Leicester City 1-0 Southampton
Kelechi Iheanacho fired Leicester into their first FA Cup final since 1969 as 4,000 spectators witnessed their 1-0 win over Southampton at Wembley.
Iheanacho’s swept finish at the second attempt after 55 minutes was enough to ensure the Foxes progress to face Chelsea at the showpiece event in May.
James Maddison missed two good chances to extend Leicester’s lead following his introduction off the bench in front of the watching Gareth Southgate, but one goal was enough for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Southampton last reached the FA Cup final in 2003 but struggled to create noteworthy chances – the best falling to Ibrahima Diallo – as their run came to a disappointing end.
“The FA Cup loves me, and I love the FA Cup,” Iheanacho said afterwards, his goal extending his run to having scored in the last three rounds. His finish was the 14th FA Cup goal of his career while no other player has scored more in the past five seasons.
There was a spine-tingling applause as the teams emerged for kick-off at Wembley, where thousands of fans returned as part of one of the UK government’s pilot events.
A number of Southampton and Leicester fans were among the 4,000 local residents, including key workers, as the FA Cup semi-final welcomed the biggest crowd in England for 13 months.
Everyone in attendance had to prove they had tested negative for coronavirus in a lateral flow test before coming to the game, which will be followed by a larger crowd at next week’s Carabao Cup final between Tottenham and Manchester City.
The first half was low on major incident, but Leicester created the better chances, spurned on both occasions by Jamie Vardy. It took until the 34th minute for the first to arrive as Youri Tielemans pounced on an Ibrahima Diallo mistake in midfield to set the veteran striker on his way but with Fraser Forster coming out to close the angle, Vardy lifted his shot over the crossbar.
Vardy may have wondered again how he hadn’t found the net a couple of minutes before the break when Jonny Evans’ header back across goal from Tielemans’ corner was brilliantly taken off his head by Jan Bednarek as the half ended goalless.
Southampton, winners of the FA Cup in 1976, had looked slightly frozen by the occasion; they failed to attempt a single shot at goal in the opening 45 minutes of a match for the first time since November 2019 against Everton in the Premier League – but there was more intensity from Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side upon the restart.
Kyle Walker-Peters won a free-kick, which was delivered by James Ward-Prowse onto the head of Jannik Vestergaard but the defender was unable to direct his header on target.
But Leicester would open the scoring after 55 minutes. Vardy’s movement on the flank left Bednarek trailing in this wake, with the striker crossing for Iheanacho to shoot goalwards. The ball bounced kindly off Vestergaard and the in-form striker made no mistake with the rebound.
There was much greater urgency now from Southampton as Hasenhuttl introduced Che Adams, and after the Scotland striker’s shot was blocked by Evans, Diallo was unable to keep his shot down.
He came within a whisker of equalising moments later, however, as he ran onto Wilfred Ndidi’s headed clearance to flash a rising volley a yard wide with Kasper Schmeichel stranded.
Maddison was summoned from the bench as Rodgers sought to wrestle back control, and he had the chance to put last week’s indiscretion behind him when he collected Iheanacho’s pass but his shot was blasted over. Fraser Forster watched another Maddison effort sail over but time was running out for Southampton.
There was still not a single shot on target for Southampton – and that’s how it would end. When Ward-Prowse’s final corner was claimed by Schmeichel, their wait for a second FA Cup was extended into a 46th year at least as Leicester march on.