<
>

Kelechi Iheanacho becoming a star at Leicester, Yassine Bounou an unlikely hero

play
Udoh: Iheanacho's relationship with Vardy is almost telepathic (1:21)

Colin Udoh praises Kelechi Iheanacho's first hat trick for Leicester City and hopes his relationship with Jamie Vardy will continue. (1:21)

After years of question marks about his ability to establish himself as a viable offensive option for Leicester City, Kelechi Iheanacho extended his purple patch emphatically with a double against Manchester United last weekend. Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou also enjoyed a weekend to remember, while Silas Wamangituka suffered the premature conclusion of his impressive campaign.

Iheanacho makes it nine in nine

Rarely, since swapping Manchester City for Leicester City in 2017, has Iheanacho truly suggested that he can represent a consistent goal threat for the 2016 champions and establish himself as Jamie Vardy's heir apparent.

In his first four seasons at the King Power Stadium the striker registered three, one, five, and three goals in each campaign, but things certainly appear to have turned a corner.

He's already equalled his previous seasonal best -- the five-goal tally of 2019-20 -- in his past two fixtures, following up his hat-trick against Sheffield United with a double against Manchester United in the FA Cup quarterfinals on Sunday.

Considering the quality of the opposition, this was arguably a finer performance and Iheanacho also contributed an assist to take his goal tally to 10 direct contributions in his past nine performances stretching back to the Foxes' 2-0 victory at Fulham in early February.

Leicester's 3-1 triumph, as they finally banished their quarterfinal hoodoo to reach the final four for the first time since 1982 -- after five last-eight eliminations -- was thoroughly inspired by Iheanacho.

In truth, the attacker's opener was due in no small part to some calamitous defending on the part of United, as Fred -- finding himself under pressure -- misjudged his backpass to Dean Henderson.

Iheanacho, clearly in the mood after his plundering of the Blades, didn't need a second invitation; he received the ball from Fred, evaded the advancing goalkeeper with one touch, and claimed the simplest goal of his magnificent scoring run.

As had been the case against Sheffield United game, Iheanacho's work in build-up play was almost as impressive as his confidence, the forward linking those around him in a patched-up Leicester forward line and picking up possession before tearing forward into space.

He was influential as the Foxes retook the lead in the 52nd minute after Mason Greenwood's 38th-minute equaliser, as he received possession from Youri Tielemans, evaded the leggy Nemanja Matic, and fed the ball back to the Belgian for him to finish with aplomb.

Suddenly, the attacker -- often previously meek and indecisive at Leicester -- appears imbued with confidence and looks to be totally in control of his considerable gifts.

Twelve minutes from time, the Nigerian was decisive in putting the tie beyond United and killing any hope of a comeback, finishing calmly at the back post to meet Marc Albrighton's free-kick after Scott McTominay had missed a charge.

- Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
- ESPN+ viewer's guide: Bundesliga, Serie A, MLS, FA Cup and more

Remarkably, considering the paucity of his contribution in the Premier League, Iheanacho's double means that he's now scored more goals in the FA Cup since his January 2016 debut in the tournament -- 13 in 18 matches -- than any other player in world football's oldest club competition.

Across both the FA Cup and the League Cup, he's now registered 16 goals in 22 starts -- including 11 in 11 in the former competition.

For context, only Sergio Aguero, with 21 goals, has scored more in England's cup competitions than Iheanacho (20) across the past six years.

For Rodgers, a switch in the team's formation to pair the Nigerian alongside Vardy is one of the reasons why fans are seeing the best of the frontman.

"Kelechi has always contributed," Rodgers told BBC Sport. "Maybe his confidence was lower but he works so hard every day and always comes in and gives his all.

"You see his confidence now. He's at the top of his game.

"It's a different structure [up front].

"Kelechi is probably best with someone up there with him. Those two are working very well."

Iheanacho's compatriot -- and primary cheerleader -- Wilfred Ndidi, was also one of the standout performers in an excellent Leicester display, as he protected the Foxes' back four effectively and guaranteed that substitute Bruno Fernandes wasn't able to prompt a comeback.

Having reached their first semifinal in 39 years, Leicester's sights will now be set on ousting Southampton in the next round to progress to their first final since 1969.

Who know, perhaps if Rodgers' team can maintain this level of performance, then they can make amends for four previous final failures to finally get their hands on the trophy.

Bounou's heroics

Morocco's Yassine Bounou -- Bono -- enjoyed a weekend to remember in the Spanish top flight, as the Atlas Lions stopper became the first Sevilla FC goalkeeper to score in a La Liga fixture.

Joining the attack in stoppage-time of his side's showdown with Real Valladolid, who led 1-0, the North African demonstrated quick thinking and sharp footwork to react quickest as Sevilla sought to equalise.

With the ball dropping kindly at his feet, the stopper -- dressed entirely in luminous orange yet entirely unmarked in the box -- sent a fine left-footed effort beyond his opposite number Robert Jimenez in the 94th minute to register an unlikely point for the visitors.

"It's difficult to describe scoring a goal, I didn't even know how to celebrate," the keeper said after the match. "It's very strange; you're there in your own goal, and then all of a sudden [that happens].

"It's the first time it happened in my career. I remember a match against Valladolid with Girona, when I nearly scored, but this was incredible, a great feeling."

Bounou is the second keeper in the Spanish top flight to score this season -- after Marko Dmitrovic of Eibar in January -- and his goal ensured Sevilla extended their unbeaten run to three matches.

"Strikers are very lucky to experience what it is to score a goal."

Wamangituka's breakout season ends in tears

Silas Wamangituka has been one of Africa's breakout stars this season, catching the eye with his panache, flair and finishing ability for VfB Stuttgart in the German Bundesliga.

The 21-year-old frontman had never played in a top European league before this season, but he has scored 11 league goals, including a double against Werder Bremen in December, when he was booked for unsporting behaviour after he taunted the floundering keeper before walking the ball home.

Unfortunately, his season has come to a premature end after he was stretched off 35 minutes into Stuttgart's 4-0 hammering away at reigning European champions Bayern Munich after a clash with David Alaba.

He had enjoyed a lively start to the contest before falling to the turf in significant discomfort, with the club's sporting director, Sven Mislintat, confirming it was a "serious injury" to his right knee.

It was later revealed that Wamangituka had torn his ACL, and he now faces an extended spell on the sidelines.

The Congolese player's absence will surely prove more costly to ninth-placed Stuttgart's hopes of qualifying for the UEFA Europa League than their defeat by Bayern.

The youngster had been linked with a move to Everton in recent months, but such a significant injury this late in the season surely jeopardises any hopes of a summer transfer away from the Swabians.

Elsewhere, Simy Nwankwo scored again for Serie A struggles Crotone -- his 13th goal of the season and his sixth in four games -- but wasn't able to prevent the Sharks from falling to a 3-2 defeat against Bologna.

While the towering frontman is proving himself in the Italian top flight, even if his latest goal was his sixth penalty, Crotone remain eight points from safety with 10 fixtures to play.

Despite outscoring his Nigeria compatriot Victor Osimhen by 10 league goals, Simy has been on the winning side only four times this season.

In Ligue 1, Islam Slimani and Maxwel Cornet scored for Lyon but Paris Saint-Germain nevertheless won 4-2 away in a battle at the top of the table, while Boulaye Dia ended his 10-game goalless streak with the winner for Stade de Reims against Dijon.