Iheanacho, Ndidi win FA Cup with Leicester

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Nigeria’s duo of Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi earned English FA Cup glory on Saturday as Leicester City beat Chelsea 1-0 in the competition’s final match at London’s Wembley Stadium.

Youri Tielemans scored a wonder goal and the video assistant referee (VAR) then came to the rescue for Leicester City just before regulation time to win the FA Cup for the first time.

It was the first in the club’s 137-year history.

Tielemans fired into the top left corner from some 25 metres out in the 63rd minute in front of a crowd of some 21,000 fans.

They were allowed into the famed arena as coronavirus restrictions are being eased in England.

But victory was not theirs until an 89th-minute equaliser from Chelsea was nullified by VAR because Ben Chilwell was deemed offside by the smallest of margins in the build-up.

It was Leicester City’s first FA Cup trophy after four lost finals in the past, the last one 52 years ago in 1969.

Also, it was their second major title after a sensational Premier League success in 2016.

They also have three League Cup crowns.

Team captain Kasper Schmeichel also made key saves for the team of manager Brendan Rodgers late in the game before receiving the trophy from Britain’s Prince William, the FA president.

“So happy I can’t begin to describe it. What a day. Indescribable. It is what dreams are made of. I have dreamt of this since I was a child,” Schmeichel said.

“We have talked about wanting to win trophies, and the performance today with the grit and the determination. I am so proud of everybody.”

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Chelsea were not as strong as in the past weeks under their new manager Thomas Tuchel who had won the German Cup in 2017 with Borussia Dortmund.

He also won the French Cup last year with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

The Blues eliminated Premier League champions Manchester City in the semi-finals but fell short of a ninth FA Cup title in their 15th final.

Chances were sparse in a rainy first half with Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Timo Werner aiming wide.

Cesar Azpilicueta was also unable to meet Thiago Silva’s cross from point-blank range after Werner had also gone for the ball.

Leicester City gained more possession as the sun came out after the break, and the goal then came in the 63rd minute when Chelsea lost the ball in their half.

Luke Thomas set up the Belgian midfielder Tielemans for the sensational strike high into the net past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Tuchel brought in more attacking power, which helped set up a frantic finale.

Chilwell’s 78th-minute header was kept out by Schmeichel with a little help from the left post.

The Danish goalkeeper also made another sensational save against Mount’s fierce volley in the 87th minute.

It all seemed to no avail when Chilwell beat him for a long punt and the ball deflected into the net.

But Chelsea’s wild celebrations turned into agony when the goal was disallowed —- and it was then Leicester City and their fans who celebrated wildly a few minutes on.

“The performance today, the grit and determination, I’m so proud of everybody, everybody contributed to get to the final, everyone has played and been sensational,” Schmeichel said.

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The two sides meet again on Tuesday in a crucial English Premier League (EPL) date at Stamford Bridge.

It is a game in which the losers could miss out on a place in the next UEFA Champions League.

Chelsea though have another chance for silverware when they meet Manchester City again but in the UEFA Champions League final in a fortnight on May 29 in Porto.

(dpa/NAN)

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