LEICESTER UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 09: New Manchester City signing Edin Dzeko is seen in the stands before the FA Cup sponsored by E.ON 3rd Round match between between Leicester City and Manchester City at Walkers Stadium on January 9 2011 in Leicester England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
A fair result you have to say. Neither side could truly claim to have been the more deserving of progressing through to round 4, yet if either had exited yesterday they would have justifiably felt hard done by.
It was your typical FA Cup tie: lacking some of the technical play of a Premier League game but packed in was plenty of passion, chances, mistakes and frenetic play that swung back and forth.
Roberto Mancini made changes to the line-up, adopting a Europa League tie looking formation with two wide men (maybe not quite out and out wingers though) either side of a midfield pairing and two central strikers. This meant starts for both Patrick Vieira, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Adam Johnson, whilst Jo and James Milner were deployed in their preferred positions.
Whilst Carlos Tevez started the game, both Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany sat the game out: deservedly so based on contributions and efforts this season but their absence from the side leaves big boots to fill. This is particularly so in the case of Kompany - arguably the player of the season thus far - and City struggled without his presence. Both Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure have impressed this season but paired together (as they were for the majority of Mark Hughes's time in 2009/10) they failed to control the Leicester attack and were often second best when balls, both from open play and set pieces, came into the box.
And it was a lack of conviction that saw City a goal down less than a minute in. The defence failed to clear a ball in and the debutant Sol Bamba etched his name into FA Cup folklore and put the home side ahead. Leicester looked a confident side, but although keen to attack, didn't test Joe Hart as much as they would have hoped and the first half was largely a patchy affair but did see some bright play from both sides and at times, City showed quality in possession (although still giving the ball away too easily - a concerning trait of late) and this was reflected in both goals. The first was started and finished by James Milner, who looked more comfortable centrally and he slotted home nicely from the edge of the box, before a well-worked corner (imagine that!) between Milner and Johnson ended with Tevez smartly slotting home.
Although 2-1 up at half-time, Mancini had sufficient concern to switch things up. Off went Wright-Phillips and on came de Jong, with Jo moved out wide. In a rare start, Wright-Phillips once again failed to shine. He is a player who thrives on consistently playing and being the focal point of the attack, and when enjoying this definitely shines. Currently though when he does feature he too often appears on the periphery of play and lacking in confidence, a repeat from his latter days at Chelsea and it is looking increasing more difficult to justify the playing time he needs to get his form back on track.
It was also interesting to see how the 4-4-2 worked, with a watching Edin Dzeko now available. Would Tevez drop deep? Would Jo drift wide? Would Tevez find himself cramped and restricted. Only forty-five minutes passed before Mancini went back to the 4-5-1 so it is difficult to draw conclusions, and the performance of Jo (surely) is no guide to how Dzeko will fare.
Although bright at the start of the half, City again (like at Arsenal last week) struggled to maintain possession and lacked the fluency and movement required to dominate the game. Jo, again featuring on the road, offered little by the way of an outlet and has most certainly not helped himself with his performance the past two games (and to the watching five 'interested clubs').
That said, it wasn't a sustained period of pressure that got Leicester level, but an error from Joe Hart. Guilty of taking his eye off a harmless looking cross, he fumbled and was then slow to the rebound that allowed King to equalise. The goal naturally roused Leicester and Hart did redeem himself with a couple of smart saves as they sniffed victory, but it was City who should have emerged victors as Nigel de Jong broke into the opposition box but could only hit straight at the Leicester 'keeper when he could, and should, have netted.
Notts County potentially await in round 4, an although Leicester showed enough to cause problems at the City of Manchester Stadium, the home advantage should be enough to tip the balance in favour of City. Maybe though Mancini may be forced to play a stronger side in the replay than he would like.