O'Neill fumes over penalty winner

Chelsea 1 Leicester City 0 (after extra time)
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The Independent Online
An FA Cup competition already rich in drama acquired a controversial new twist last night when the favourites required a debatable penalty three minutes from the end of extra time to dispose of the spirited Leicester in an FA Cup fifth round replay.

The award was made by the Birmingham referee Mike Reed after Erland Johnsen fell in the box while under challenge from Matt Elliott and Spencer Prior. Television replays suggested that the Chelsea substitute went down virtually untouched but Reed, who had an excellent view of the incident, had no doubt. After lengthy Leicester protests, Frank Leboeuf stepped forward to secure Chelsea's place in a sixth round tie at Portsmouth.

Afterwards Martin O'Neill, the Leicester manager, had to be restrained from confronting Reed, and was scathing about a decision he found "unbelievable" and "shocking."

"The efforts of my players were heroic and after going out like that, with that penalty, we are all heartbroken to be honest. The referee was five yards away from the incident and in that case you have got to get it right, and he has got it absolutely wrong.

"Chelsea are a brilliantly talented side and if they had beaten us in the proper manner then good luck to them. But to go out like that, we might as well have gone out in the third round to Southend and the concentrate on the league. It sounds like sour grapes but it's not meant to be."

Even without the penalty, Reed's display had attracted criticism as he booked 10 players - seven from Leicester - in a tie without a really bad foul.

If the penalty award was hard on Leicester, it was especially so on their goalkeeper, Kasey Keller. The American, whose every save was greeted by chants of "U-S-A" by the travelling support was outstanding throughout, particularly in extra time when he won a personal duel with Gianfranco Zola. A couple of free-kicks were superbly parried, the latter with the aid of the woodwork, then with time running out Zola ran on to Eddie Newton's through ball, steadied himself, and seemed destined to slot home the winner only to be denied by another brilliant stop from Keller.

The keeper typified a spirited and tactically astute performance from O'Neill's side that matched their technically superior opponents. Despite being under pressure for long periods, they never lost their shape and showed no little skill as they frequently threatened to cause an upset.

The match kicked off against the backdrop of a continuing spat between the two managers. Chelsea's Ruud Gullit described Leicester's comeback in the initial tie as "lucky", a description which brought a tart response from O'Neill. "We'll try and bring the first team down for the replay then," he said, and was as good as his word. The suspended quartet of Izzet, Lennon, Elliott and Heskey.

A first half during which clear shots were at a premium - Chelsea's best efforts were two long-rangers from Roberto Di Matteo - left Gullit keen to make a tactical change. No doubt frustrated by his side's lack of penetration he brought on Gianluca Vialli, replacing Scott Minto, with the team adopting a 4-3-3 formation.

Vialli, keen to make an impression after his protracted exile on the bench, forced a couple of smart saves from Keller within two minutes of each other, but Leicester responded with Heskey's shot into the side netting, with 11 minutes to go, which brought a brief but misguided eruption from the Leicester supporters.

As extra time progressed,penalties seemed inevitable until Reed's controversial decision. Afterwards Gullit, ever the pragmatist, said he had not seen the incident. When told that television replays suggested it was not a penalty, he replied: "So?"

Chelsea (3-5-2): Grodas; Sinclair, Leboeuf, Clarke; Petrescu (Johnsen, 106), Wise, Newton, Di Matteo, Minto (Vialli, h-t); Zola, M Hughes. Substitutes not used: P Hughes.

Leicester City (3-5-2): Keller; Grayson, Elliott, Walsh; Prior, Lennon, Izzett, Parker, Heskey; Claridge (Taylor, 71), Marshall. Substitutes not used: Poole (gk), Watts.

Referee: M Reed (Birmingham).

Stockport's sadness, page 26

Results, page 27

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