Leicester City, the big-spending under-achievers of the Championship, moved into the last eight of the FA Cup at the expense of the Premier League's homespun over-achievers. Not that Norwich will mind too much – the Canaries are having too much fun flying high in the Premier League to feel too distressed at a cup upset, if indeed an upset it was.
While 25 League placings separate the sides, it is the Leicester line-up, rather than the Norwich one, that contains more names familiar to the average football fan – notably the scorer of their winning goal, David Nugent, still only 26 but already a "former" England player, having gained his only cap in 2007.
Though there were a few changes, this was not a seriously under-strength Norwich side. "I picked a team I thought would win," Paul Lambert, their manager, said. But he made his feelings about the defeat clearer when he added: "No one would thank me to get to an FA Cup semi-final and get relegated. This club's worked really hard to get this far and we don't want to throw it away."
After threatening to "give some of the kids a chance", Lambert only gave the 19-year-old goalkeeper Jed Steer his second cup game as he attempted to secure Norwich their first quarter-final place for 20 years. But it took Leicester less than five minutes to take the lead, Sean St Ledger rising at the near post to head home a corner curled in from the left by the lively Ben Marshall.
Despite Lambert's insistence beforehand that "the emphasis is on us to make the running", it was the Championship side who looked more at home, with Norwich restricted mostly to counter-attack mode.
Leicester's goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel changed the mood midway through the first half when he felled Elliott Bennett with a forearm smash from behind; the goalkeeper did extremely well to save Wes Hoolahan's resultant well-placed penalty, diving to his left, but he was unable to prevent the taker from following up to score in the opposite corner.
The equaliser caused only a temporary interruption to Leicester's dominance, and another Marshall corner on the half-hour almost brought more joy for the Foxes; Steer lost it in the air and in the resulting mêlée a close-range back-heeled attempt by Wes Morgan was chestedoff the line by Elliott Ward. According to their manager, Nigel Pearson, Leicester's players thought it was over the line – but, as Pearson put it: "Until we embrace technology it's a guess whether it was or wasn't."
A breathless start to the second half suggested neither side fancied a replay, and it was Norwich's turn to be denied on the line when Lee Peltier cleared from Leon Barnett, who had little excuse for not burying the chance from three yards.
Leicester's strike pair of Nugent and Jermaine Beckford combined excellently outside the home box for Nugent to fire the Foxes back in front in the 71st minute. It was a lead the visitors' hard-working midfielders especially deserved, but it was almost wiped out within two minutes when Hoolahan produced the game's outstanding piece of skill to shoot inches beyond the far post.
In an end-to-end finale Beckford might have put the issue beyond doubt when Ward's slip left him free to run into the box, where he aimed for the top corner and struck woodwork.
"The players can be very pleased with their day's work," Pearson concluded. "This is a very important competition still; hopefully the players will feel good about themselves and we can take that forward. If we play like that consistently we'll have a better chance of winning Championship games."
Norwich (4-4-2): Steer; Martin, Barnett, Ward, Drury; Bennett, Hoolahan, Fox (Johnson, 77), Pilkington; Morison (Wilbraham, 61), Jackson (Vaughan, 61).
Leicester (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Peltier, Morgan, St Ledger, Kennedy (Konchesky, 65); Marshall (Delfouneso, 65), Danns, Wellens, Dyer; Nugent, Beckford.
Referee Mike Dean.
Man of the match Danns (Leicester).
Match rating 7/10.Reuse content