Leicester v Southampton: Kelechi Iheanacho spears Foxes into FA Cup final in front of spectators
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. There is expected to be 21,000 in attendance - including far more supporters - when they return to Wembley on May 15 looking to win their first-ever FA Cup. 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 failed to register a shot on target - the best chance falling to Ibrahima Diallo - as their run came to a disappointing end.
Iheanacho's FA Cup love affair goes on
"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 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.
Bridget Mason said: "It's a classic Leicester attack. Win the ball back in midfield, get it forward quickly - it's just missing the similarly classic Vardy finish. He gets his dink all wrong. He hasn't scored for Leicester in more than two months; the 34-year-old's confidence is not at its highest." 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.
Man of the match - Kelechi Iheanacho
Iheanacho is the first Nigerian player to score 15 goals in all competitions in a season for a Premier League club since Odion Ighalo in 2015-16 for Watford, who scored 17. "It is a dream come true," he told BT Sport. "Loving it. I am happy. We did it together to get to the final. I watched the FA Cup when I was little and now I get the chance to play in the final. Such a big dream for me. "We did it together as a team. I am proud of that. Really happy. We are really happy to have some fans today, it is not easy with everything going on but hopefully the final there will be a lot more. "I just want to concentrate and keep working hard. Of course it is amazing when you count the goals but my focus is to keep working hard."
Foxes end FA Cup final wait - Opta stats
-Leicester City have reached their first FA Cup final since 1969, a gap of 52 years, the longest between finals since Portsmouth went 69 and Cardiff went 81 between finals before facing one another in 2008.
-Southampton have now been eliminated in eight of their last 10 FA Cup semi-final appearances, two of which have come in the last four seasons (2017-18 vs Chelsea, 2020-21 vs Leicester).
-This was only Leicester's fourth win in 15 appearances at Wembley (D1 L10) and their first since the 2000 League Cup final against Tranmere, while Southampton have lost eight of their 10 matches at Wembley (W2), losing their last five in a row.
-Since his debut in the FA Cup in January 2016, Kelechi Iheanacho has scored more goals in the competition (first round onwards) than any other player, netting 14 times in 19 games.
The FA Cup final takes place at Wembley on Saturday May 15. Leicester host West Brom at the King Power Stadium on Thursday in the Premier League. Southampton travel to face Tottenham on Wednesday.
Latest Leicester City news
Latest Southampton news
23 Jan, 2021
04 Jan, 2021
Latest news on JJA Sport Studio
Journalist at JJA Sport Studio
Covering athletics and cycling
Latest from Bridget Mason
- Netherlands v Ukraine: Denzel Dumfries' late header rescues victory for hosts in Amsterdam
- Austria v North Macedonia: Marko Arnautovic scores as Austria secure victory in Group C opener
- England v Croatia: Raheem Sterling gets Gareth Southgate's side off to winning start at Euro 2020
- Belgium v Russia: Romelu Lukaku scores twice in comfortable Euro 2020 victory for Red Devils
- Denmark v Finland: Christian Eriksen in 'stable condition' after collapsing on pitch in Euro 2020 group opener