A masterclass from substitute Vincenzo Montella inspired a sensational Fulham comeback as the Whites reached the fourth round of the FA Cup with a breathless 4-3 win against Leicester.
The Italian striker, who arrived on loan from Roma, scored two second-half goals as Chris Coleman’s side roared back from 3-1 down. Wayne Routledge shattered the Championship’s side brave resistance deep into stoppage time when he jinxed his way past several Foxes defenders to fire home a winner. It harsh on Paul Lambert’s side who looked in complete control prior to Montella’s introduction.
After Brian McBride had cancelled out Matty Fryatt’s early strike, Leicester stormed into a commanding lead courtesy of strikes from Gareth McAuley and James Wesolowski either side of half-time. But the artistry and predatory finishing of Fulham’s new Italian forward turned the game on its head and the Londoners will now face Stoke in round four.
Fulham’s defence looked ragged from the outset. Stephen Hughes, who spent an underwhelming season on loan at Craven Cottage in 2000, made the Foxes’ opener by weighting a forward ball over Carlos Bocanegra’s head perfectly for Fryatt to fire past Tony Warner. The Fulham goalkeeper then prevented Fryatt from doubling Leicester’s lead by keeping out a clever curler and that saved proved crucial when McBride drove home a leveller from Tomasz Radzinski’s cross.
Conceding an equaliser didn’t dent Leicester’s confidence. They went ahead again right at the end of the first half when Northern Ireland defender Gareth McAuley outmuscled Franck Quedrue to head home Levi Porter’s precise free-kick. Leicester’s travelling fans went wild a minute into the second half when James Wesolowski fired a terrific drive past Warner after lovely link up play between Fryatt and Ian Hume.
A home revival looked a remote prospect but Montella had other ideas. He fired a warning to the Championship outfit by striking the far post within six minutes of his arrival and then turned in Michael Brown’s cross to hand Fulham a lifeline. Il Aeroplanino was by now a constant menace to the Leicester defence. He shot over after a mazy dribble and admonished himself before seeing a header blocked in the Foxes’ goalmouth. But he climbed magnificently to head home Routledge’s corner to level the scores.
Fulham then pressed relentlessly for a winner. Queudrue almost scored with a glancing header and drove a free-kick over the angle of post and bar. With extra-time looming, Routledge found the perfect moment to score the first goal of his loan spell from Tottenham Hotspur. He darted between two defenders and drilled a shot under Paul Henderson to round off Fulham’s rousing fightback.
Queudrue came close with a header from another Routledge delivery and the Frenchman swung a free-kick narrowly wide of the top corner.
And as the clock ticked through injury-time, Routledge conjured up one last trick. He cut in between two defenders and slid his shot under Henderson to seal a dramatic Fulham comeback.
FULHAM (4-4-2): Warner, Rosenior, Quedrue, Christanval, Bocanegra; Volz, Brown, Routledge, Radzinski; Helguson, McBride (Montella 45). Subs (not used): Lastuvka, Zakuani, Omozusi, Runstrom.
GOALS: McBride (35), Montella (51, 60), Routledge 90.
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2): Henderson; McAuley (Stearman 81), Kisnorbo, McCarthy, Maybury; Hughes (Cadamarteri 82), Williams, Tiatto (Wesolowski 38), Porter; Hume, Fryatt. Subs (not used): Logan, Johansson.
GOALS: Fryatt (13), McAuley (45), Wesolowski (47).
REFEREE: Alan Wiley (Staffordshire).