TEN-man Millwall sensationally knocked Premier League champions Leicester City out of the FA Cup after Shaun Cummings scored a winner in the last minute to send his side through to the quarter-finals.
It seemed Millwall’s run in this competition would come to an end after centre-back Jake Cooper was sent off for a second bookable offence in the 51st minute.
But Neil Harris’ side produced an extraordinary second-half effort and with a replay looming substitute Lee Gregory slipped Cummings through, and just as he had against AFC Bournemouth he calmly finished to seal a famous win.
Millwall didn’t want another fixture in their schedule but after Cooper’s departure their priorities in the game seemed to change, as indicated by the introductions of Jimmy Abdou and Mahlon Romeo.
But they kept attacking Leicester and Calum Butcher's efforts in winning the ball back high up the pitch late on not only illustrated the sense he wants to make up for lost time after spending so long out of the team this season, but it roused a sold-out Den. No one could argue Millwall didn’t deserve their win.
It had all started so differently for Leicester. Their fans, filling the away end, showed their support for Claudio Ranieri by chanting his name as soon as the game kicked off, and their team certainly didn’t look like they have been on such a poor run.
By the 20th minute they had already conjured more shots on Jordan Archer’s goal than Bournemouth and Watford had between them in the last two rounds. The sides swapped chances in the 10th minute, Demarai Gray – the only Leicester player in the team who had started in the 2-0 defeat at Swansea last weekend – shooting off target and then Steve Morison lifting an effort over Ron-Robert Zieler’s crossbar.
For all the attempts in the respective build-ups in insisting the expectations were on the opposition, it was actually Leicester players who conveyed the sense they were released from their league burden. Key to their early attacking potency was their wingers’ discipline in maintaining width allowing Andy King join his attack from midfield and Bartosz Kapustka to flit into spaces behind Shinji Okazaki.
Ahmed Musa sent one shot out for a throw-in before Leicester zipped together their best move of the first half, Kapustka putting Okazaki though but a combination of Archer and Cooper denied him before Byron Webster flung himself in the way of a follow-up. Archer saved again from Okazaki and Musa shot wide as Millwall struggled to plug defensive gaps.
But then they started to get a foothold. In the 28th minute, Fred Onyedinma, whom the home crowd thought was consistently being quietened by centre-back Molla Wague’s liberal use of his elbows, finally found a plot of space to turn in the box and when the ball fell to Shane Ferguson his shot was blocked by Ben Chilwell.
Millwall dominated the last five minutes before the break. After Morison had won a free-kick off Yohan Benalouane on the right, his header from Ferguson’s free-kick came off the same defender for a corner. Butcher reached Shaun Williams’ deep delivery but could only head straight at Zieler.
Moments later Zieler dropped on a loose ball in the box from another Williams corner and after Cooper had attempted to kick it from his hands several players became involved in pushing and shoving in front of the Foxes fans. There was little in it apart from a yellow card from referee Craig Pawson for Cooper. That would very quickly come back to haunt the defender.
The incident had fired the home crowd, Millwall’s biggest here in almost 16 years, but maybe it also riled Cooper, who six minutes into the second half rashly tackled Musa and Pawson had little option but to show the defender a second yellow card.
The immediate reshuffle saw Tony Craig move into the centre of Millwall’s defence and moments later he had to produce a precise tackle to stop Musa after a rapid Leicester break.
There was never the likelihood Millwall’s belief that they could get a result would be diminished with the numerical disadvantage.
Morison, now working across the frontline on his own with Onyedinma on the right to preserve Millwall’s defensive shape, produced a piece of trickery on the left to swing in a cross that was cleared for a corner. From it Morison couldn’t get his header on target but he was involved again in a move that ended with Williams firing into the arms of Zieler from distance.
Leicester’s priority to avoid a draw that would cramp further their fixture schedule was signified with the introduction of Jamie Vardy with 15 minutes left. Millwall’s least preferred result had also been a draw, but that mindset had understandably shifted with the sending off and Lions boss Harris sent on Abdou for the tiring Butcher.
It wasn’t as if Harris was entirely satisfied to settle for a replay. He introduced Gregory with 11 minutes left, but even then it was a role on the left to help Ferguson deal with Marc Albrighton, another regular in the title-winning side from last season that Ranieri had turned to with Millwall naturally giving up more space in wide areas after the red card.
It was from the right that Leicester’s best chance up to then originated and when the ball broke to Okasaki a few yards out with only Archer to beat it looked like the deadlock was about to be broken. Archer, though, who has had so little to do in a run of seven clean sheets in eight previous games, produced a brilliant block.
Archer then had to spring quickly low to his left to palm the ball away after it had spun off Craig’s leg from Okazaki’s cross.
It appeared Millwall would just survive, before Cummings somehow ended up popping up in the opposition box to spark pandemonium at The Den and a pitch invasion by exuberant home fans.
Image: Millwall FC