The Leicester fairy-tale adventure continues in 2021 as Brendan Rodgers leads the club to an FA Cup victory over Chelsea. Youri Tielemans scored the only goal of the game in the second half with a 30-yard screamer from outside the box that was worthy of winning any final. Chelsea huffed and puffed towards the end but to little avail as Leicester hung on till the 95th minute to win the first FA Cup in their history.
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The final was a largely tactical and tight affair that was decided by moments. Through tremendous skill and some luck, Leicester won the key moments – including Tielemans’s goal, Schmeichel’s save and the VAR call – which eventually separated victory from defeat.
The Foxes struggled in the first half with Ndidi and Tielemans offering very little control in the middle of the park, Jamie Vardy being completely neutralised by Reece James and Evans going off injured after half an hour. Crucially, the defensive shape remained solid in the first 45 and they were rarely threatened by the Chelsea front line.
Leicester did improve after the break, with Ndidi and Tielemans seeing more of the ball in midfield and eventually it was the Belgian who produced the decisive moment of the game in the 63rd minute.
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Ayoze Perez intercepted a wayward Reece James pass and Luke Thomas laid the ball on for Tielemans who on a rare occasion has some acreage in front of him. The midfielder drove forwards before unleashing a rocket straight into the top corner to score one of the most iconic goals in FA Cup history.
Content with this lead, Leicester introduced the likes of Morgan and Choudhury to see out the game while Chelsea brought on the cavalry to claw their way back into their tie. Leicester defended resolutely, but it was Schmeichel who proved to be the telling difference. The Danish international made two excellent saves, deflecting Ben Chilwell’s header onto the post and then getting a firm on hand on Mason Mount’s stinging shot.
Just as Chelsea seemed to be running out of steam, Chilwell made a final scything run beyond the Leicester backline and fortuitously his shot was deflected into the net to break Leicester hearts and reignite Chelsea hopes. However, nothing is as straightforward in modern football and the replays showed that Chilwell was a hair-offside in the build-up, ruling the goal out. The Foxes survived this late scare and eventually held on to break their duck in the oldest cup competition in the world.
What made this victory even more special is that Leicester could share it with their fans. 20,000 supporters returned to the stadium for the first time in 14 months and the passion and emotion on show from the supporters was a reminder of what football has missed over this past year as it recovers from the effects of the pandemic.
[Image Credit: Leicester City Football Club]