A seven-goal battle at the Walkers Stadium saw Leicester progress to round two of the Carling Cup, but defensive errors once again provided manager Paulo Sousa with worrying food for thought.
League Two visitors Macclesfield managed three goals on the night, but a brace from Matty Fryatt inbetween strikes from Robbie Neilson and Richie Wellens saw the home side progress.
It was the second time in a row that the two sides had met in the competition, the Foxes winning last season’s encounter at Moss Rose by two goals to nil.
New manager Paulo Sousa gave home debuts to left back Tom Kennedy and Portuguese star Moreno in defence, while there was a place in midfield for Paul Gallagher, recently recovered from injury.
Neilson — Hobbs — Moreno — Kennedy
N’Guessan — Oakley — Wellens — Gallagher
Howard — Fryatt
The opening exchanges saw little in the way of action for either side until the 15th minute, when the visitors pulled themselves into a shock lead.
Some woeful miscommunication from Jack Hobbs and goalkeeper Conrad Logan saw the former head out needlessly for a corner, from which Macclesfield centre back Nat Brown headed home above Hobbs to put the lower league opposition ahead.
The Foxes huffed and puffed their way to a route back into the game, responding immediately when Paul Gallagher’s free-kick was saved well by goalkeeper José Veiga.
Sousa’s side came close to an equaliser ten minutes later when Dany N’Guessan’s powerful header cannoned back off the crossbar to keep the visitors in the lead.
Matty Fryatt should have grabbed City’s opening goal of the game soon after when he turned smartly inside the penalty area, but his left foot effort fell wide with the goal at his mercy.
But Leicester did have their goal on 34 minutes, through the most unlikely of sources. Some neat interchanging play in the midfield ended with a Steve Howard effort parried by Veiga, setting up right back Robbie Neilson for his first goal for the Foxes.
It was only Neilson’s second league goal in a lengthy club career spanning well over 200 appearances.
From here on it was Leicester who took a firm stranglehold on the match, and for the remainder of the first half dominated proceedings.
City could have put themselves in the lead soon afterwards when Richie Wellens’ delightful pass found Fryatt, who chose not to pass to the confident Neilson and instead wastefully fire straight at Veiga.
Dany N’Guessan was the next man on the opportunity list when he found himself clean through on goal, but a lack of composure saw him blast his left-foot shot wide.
It was a powerful final 15 minutes of the first half from the Championship side, but with the scoreline still level there was much work to be done in the second period.
And Sousa will have been delighted with the reaction after the break, as a relentless Foxes side ran Macclesfield ragged from the off.
It took just a minute and a half for Fryatt to find the net for the Foxes, cutting inside before delivering a magnificent curled shot past Veiga to put the home side ahead.
Five minutes later the same player had his second of the match. Some neat play in the middle of the park saw the ball worked through to Wellens, whose pass through to Fryatt was finished off in style by the striker.
Leicester continued with their foot on the accelerator when Howard forced a save from Veiga, before Fryatt came close to a hat-trick when he flashed wide from close range.
Macclesfield made a double swicth on 53 minutes with the introductions of Vinny Mukendi and Lewis Chalmers, and it wasn’t long before the former made a significant impact on the match.
Macclesfield capitalised from space on the wing, as Shaun Bridley crossed in for Mukendi to power a header home past Conrad Logan in the Leicester goal.
But just seven minutes later Leicester had the game wrapped up. Steve Howard, involved in so much link-up play throughout the evening, squared for Richie Wellens who fired home a powerful shot for City’s fourth of the night.
Silkmen goalkeeper Veiga did well to prevent a Fryatt hat-trick when he saved well from the striker’s deflected effort on 76 minutes.
Sousa was forced into a substitution in the final 15 minutes when recent Portuguese signing Moreno limped off. It was a promising debut from the midfielder, who had played much of the game at centre back with a stylish performance.
Macclesfield’s pocketful of fans (really, there were around 60 of them) were given hope of a comeback with eight minutes remaining when their side pulled off a third goal.
Jack Hobbs’ second crucial error of the game saw him give away possession in a dangerous position. Mukendi’s shot was superbly saved by Logan, but Colin Daniel pounced on the rebound quickest to set up a nervous finish.
It was yet another uncharacteristic mistake from Hobbs, who has struggled in the early stages of the campaign.
With an unforgiving Middlesbrough side on the horizon on Saturday afternoon Sousa faces a key decision on whether to keep faith with his struggling man at the back.
Leicester saw out the remainder of the match with little in the way of danger, instead racing up the other end of the pitch to have one final effort through Steve Howard.
It was a game in which Leicester could and certainly should have had more goals – Fryatt being the main culprit – but it is at the back once again where Sousa will have his concerns.
The performance of Jack Hobbs will not have gone unnoticed by the City manager, but with Moreno perhaps now injured and Miguel Vitor not yet fit, the former-Liverpool man may keep his place at the heart of defence.
Elsewhere there was a hugely impressive performance from Steve Howard, who now looks almost certain to start against Gordon Strachan’s Middlesbrough at the weekend.
Robbie Neilson again showed confidence going forward with a series of attacking runs into the penalty area, helping himself to an unlikely goal on the evening.
Leicester: Logan, Neilson, Hobbs, Moreno (Verma 78), Kennedy, N’Guessan, Oakley (Morrison 65), Wellens, Gallagher (Campbell 65), Howard, Fryatt
Subs not used: Weale, Berner, Parkes, Dyer
Macclesfield: Veiga, Tremarco, Brown, Brisley, Bencherif, Daniel, Bolland (Chalmers 54), Hamshaw (Wedgbury 71), Butcher, Sinclair (Mukendi 54), Barnett
Subs not used: Cudworth, Beardsley, Reid, Draper