Let no one doubt the commitment of Nicolas Anelka to the revival of Manchester City's declining fortunes. A day after he had felt obliged to deny a story published in his home country that he was disenchanted with Kevin Keegan and wanted to quit, the enigmatic Frenchman produced a match-winning performance in last night's FA Cup third-round replay at the Walkers Stadium.
Always his side's most dangerous player, Anelka stole in to grab what was effectively the decisive goal in the last minute just as extra time beckoned, even though Jonathan Macken compounded Leicester's disappointment by adding a third for the visitors in stoppage time. City now face Tottenham at home in the fourth round.
Defeat was a shattering blow to Leicester. They had gone behind in the 12th minute when Antoine Sibierski headed Keegan's team in front but earned an equaliser with 18 minutes remaining when Les Ferdinand's free-kick found a way past Kevin Stuhr-Ellegaard, the Danish goalkeeper pressed into service in place of David Seaman with the new signing, David James, Cup-tied.
"I think we have a right to feel disappointed," the Leicester manager, Micky Adams, said. "We got Chelsea's season going again on Sunday and we've done the same for Manchester City. We just need someone to get ours going now. But good luck to Manchester City. That is a monkey off Kevin Keegan's back."
Keegan said it felt like "a colony of monkeys off my back after 14 games without a win". He offered a glowing appraisal of Anelka, who celebrated his goal by revealing a tee-shirt bearing a tribute to Seaman, who announced his retirement this week after suffering a shoulder injury.
"A lot of the stuff written about Nicolas is totally unfair," Keegan said. "You've never seen him roll over when he has been kicked, you've never seen him retaliate. He just picks himself up and gets on with it and he will chase lost causes all day.
"It was chasing a lost cause that got him the goal tonight. He has electric pace and that is his greatest asset. It really wasn't his ball yet he won it and it is that which makes him a great striker."
Leicester made the visitors work hard to defend their advantage after Sibierski's goal, the French midfielder putting Manchester City in front with a diving header after Trevor Sinclair had found him unmarked with a driven cross.
Anelka and Macken could have increased the lead before half-time but having escaped further losses, Leicester mounted a high-tempo comeback that was deservedly rewarded. When Paul Dickov cleverly won a central free-kick, Les Ferdinand's found City's defensive wall ready to offer him a gap. Joey Barton broke ranks on the end of the wall and when the ball struck the midfielder's backside it took just enough of a deflection to send Stuhr-Ellegaard off-balance and slip between the goalkeeper's legs.
But just as an additional half-hour looked inevitable, the ever-alert Anelka saw an opportunity as Frank Sinclair attempted to shepherd a Sibierski throw-in through to the goalkeeper, Ian Walker, nipping between the two Leicester players to steal possession and steer home the goal his performance deserved.
Dejected, Leicester conceded again in stoppage time when Macken was left unmarked in the penalty area to claim an easy third for the visitors.
Leicester City (4-3-3): Walker; Curtis, Heath, Sinclair, Stewart; McKinlay, Scowcroft, Davidson; Dickov, Ferdinand (Elliott, 83), Bent. Substitutes not used: Coyne (gk), Hignett, Gillespie, Brooker.
Manchester City (4-4-2): Stuhr-Ellegaard; Sommeil, Dunne, Distin, Tarnat; Sinclair, Barton, Bosvelt, Sibierski; Anelka, Macken. Substitutes not used: Schmeichel (gk), Jihai, Wiekens, McManaman, Wright-Phillips.
Referee: G Poll (Tring).
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