Ranieri left baffled by tale of two cities

Millwall's Shaun Cummings slots home the only goal of the match in the 90th minute in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, sealing victory for the League One side. It was the seventh time in 10 games that Leicester had failed to score.
Millwall's Shaun Cummings slots home the only goal of the match in the 90th minute in the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday, sealing victory for the League One side. It was the seventh time in 10 games that Leicester had failed to score.PHOTO: REUTERS

No glimmer of fighting spirit in FA Cup loss to 10-man Millwall as Leicester season unravels

LONDON • If Claudio Ranieri was hoping there might be a player lurking in his reserves to salvage Leicester City's season, he was left disappointed on Saturday as his side were beaten 1-0 by third-tier Millwall in the FA Cup fifth round.

The Leicester manager made 10 changes to the side that lost 0-2 at Swansea City on Feb 13 - a fifth straight league defeat - but even when Millwall had Jake Cooper sent off after 52 minutes, the English champions failed to take control.

Shaun Cummings then slotted a 90th-minute winner for the League One hosts, who claimed their third top-flight scalp after victories in the previous two rounds against Bournemouth and Watford.

"I am very disappointed. We played well in the first half, so-so at the beginning of the second until it went to 10 versus 11," the Italian told the BBC. "After then they played better than us, with more desire and heart and deserved to win. We have to show desire. I gave a great opportunity to my players.

"We can learn. When a team from League One beats the champions we say why and have to react as soon as possible. We are better than Millwall, but Millwall deserved to win."

Leicester failed to score for the seventh time in their last 10 games and the news got worse as it was confirmed that January signing Molla Wague, handed his debut, suffered a dislocated shoulder during the fifth-round tie at the New Den.

With a Champions League last-16 clash away to Sevilla on Wednesday, followed by a home Premier League match against Liverpool, the games are coming thick and fast for Leicester, who face a desperate battle to avoid relegation a year after stunning world football by winning the league title.

Ranieri said that was why he made so many changes. "When you play three matches in nine days, you need to give the opportunity," he said. "If you play well, you don't change too much, but when you don't play well, you lose a match, you have to give the opportunity to the other players."

Unwelcome scenes followed Millwall's win with police horses being required to restore order after a pitch invasion.

Millwall manager Neil Harris said he had not seen - but nor could he condone - the actions of home supporters who had invaded the pitch and thrown objects at Leicester fans, who replied in kind and lashed out at stewards.

Harris also praised his fans, however, and said a pitch invasion was to be expected.

The pitch was cleared after stewards were joined by police on horses and then a further line of officers carrying riot helmets.

Millwall, beaten finalists in 2004 when they were in the second tier, are threatened with having to move from their south London home because the local council want to sell adjacent land to developers.But all that was forgotten on Saturday.

"When we went to 10 men it galvanised us. There was more pressure on Leicester," Harris said. "I made attacking changes to win the game because neither of us wanted a replay. I thought the atmosphere was electric. The noise was phenomenal. These are special days for us."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2017, with the headline 'Ranieri left baffled by tale of two cities'. Print Edition | Subscribe