Leicester City are making their first FA Cup final appearance in England since 1969 after Kelechi Iheanacho beat Brendan Rodgers’ side ahead of Southampton.
It all happened one night when thousands of spectators returned to Wembley.
After Chelsea defeated Manchester City in front of empty stalls on Saturday, the following evening saw 4,000 local residents, including key workers, building up England’s largest crowd for 13 months.
A number of Leicester City and Southampton fans were among those who made it to Sunday’s semi-final, with Iheanacho in good shape to settle the game.
The Nigerian returned home early in the second half to seal a 1-0 victory under the arch.
There were expected to be 21,000 participants —— including many more supporters —— when the Foxes return to Wembley on May 15 to face Chelsea.
Then they will look to win their very first FA Cup.
Hopefully the centerpiece will be more exciting than the lackluster semi-final.
At least Sunday’s game was a memorable one for the spectators to return, with Leicester City ahead of a cautious first half.
They then landed a punch in the 55th minute as the Saints appeared to be awakening.
Jamie Vardy, who missed the best chance of the opening period, broke free on the left and crossed for fit Iheanacho.
His poor first effort kindly sent him back to him and he went home.
The Saints issued a gentle response for a leveler as they quickly ran out of ideas and energy.
But their dreams of replicating their 1976 triumph have come to an end as Leicester City’s attempt to make history continues.
There were cheers and applause at the end of a game that doubled as one of the government’s pilot events.
All participants had to prove that they had tested negative for the coronavirus before the match.
“Come on Leicester” and “Oh, when the Saints” echoed around Wembley in the opening minutes of a game that Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men started off particularly nervously.
Ibrahima Diallo negligently lost possession four minutes into the proceedings and clumsily tried to win the ball over to Vardy.
But the Foxes broke and Ayoze Perez —— back to the side after his party antics —— turned away from the target.
Referee Chris Kavanagh returned to book the midfielder and Vardy was able to continue after the treatment as the teams played a cautious and largely lifeless start.
Southampton failed to muster a single shot in the first half despite periods of ascendancy, while Leicester City failed to punish their opponents’ tendency to return possession.
Diallo was again guilty of losing the ball in the 33rd minute and was fortunate not to be punished as Youri Tielemans passed a nice ball to Vardy.
But he sent an effort right off the near post.
Leicester City moved closer as steadfast saints again ahead of the break.
Wilfred Ndidi was too easily allowed to meet a corner corner on the edge of the six-yard penalty area and glance with a header just above.
Soon after, the Leicester City midfielder threw another corner kick to the far post.
This time Jonny Evans pushed the goal back and Vardy was just closed off with a desperate defense as the ball flew over Fraser Forster’s goal.
Caglar Soyuncu —— back in the Leicester City defense after testing positive for COVID-19 —— was penalized for slamming Kyle Walker-Peters minutes into the second half.
Jannik Vestergaard of the head.
The Saints were starting to look more positive, only to fall behind in the 55th minute.
Vardy’s move to the flank left Jan Bednarek behind in its wake and the veteran crossed for Iheanacho to escape a bad shot.
The ball fortunately bounced off Vestergaard as the striker shot the free ball.
Hasenhuttl brought in Che Adams in a bid to change the game, with the Leicester-born striker soon seeing a blocked shot before Diallo was relieved from a distance.
Danny Ings was put to the test moments later but didn’t quite manage to get a shot as Diallo threw a side volley against the post behind the goal.
Leicester City moved in after that spell and handled the game.
James Maddison flashed when he was well placed in the 77th minute, with the substitute – another to be dropped last week – – trying another shot from a distance two minutes later.
The Saints created very little despite being lucky enough to reach a first FA Cup final since 1976 and it was Leicester City celebrating at the final whistle.
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