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Unexpected Hart failure breathes life into Foxes' cup dream

after a pulsating tie, in which a costly aberration by Joe Hart brought an equaliser, the Swedish sorcerer and his Italian apprentice must reconvene to establish whether Sven-Goran Eriksson's Leicester or Roberto Mancini's Manchester City will enjoy the dubious privilege of a fourth-round trip to Notts County.

Hart had been beaten inside 45 seconds by Sol Bamba's first touch in English football following the Ivory Coast defender's New Year arrival in the Championship from Hibernian for £250,000.

Mancini's side hit back with goals by James Milner and Carlos Tevez, only for untypical sloppiness by the England 'keeper to gift an equaliser to Leicester captain Andy King.

A just outcome means a return to Eastlands for Eriksson, who was manager there in 2007-08. The replay, a week on Wednesday, also delivers another chance for him to pit his wits against Mancini -- a close friend and former assistant at Lazio -- with a trip to his previous English club at Meadow Lane the prize. Eriksson was understandably delighted with Leicester's display and the quality of the entertainment.

"We could've lost and we could've won, but I'm very proud of the players," he said. "We stood up to one of the best teams in the country and I couldn't see much difference."

The 6ft 3in Bamba's eventful introduction to the Walkers Stadium faithful drew rich praise from Eriksson, who became aware of his ability when he coached the Ivorians during last year's World Cup. "He could have scored a hat-trick, and he was outstanding defensively too," the Swede said.

Quizzed about the error by Hart, his first-choice keeper in Manchester, Eriksson erred on the side of generosity. "I know Joe very well. He's an extremely good 'keeper, but even the best make mistakes."

Mancini -- whose new £27m attacker from the Bundesliga, Edin Dzeko, watched from the stands -- summed up a card-free contest that contrived to be competitive as well as convivial, suggesting it was "a good result for both teams."

He added: "Leicester played very well and didn't deserve to lose. For us, it's an important lesson. We understand now that if we want to win the FA Cup, we have to play 100pc in every game."

The Mancunian contingent -- sporting red and black scarves in honour of Maine Road legend Neil Young, who scored their winner against Leicester in the 1969 final and now has terminal cancer -- magnanimously gave the lead to Leicester supporters by singing Eriksson's name prior to kick-off.

An instant home goal quickly put a stop to that. A short-corner routine led to Paul Gallagher crossing from the left and Bruno Berner flicking the ball on before, in a crowded six-yard box, Bamba stabbed the ball home. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent