passion of the tradition football crowd because this was a test and research event with only locals and key workers in attendance.

There were moments, however, especially when Leicester scored and when Southampton substitute Theo Walcott came on to a very loud, mixed reception – presumably from Arsenal fans inside Wembley who idolised him from his time with the Gunners and Tottenham supporters who took the opposite view.

There were resounding cheers when the supporters were thanked over the public address system for their attendance and the hope is that this test event will help navigate a route out of the behind-closed-doors occasions that have been the way of things during lockdown.

The sight and sound of fans added to the spectacle, even when most of those watching this FA Cup semi-final were neutrals.

‘It feels amazing’ – what they said

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers, speaking to BBC Sport: “It feels amazing. I thought we deserved it, the players worked so hard. Commiserations to Southampton, they are a terrific team.

“We got the goal which was a great piece of play by Jamie [Vardy]. We had two or three moments after that to close it out. When you are 1-0 up, you have to show that self-control and stay calm and we did that.

“Even thought there were only 4,000 fans, it felt great. It will be amazing when we get supporters back into stadiums. I did hear some Leicester supporters in there and it was really nice.”

Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl, speaking to BBC Sport: “We conceded our first goal in the FA Cup. [It is] Hard to take because we haven’t been the worst team. We tried to put pressure on them. We saw a not very good football game to be honest, with both teams a little nervous.

“We had the chance to get to the final. We will try again next year.”

BBCSPORTS

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