London (AFP) – Former Premier League champions Leicester City came within a whisker of suffering an FA Cup shock on Saturday but clung on to draw 0-0 at lower-league Fleetwood Town while Middlesbrough eliminated Sunderland.
The big news before kick-off was that Leicester’s star striker Jamie Vardy was denied an emotional return to his former club due to a groin injury while Riyad Mahrez was also missing from the teamsheet.
In a first half of little incident a much-changed Leicester side almost fell behind in the opening minutes when defender Aleksandar Dragovic played a loose backpass, sending goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic scrambling to keep the ball out.
The visitors, revitalised since Claude Puel took the helm earlier this season, enjoyed the lion’s share of possession on a crisp January day on England’s northwest coast but offered little consistent threat going forward.
Fleetwood, who play in League One, English football’s third tier, upped the ante in the second period, putting pressure on the Leicester defence and going close to taking the lead.
Puel threw on midfielder Marc Albrighton and forward Shinji Okazaki but Fleetwood continued to threaten, earning a succession of corners.
The League One side came within inches of winning in the dying seconds when Ashley Hunter struck the ball from distance and it deflected off Leicester’s Yohan Benalouane onto a post. Jakupovic fumbled it back onto the post before gathering the ball, ensuring a replay.
“I would prefer to get it done in 90 minutes,” said Fleetwood manager Uwe Rosler when asked about the money-spinning replay at the King Power Stadium. “Leicester has a strong team but we could have won it and we certainly deserved the draw.
“Our young players showed ability, we took them right to the wire but unfortunately we didn’t win.”
In the other lunchtime kick-off on Saturday, Middlesbrough beat northeast rivals Sunderland 2-0 in an all-Championship clash.
The third round sees teams from the Premier League and Championship enter the fray in the famous cup competition, throwing up the potential for shocks as the minnows seek to unseat famous opponents.
Later Saturday, Manchester City host Burnley in an all-Premier League clash while Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers will fancy their chances against Swansea, rooted to the bottom of the Premier League.
On Friday, Liverpool beat Everton 2-1 to progress to the fourth round while Manchester United beat Championship high-fliers Derby 2-0.