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Goal evens things up for sportsmanship

September 20, 2007|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

LONDON -- In a country chockablock with soccer competitions, a second-round match between second- and third-tier clubs in the third-most-coveted domestic tournament normally would go unnoticed.

Yet Leicester City's visit to Nottingham Forest on Tuesday night in the League Cup managed to lure some attention for a reason downright bizarre. It backlit an uncommon demonstration of sportsmanship.

Leicester City and Nottingham Forest, two clubs from the English Midlands, opposed each other in the second round of the 92-team, six-month tournament on Aug. 28, unbeknownst even to the multitudes of Britons who adore soccer.

That night, Nottingham Forest led 1-0 at halftime when Leicester City defender Clive Clarke, 27, collapsed in the locker room because of heart failure and wound up in the hospital. After some deliberation, Nottingham Forest officials announced that the match would not proceed, drawing gratitude and praise from Leicester City.

The match was rescheduled for Tuesday night.

In the interim, Clarke recovered sufficiently to harbor hopes of playing again, while Leicester City owner Milan Mandaric fired coach Martin Allen four games into his tenure over a disagreement and replaced him with Gary Megson, who with his players made a singular decision for the rematch.

They consulted Nottingham Forest beforehand, and they kept things quiet to avoid any gambling fiascos, but as play began Tuesday at Nottingham Forest's City Ground, the Leicester City defense subsided. It let Nottingham Forest goalkeeper Paul Smith dribble down the pitch unaccosted for a goal after 23 seconds. As he passed opposite number Marton Fulop, the two goalkeepers slapped hands before Smith kicked the ball into the net.

That, Leicester City reckoned, replicated the score that had held before Nottingham Forest's gesture in suspending the previous match.

Leicester City rallied for a 3-2 win.

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