VAR is back — and it was crucial as Leicester reached the Carabao Cup quarter-finals.
Southampton thought Steven Davis had snatched them a late winner but replays saw it ruled out for handball and the Foxes hit back to go through on penalties.
PA:Press Association8 Leicester City celebrate beating Southampton on penalties
Reuters8 Nemaplys Mendy scored the winning penalty for Leicester City
It was eight minutes from time when Saints ace Nathan Redmond crashed through three challenges before Davis slammed the ball into the net.
But ref Roger East pressed his hand to his ear and it was like the World Cup all over again.
The big screens flashed up VAR CHECKING DECISION and it proved justified as the ball clearly reared off Redmond’s outstretched arm while he battled with Wilfred Ndidi.
The Leicester fans chanted: “VAR, VAR, VAR.” And to their delight the message: “Original decision overturned,” flashed up to a massive roar.
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Reuters8 Southampton thought they went ahead when Steven Davis scored
PA:Empics Sport8 Referee Roger East consults VAR after Steven Davis scores
Getty – Contributor8 King Power big screen confirms goal is chalked off
It seemed harsh as the winger knew little about it. And moments later home fans were again cheering for VAR.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tussled with Jonny Evans at a corner and the defender went down.
This time VAR agreed with ref East that no offence had been committed and the score remained goalless.
In a frantic finale Foxes keeper Danny Ward then made a stunning save to turn sub Manolo Gabbiadini’s fiercely free-kick on to his own bar to send the tie to penalties.
And Ward denied Saints striker Gabbiadini once again at 5-5 in the shootout — before Papy Mendy scored his kick to set up a quarter-final clash at home to Manchester City.
Both managers made the customary flurry of changes for the Carabao Cup.
However, when Jamie Vardy was one of the nine new faces introduced by Claude Puel, few Foxes fans seemed too perturbed by their reshuffled pack.
Reuters8 Danny Ward saves Manolo Gabbiadini's penalty
AFP or licensors8 Manolo Gabbiani in despair as his penalty is saved
Under pressure Saints boss Mark Hughes kept his tinkering to a modest five changes.
The newcomers on both sides were a tad ring-rusty in fairly dismal tie.
The signs were ominous as early as the third minute when the Foxes fluffed a glorious chance to undermine Saints’ fragile confidence.
Demarai Gray’s corner from the left flew across the face of Angus Gunn’s goalmouth where Ndidi was lurking, six yards out and unmarked.
Somehow the midfielder allowed the ball to float through his legs.
When any game begins with someone being nutmegged by a corner, you know it’s going to be a long night. And so it proved.
Danny Simpson upended Mario Lemina with a tackle which — had it been any later — would have missed the last Christmas post!
Reuters8 Jamie Vardy slots home his penalty
Midway through the first half, there was some activity as Saints almost caught the home side on the hop from a Leicester corner kick!
Redmond sent 18-year-old Michael Obafemi scampering clear. But after skinning Simpson, the kid’s final shot lacked guile and Ward saved.
Both sides carved out a chance apiece in the two minutes of additional time before the break.
Christian Fuchs gifted possession to Redmond who was given time and space to shoot but, in keeping with the general tone, he scuffed yards wide.
Vardy then latched on to a quick throw from Fuchs but from his low centre, Jannik Vestergaard’s attempted clearance rolled inches wide of his own net.
Saints will look back and wonder how they failed to take the lead on 64 minutes as Obafemi came up with a miss to rival Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie sitter — 24 hours earlier.
Redmond broke clear of Caglar Soyuncu and Simpson and smashed the ball off the underside of the bar.
Obafemi looked certain to knock the ball into the empty net but half-volleyed the ball wide from seven yards.
VAR then came into its own with two crucial calls to force penalties.