Leicester City 1-3 Arsenal
This Premier League result should come as no surprise,
For the fact Leicester can regularly compete with, let alone finish above Arsenal, is an achievement itself in an era of big spending and when the clubs challenging the establishment nearly always end up selling their best players.
Yet the fact that, for nearly 40 minutes, Leicester were on course to gun down Arsenal again speaks volumes about how far this club from the East Midlands has come.
Ultimately though, following their first triumph against the Gunners in North London since 1973 earlier this season, there was to be no league double.
Highlights of the game
Both teams played in the Europa League midweek with contrasting outcomes but there seemed to be no initial carry-over from that.
Leicester made a number of changes from their loss to Slavia Prague with Timothy Castagne, Ricardo Pereira, Harvey Barnes and Kelechi Iheanacho all starting.
Meanwhile Arsenal, buoyant from a fine comeback when they looked like they were heading out of the Europa League in midweek, rang the changes to their team that saw off Benfica.
Two-goal hero in that match Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was rested with Alexandre Lacazette starting in his place up front.
Elsewhere, Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari were drafted into the defence with Nicolas Pepe and Willian also included as talented youngster Bukayo Saka and loanee Martin Odegaard joined Aubameyang on the bench.
It wasn’t long before Leicester, who had won three of the past four league meetings with the Gunners, struck first.
Youri Tielemens has scored against the north Londoners before and only six minutes had elapsed when he was allowed to run unchecked down the right before firing a low shot beyond Bernd Leno.
That was the way it stayed until six minutes before the break as Arsenal produced two quick fire Premier League highlights to turn the match around.
David Luiz brought them level as he directed in a header from a Willian free-kick for his first league goal for 16 months.
Then, on the stroke of half-time, VAR adjudged Wilfred Ndidi to have blocked a Pepe shot in the box with an outstretched arm and Lacazette converted the resulting penalty.
If the home side weren’t at their fluent best – not helped by the absence of James Maddison, the latest name on the Foxes’ injury team sheet with the recurrence of a hip problem – then they must have been pretty disconsolate seven minutes after the restart as Barnes left the field on a stretcher (with what looked like a serious looking injury) and Arsenal immediately added a third.
It was a simple goal as Ivory Coast forward Pepe tapped into a largely unguarded net after a Willian pass was deflected into his path amid more unconvincing defending.
After conceding three times in, effectively, 13 minutes, and losing another key man to injury, Leicester had nothing left in the tank.
They remain 12 points ahead of Arsenal, which is an achievement in itself, but a fairly small squad is being tested as a crucial juncture in the campaign approaches.
This was only Leicester’s second defeat in 12 games.
Six of their seven Premier League losses this term have come at King Power Stadium.
Brendan Rodgers’ side have won 12 of the 14 league matches in which they have scored the opening goal in 2020-21.
This was Arsenal’s first away victory against a team starting the day in the top three of the Premier League table since January 2015 – they were winless in their past 14 such games beforehand.
Pepe has already equalled his league goal tally from last season of five but in 13 fewer appearances.
Lacazette has converted all five of his penalties for Arsenal, while only Aubameyang (13) has now netted more goals for the Gunners than the France forward this term.
Tielemans has scored six league goals for Leicester this season, as many as he had in his first two campaigns at the club combined.
Luiz & Willian are just the second Arsenal duo to combine for a Premier League goal for the Gunners and another Premier League club (Chelsea), following John Hartson and Ian Wright (West Ham).
Leicester go to Burnley on Wednesday (March 3) and then Brighton on Saturday night (March 6) as the congested season goes on.
There’s a relentless schedule for Arsenal too although they have a midweek break before meeting Burnley themselves next Saturday lunchtime (March 6).
Check out the SBOTOP Premier League betting odds before kick-off.
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