Super Eagles striker, Kelechi Iheanacho scored the only goal as Leicester City beat Southampton to book a spot in their first FA Cup final match appearance in England since 1969.
It all happened on a night when thousands of spectators returned to Wembley.
After Chelsea overcame Manchester City in front of empty stands on Saturday; the following evening saw 4,000 local residents, including key workers, make up England’s biggest crowd for 13 months. A number of Leicester City and Southampton fans were among those at Sunday’s semi-final; with in-form Iheanacho settling the tie.
The Nigerian slotted home early in the second half to seal a 1-0 victory under the arch.
There was expected to be 21,000 in attendance —— including far more supporters —— when the Foxes return to Wembley on May 15 to take on Chelsea.
Then, they will be looking to win their first-ever FA Cup. Hopefully the showpiece will be more exciting than the drab semi-final. At least Sunday’s match was memorable for the return of spectators, with Leicester City edging a cagey first half.
They then landed a 55th-minute gut punch just as Saints looked to be waking up.
Jamie Vardy, who wasted the best chance of the opening period, got free down the left and crossed for in-form Iheanacho. His poor first effort kindly deflected back to him and he slotted home.
Saints launched a meek response for a leveller as they quickly ran out of ideas and energy. But their dreams of replicating their 1976 triumph ended as Leicester City’s bid to make history continues.
There were cheers and applause at the end of a match that doubled up as one of the government’s pilot events. All those in attendance had to prove they had tested negative for coronavirus before the game.
‘Come on Leicester’ and ‘Oh, when the Saints’ echoed around Wembley in the opening minutes of a match that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men started particularly nervily. Ibrahima Diallo sloppily lost possession four minutes into proceedings and clumsily attempted to win the ball off Vardy. But the Foxes broke and Ayoze Perez —— back in the side after his party antics —— bent off target.
Referee Chris Kavanagh went back to book the midfielder. But Vardy was able to continue after treatment as the teams played out a cagey, and largely lifeless start. Southampton failed to muster a single first-half shot in spite of periods in the ascendancy; while Leicester City were failing to punish their opposition’s tendency to turn over possession.
Diallo was again guilty of losing the ball in the 33rd minute and was fortunate not to be punished as Youri Tielemans threaded a lovely ball through to Vardy.
But he sent an effort just wide of the near post.
Leicester City again went close as set-pieces unsteadied Saints before the break.
Wilfred Ndidi was all too easily allowed to meet a corner-kick on the edge of the six-yard box. However, the Eagles’ star glanced the header just over. Soon after, the Leicester City midfielder flicked another corner-kick to the far post. This time, Jonny Evans headed it back across goal and Vardy was just closed out by some desperate defending as the ball went over Fraser Forster’s goal.