Leicester progress at Millwall’s expense after Ademola Lookman punishes error

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Leicester City eased their way into the fourth round of the Carabao Cup, seeing off an eager but limited Millwall thanks to a neat finish from one-time local boy Ademola Lookman, and a late second from the persevering Kelechi Iheanacho.

This was a slow-burn cup tie and a performance from Brendan Rodgers’ team that was notable only for the isolated moments of quality that made the difference. “We had really good control of the game,” Rodgers’ assistant Chris Davies said afterwards, but perhaps the most significant note was the edge offered by Iheanacho in his second start of the season.

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Leicester have been a stodgy attacking presence of late. Iheanacho had a hand in both goals, finishing his own late chance with elan, spanking the ball high into the net. “He’s had to be patient but he knows how important he is for us,” Davies said.

The Den was a rowdy place at kick-off on a soft blue South London night, the towers of Canary Wharf glinting above the lip of the Dockers Stand. Millwall are 18th in the Championship, but came into this tie on a cautious upswing after a run of low-scoring draws. Gary Rowett’s team lined up in a Christmas tree-style back three here, without the outstanding attacking presence of the injured Jed Wallace.

This was Leicester’s first Carabao Cup date of the season, the Europa League having provided an off-games note to this point. But it was still a game that carried an unexpected urgency after five games running without a clean sheet. Here Rodgers paired Iheanacho with Lookman in attack. Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi both started in midfield.

Iheanacho was lively early on, skating about looking for the gaps down the sides of the towering Millwall centre-backs, but there was a lack of intensity in the Leicester midfield. They almost fell behind on 15 minutes as Jake Cooper’s presence caused some confusion after a long throw. The ball fell to Billy Mitchell, who shot powerfully wide with the home fans already leaping up in celebration. Moments later Ndidi was robbed as he dithered outside the Leicester area, and Connor Mahoney spanked a low, hard drive that Danny Ward scooped away by his near post.

Otherwise the first half was a slow congealment. Iheanacho had one more glimpse of goal but was let down by some clunky control. Mahoney offered speed and craft on the Millwall right. Leicester lacked until Tielemans began to pick up the ball in those half spaces off the back of the midfield just before the break. Twice he was fouled close to the edge of the area, the second time rising to curl the ball just over the bar. It was as close as Leicester came to a shot on target in a barren first period.

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With the game still in standby mode they took the lead four minutes into the second half. The goal was made by a hair-tearing defensive error, as Ryan Leonard dithered over a throw inside his own half, then hurled the ball across the pitch towards Cooper, who was swamped by turquoise shirts as his own midfield looked on.

The ball broke to Iheanacho, who had time to steady himself, ponder the scrolling perfume adverts behind the goal, and shoot for the corner. Long palmed his effort into the path of Lookman who smashed the bouncing ball into the top corner. Lookman went to school in Nunhead, a mile or so from the Den. He buzzed about with some intent during his 65 minutes on the pitch.

At the other end Millwall had offered a diffuse but persistent intensity and the occasional set-piece but there was a raising of the throttle as the midfield showed more willingness to press high up the pitch. Rowett threw on Matt Smith, a regular goalscorer but a centre-forward who rumbles about the pitch with the air of a mobile crane being winched into place. But Millwall found little in the way of edge before Iheanacho made it two at the end.

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