James Maddison’s return to the starting line-up came as a huge boost to Brendan Rodgers as Leicester City avoided an FA Cup shock to move into the last 16 with victory at Walsall.
Premier League strugglers Leicester won 1-0 at the League Two outfit on Saturday.
Youri Tielemans hit the post with a penalty but substitute Kelechi Iheanacho sent the Foxes into the fifth round with a deflected strike from just outside the area 22 minutes from time.
FA Cup specialist Iheanacho now has 17 goals in his 23 matches in the competition, while attacking midfielder Maddison – who has been a transfer target for Newcastle United and Tottenham – made his first start since November 12 when he suffered an injury before the World Cup.
“There were lots of positives as well as the result, including James Maddison coming back in,” said Leicester boss Rodgers, who led the team FA Cup glory in 2021.
“[Maddison] needs his football fitness now. He’s such a big talent. Just trying to get him up to speed and this was a great chance for him.
“I was really pleased. It was getting him onto the pitch as it’s a long time since he’s been out there. He’s worked hard and got a good 60 minutes, which was the plan. We saw how he was at half-time.
“He has a way to go yet in terms of his football fitness but he has been training the last little bit and he’s such a big talent for us, when he’s on the pitch anything can happen.”
17 – Since his FA Cup debut in January 2016, Kelechi Iheanacho’s 17 goals in the competition is the most of any player, while the Nigerian has netted seven in his last seven appearances in the cup. King. pic.twitter.com/tzYGvhSqZP
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) January 28, 2023
Rodgers added: “We could have been more comfortable with some of the chances we missed but the attitude of the players was excellent.
“We’ve seen it in the last round, the difficulties these sorts of games can provide. I always try to respect the competition and put out a strong side
“The last time [Iheanacho] was scoring we won the FA Cup, so hopefully it’s an omen. He will get more game time as Jamie Vardy is out for a few weeks.
“Maybe because he’s not been a starter for so many teams, when he gets his chance in the FA Cup, he takes his chance and he scores. He has made a great impact in the competition since I’ve been here.”
Leeds United joined Leicester in progressing by beating lower-league opposition, winning 3-1 away to Accrington Stanley.
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