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Jamie Vardy scored his first goal in more than two months to help send a much-changed Leicester City into the fifth round of the FA Cup with victory against fellow Championship side Birmingham.
Blues’ on-loan Fulham striker Jay Stansfield hit the post in a first half dominated by the visitors, who were also repeatedly foiled by Foxes goalkeeper Jakub Stolarczyk.
But former England striker Vardy met a Marc Albrighton cross immediately after the break to head the Foxes in front with their first effort on target.
And while the talismanic 37-year-old had a second goal disallowed for offside, well-taken strikes from Yunus Akgun and Dennis Praet ensured the 2021 FA Cup winners and run-away Championship leaders progressed.
Influential midfielder Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall – Leicester’s joint-top scorer and leading assist provider this season – attracted plenty of attention even though he was not involved in the tie, as reports emerged overnight that Brighton are in talks to sign the 25-year-old.
And only three days after Hamza Choudhury was charged for drink driving, he was the only Leicester player to retain his spot in the starting 11 after Monday’s draw with Ipswich Town.
Fit-again Vardy was among the 10 changes, as he came in for his first start for more than two months after recovering from a knee injury.
Despite 19 places and 34 points separating the two sides in the Championship table, it was Birmingham who almost completely controlled the first half at the King Power Stadium.
Keshi Anderson, who Blues boss Tony Mowbray brought in as one of only three changes, was quick to threaten the hosts with a shot across goal that called Stolarczyk into action.
A heavy touch from Vardy at the other end, as he tried to link up with debutant Brandon Cover, then allowed visiting goalkeeper John Ruddy to race off his line to clear a rare first-half hint of danger.
Stolarczyk then went on to make a series of fine saves before the break, foiling Jordan James, Anderson, Siriki Dembele and Stansfield, who also had a shot on the turn come off the post.
It was the combination of two players who featured in Leicester’s historic FA Cup final win of 2021 that broke the deadlock, with Vardy finding the bottom corner with his header from a pinpoint Albrighton cross.
The goal – and a triple half-time change which brought James Justin, Ricardo Pereira and Kasey McAteer on – transformed proceedings.
And Vardy was celebrating again in the 55th minute when he rounded Ruddy to roll the ball into an empty net, but his joy was short-lived as the referee’s assistant flagged for offside.
There was no disputing Akgun’s finish, as the on-loan Galatasaray winger hammered home his first Leicester goal before Praet met a cut-back pass from Tom Cannon to complete the victory with a first-time finish.
- 5DoyleSubstituted forJustinat 45′minutes
- 58CoverSubstituted forRicardo Pereiraat 45′minutes
- 29AkgünSubstituted forRaikhyat 81′minutes
- 9VardySubstituted forCannonat 67′minutes
- 40Marçal-MadivaduaSubstituted forMcAteerat 45′minutes
- 21Ricardo Pereira
- 2LairdSubstituted forRobertsat 45′minutesBooked at 77mins
- 34SunjicSubstituted forDonovanat 74′minutes
- 11MiyoshiSubstituted forRobertsat 62′minutesBooked at 65mins
- 14AndersonSubstituted forHoganat 63′minutes
- 17DembéléSubstituted forBurkeat 62′minutes
- Craig Pawson
Match ends, Leicester City 3, Birmingham City 0.
Second Half ends, Leicester City 3, Birmingham City 0.
Foul by Hamza Choudhury (Leicester City).
Romelle Donovan (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Attempt saved. Tyler Roberts (Birmingham City) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Scott Hogan.
Foul by James Justin (Leicester City).
Tyler Roberts (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Leicester City 3, Birmingham City 0. Dennis Praet (Leicester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Thomas Cannon.
Attempt blocked. Dennis Praet (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ricardo Pereira.
Attempt blocked. Marc Albrighton (Leicester City) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Kasey McAteer.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by Emanuel Aiwu.
Attempt saved. Ben Nelson (Leicester City) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Substitution, Leicester City. Arjan Raikhy replaces Yunus Akgün.
Corner, Leicester City. Conceded by Marc Roberts.
Attempt blocked. Thomas Cannon (Leicester City) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Hamza Choudhury.
Foul by Dennis Praet (Leicester City).
Krystian Bielik (Birmingham City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Birmingham City. Conceded by Ben Nelson.
Offside, Leicester City. James Justin is caught offside.
Marc Roberts (Birmingham City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.