Arsenal 1 Leicester 1: Nketiah made to pay for red card two minutes after coming on as Vardy snatches late leveller

0

JAMIE VARDY came back to haunt Arsenal as Mikel Arteta’s faint hopes of Champions League qualification were all but ended.

It was four years ago that Vardy turned down a move to the Emirates after Arsenal triggered a £22million buy-out clause in his Leicester contract.

And how the Gunners were made to regret that decision after the Premier League’s top scorer grabbed a gut-wrenching 87th minute equaliser.

It wasn’t quite enough to secure the Foxes first win away at Arsenal since September 1973, but at least it was enough to end a run of 12 successive defeats at the Emirates.

It took an eternity for ref Chris Kavanagh to point to the centre spot as VAR pored over replays of Vardy putting away Demarai Gray’s whipped cross to the far post.

But it was finally judged that both Vardy and Ayoze Perez were marginally the right side of those digital lines.

It was a bitter pill for resurgent Arsenal to swallow, particularly as they had been reduced to ten men by video technology to turn the game in Leicester’s favour.

Eddie Nketiah had only been on the field for two minutes as a replacement for Alexandre Lacazette when he was sent-off for a nasty challenge on James Justin.

The young striker was clearly out of control when he caught the Foxes full-back with a 72nd minute tackle just below the knee.

Kavanagh initially reached for his yellow card but upgraded to a red after being advised to check the pitchside TV monitor by VAR Stuart Attwell.

Yet even Vardy’s late goal was not enough to prevent Brendan Rodgers’ team from dropping out of the Premier League’s top three for the first time since early October.

But Arsenal’s hopes of overhauling them now look dead and buried despite Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s 23rd goal of the season.

For so much of last night it looked as though Arsenal had finally turned the corner as they played with the kind of swagger which their fans haven’t seen in years.

And they are doing without the help of some of their biggest stars.

Record signing Nicolas Pepe could only make the subs’ bench after missing Saturday’s win at Wolves to attend the birth of his child.

But that was still more than Mesut Ozil and Metteo Guendouzi managed as they continued to be confined to the naughty step by Arteta.

Those two are so far socially distanced right now they would probably need an air bridge to get back into the manager’s reckoning.

And it’s clear that Arsenal are doing just fine without them as they continue to impress.

With only four Premier League games to go they have almost certainly left it too late to achieve Champions League qualification.

But Spurs and even Liverpool won’t be looking forward to taking them on in this form over the next seven days.

Leicester certainly couldn’t handle the Gunners’ slick counter-attacking game for much of the night.

Rodgers was hoping that Saturday’s home victory against Crystal Palace had steadied the ship after a sluggish return from lockdown.

The visitors certainly didn’t look like a team short on confidence as they dominated the opening exchanges as Kelechi Iheanacho drew the first save of the night from Emiliano Martinez.

Arsenal were passing it around nicely on an Emirates pitch saturated by a good old downpour without causing too many problems for Leicester’s back five.

But all that changed in the 22nd minute when Dani Ceballos’ peach of a pass allowed Bukayo Saka to get away from Caglar Soyuncu and hare in on goal.

The teenaged winger might have scored his first Premier League goal at the weekend but recognised that Aubameyang was better placed to score and selflessly squared to his captain.

And Aubameyang wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to move within one goal of Jamie Vardy in the race for the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

He tried to return the favour three minutes later but this time Soyuncu was just able to get a foot in right in front of goal to prevent Saka from reaching the cross.

Suddenly Leicester were in real danger of being overrun as Arsenal swarmed forward in search of further goals.

Kasper Schmeichel hardly knew what had hit him as he was forced into four saves in the space of ten minutes to keep out Saka, Hector Bellerin and Alex Lacazette twice.

And he was back in action shortly after half-time when he was forced into a sprawling save to keep out a David Luiz free-kick.

But for as long as Arsenal were unable to turn their possession into further goals, Leicester still had hope.

Iheanacho had the ball in the Arsenal net but only after fouling Sead Kolasinac and a second-half volley was met by a sharp save from Martinez.

Arsenal supporters feared the worst when Bernd Leno suffered a season-ending knee injury at Brighton last month.

But Martinez is proving to be a more than capable deputy and certainly didn’t deserve that kilder late goal from Vardy.

Share.

About Author

Leave A Reply