Fleetwood Town’s unforgettable FA Cup journey has come to end with a 2-0 defeat in the 3rd Round Replay to Leicester City, despite a performance to be proud of at the King Power Stadium.
Town dominated the first half against their Premier League opponents and were unlucky to go into the break 1-0 down, as Kelechi Iheanacho put the hosts ahead.
Conor McAleny had the best of the chances for the Cod Army, forcing Eldin Jakupovic into heroic saves on two occasions, while Kyle Dempsey’s strike also tested the Bosnian.
VAR was used for only the third time in England in this match, and it played a pivotal part in City’s second, as Iheanacho scored again to seal the tie in the second half.
Head coach Uwe Rosler made four changes from the side that beat Southend United on Saturday. Cup-tied duo Paddy Madden & Toumani Diagouraga were not able to feature. Lewie Coyle and Wes Burns also dropped out of the starting XI, as Jordy Hiwula, McAleny, George Glendon and Gethin Jones were all handed starts.
It was a bright start from Rosler’s men, who took just seconds from kick off to bear down on the Leicester goal, with Amari’i Bell causing problems down their right hand side.
While the pace of Riyad Mahrez was looking likely to cause issues for Town, it was actually Fleetwood who had the first chance of the game, as Glendon floated a free kick into the box towards Cian Bolger. It had just a bit too much on it for the Irishman, with a touch just inches away.
It took the hosts 12 minutes to register an effort, as Daniel Amartey burst into the penalty area, but could only fire straight at Chris Neal.
Rarely in the 90 minutes in the original tie did the Foxes look a cut above their League One opponents, and Fleetwood were doing well to stem the attacking tide of the former Premier League side in the opening 20 minutes of this one.
It was indeed Town who had the next effort, as McAleny cut in from the right and hit an effort straight at Jakupovic. Much like the fixture at Highbury, chances were few and far between.
McAleny had another golden chance as Glendon played him through on a piercing counter attack. Under pressure from the backtracking defenders, the Liverpuddlian hit it from distance, forcing a wonder save from Jakupovic.
But, as is with any game involving a Premier League side, things can change in an instant, and Fleetwood were fortunate not to be behind as Mahrez struck the post with a fierce free kick from 25 yards.
Fleetwood were attacking better than the hosts and should have been ahead when Kyle Dempsey hit Hiwula’s backheel ferociously, forcing another great save from Jakupovic.
McAleny then headed Glendon’s cross wide as Town threatened City’s clean sheet.
It was to be Town that definitely wouldn’t be keeping a clean sheet though, and 43 minutes had elapsed when the opening goal arrived. Islam Slimani played a ball through to Iheanacho, who broke free from Nathan Pond and slotted under Neal to the Foxes 1-0 up.
Leicester started the second half much better than they had performed in the first, and should have doubled their lead through Slimani, who hit his first time shot wide from Iheanacho’s lay off.
Town were struggling to create chances in the second period, and City almost made to pay as City had a second goal ruled out, with the VAR coming into use for the first time in the match. Iheanacho tapped in Gray’s cut back, but it was rightly crossed off as the ball went visibly out of play.
A header from Vicente Iborra then sailed over, as City looked for a second goal.
Rosler introduced Burns and Devante Cole in an effort to improve Fleetwood’s attacking options, before Bobby Grant replaced Schwabl in the centre of the park.
City, though, doubled their lead, with VAR needed yet again to judge whether Iheanacho had strayed offside from Mahrez’s through ball. After much debate and over a minute of tense scrutiny from the officials, the striker’s effort was ruled to be legal.
Leicester’s second galvanised them, and were soon in search of a third, but not before Jamie Vardy was brought on by Claude Puel, in what was a special moment for the striker against his former club. The Leicester fans, and rightly so the Cod Army too, gave Vardy a standing ovation as entered the field.
Town remained spirited, with Burns testing Jakupovic on the counter attack, but it was professional performance from the Foxes in the second half to deny the Cod Army.
With the referee’s whistle came the end of remarkable FA Cup journey, but the players certainly did Fleetwood Town proud.
Leicester City XI: Jakupovic (GK), Gray, Iheanacho (Okazaki), Silva, Dragovic, Amartey, Slimani (Albrighton), Iborra, Mahrez © (Vardy), Fuchs, Benalouane.
Subs not used: Hamer, Maguire, Ndidi, Barnes.
Fleetwood Town XI: Neal (GK), Bell, Pond ©, Hiwula (Cole), Dempsey, McAleny (Burns), Bolger, Glendon, Jones, Hunter, Schwabl (Grant).
Subs not used; Coyle, Cairns (GK), Sowerby, Cargill.
Referee: J Moss