Hart's blunder offers Eriksson another bite at under-par City
Leicester City 2 Manchester City 2
Monday 10 January 2011
After a pulsating tie, in which a costly aberration by Joe Hart brought an equaliser, the Swedish sorcerer and his Italian apprentice must reconvene to establish whether Sven-Göran Eriksson's Leicester or Roberto Mancini's Manchester City will enjoy the dubious privilege of a fourth-round trip to Notts County.
Hart had been beaten inside 45 seconds by Sol Bamba's first touch in English football – following the Ivory Coast defender's New Year arrival in the Championship from Hibernian for £250,000. Mancini's side hit back with goals by James Milner and Carlos Tevez, only for atypical sloppiness by the England keeper to gift an equaliser to Leicester captain Andy King.
A just outcome means a return to Eastlands for Eriksson, who was manager there in 2007-08. The replay, a week on Wednesday, also delivers another opportunity for him to pit his wits against Mancini – a close friend and former assistant at Lazio – with a trip to his previous English club at Meadow Lane the prize.
Describing the draw as "incredible", the former England manager went on to quip: "I don't know how they fixed it!" Thinking better of the word "fixed", he plumped instead for "destiny".
Eriksson was understandably delighted with Leicester's display and the quality of the entertainment. "We could've lost and we could've won, but I'm very proud of the players," he said. "We stood up to one of the best teams in the country and I couldn't see much difference."
The 6ft 3in Bamba's eventful introduction to the Walkers Stadium faithful drew rich praise from Eriksson, who became aware of his ability when he coached the Ivorians during last year's World Cup. "He could have scored a hat-trick, and he was outstanding defensively too."
Quizzed about the error by Hart, his first-choice keeper in Manchester, Eriksson erred on the side of generosity. "I know Joe very well. He's an extremely good keeper but even the best make mistakes." A smile creased his face as he continued: "It was good for us."
Mancini – whose new £27m attacker from the Bundesliga, Edin Dzeko, watched from the stand – summed up a card-free contest that contrived to be competitive as well as convivial, suggesting it was "a good result for both teams". He added: "Leicester played very well and didn't deserve to lose. For us, it's an important lesson. We understand now that if we want to win the FA Cup, we have to play 100 per cent in every game.
"Bamba caused us a lot of problems at set-pieces. He's very tall and good in the air, so we must pay attention to him in the replay."
The Mancunian contingent – sporting red and black scarves in honour of Maine Road legend Neil Young, who scored their winner against Leicester in the 1969 final and now has terminal cancer – magnanimously gave the lead to Leicester supporters by singing Eriksson's name prior to kick-off.
An instant home goal quickly put a stop to that. A short-corner routine led to Paul Gallagher crossing from the left and Bruno Berner flicking the ball on before, in a crowded six-yard box, Bamba stabbed the ball home.
"I'm On Fire", by Leicester's Kasabian blared out over the loudspeakers in celebration and when it came to Bamba it was an apposite choice. City struggled to contain his aerial power, which produced two headers in rapid succession shortly after the half-hour; the first was clutched beneath the bar by Hart and the second was cleared off the line by Shaun Wright-Phillips.
Midway through the opening half, when Tevez found Milner in the inside-right channel, Bamba charged across the edge of the penalty area to cut him off. The England man dropped a shoulder, his opponent bought the dummy and Milner cracked a low shot beyond Chris Weale from 16 yards.
The Premier League's big spenders spurned a gilt-edged opportunity when Adam Johnson stretched to nudge Patrick Vieira's cross wide five minutes before the break. But in the final minute of the first half, another short corner resulted in Milner driving a cross towards the near post, where Tevez stole ahead of his marker to score with an audacious flick.
The visitors' surprising vulnerability against high balls continued to give Leicester hope. Jack Hobbs wasted a free header from a corner after half-time, but when Gallagher again crossed and Hart inexplicably failed to claim the ball cleanly, King demonstrated regal composure by bringing it under control and walking it into the net.
Astonishingly, Bamba was permitted yet another tilt at glory from a corner, delivered once more by Gallagher with 12 minutes remaining. Milner, guarding the far post, headed out from under the bar. When Tevez fired wastefully at Weale as the action immediately lurched to the opposite end, it ensured an amicable outcome to an unusually friendly tie.
Leicester City (4-1-4-1): Weale; Naughton, Bamba, Hobbs, Berner (Neilson, 90); Abe; Gallagher, King, Wellens, Dyer (Waghorn, 79); Vassell (Howard, 83).
Substitutes not used Logan (gk), Teixeira, Oakley, Moussa.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Hart; Boateng, K Touré, Lescott, Kolarov; Wright-Phillips (De Jong, h-t), Milner, Vieira, Johnson; Tevez, Jo (Zabaleta, 74).
Substitutes not used Given (gk), Boyata, Santa, Cruz, Ibrahim, Tchuimeni-Nimely.
Referee M Dean (Wirral).
Possession Leicester 52%, Manchester City 48%
Attempts on target Leicester 10, Manchester City 7
Man of the match Samba.
Match rating 8/10.
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