Walcott equaliser, Welbeck winner break Leicester hearts at Arsenal
Holly Thackeray | February 14, 2016
Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City
- Vardy fired Foxes ahead from the spot in frenetic first-half
- Monreal gave penalty away for a foul on England forward
- Simpson saw red after the break to leave Leicester with 10 men
- Substitute Walcott nabs equaliser in 70th minute
- Returning Welbeck nods in stoppage time winner
Gunners cut gap on Foxes’ league lead
The Premier League title race swung back in Arsenal’s favour on Super Sunday, as the Londoners came back from behind against 10-man Leicester City, ahead of Manchester City’s upcoming evening clash with Tottenham.
Jamie Vardy fired the ferocious Foxes ahead in what proved a nail-biting and heated battle in north London, though, after Danny Simpson’s dismissal, heroic super subs Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck handed victory to the hosts.
This result sees the capital club cut Leicester’s lead to just two points, with Arsenal now 13/8 for the title with Coral.
Early Arsenal dominance dwindles
From the off, this encounter between first and third place in the Premier League was played with all the pace and ferocity of a title decider, as Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain forced an early corner, with eager Alexis Sanchez’s diving header looping wide. That chance certainly set the tone.
Arsenal were dominant in the first exchanges as anticipated at the Emirates, but somewhat characteristically managed to be all over their guests without making their possession advantage count.
As the teams traded testing jabs the match became edge-of-your-seat stuff, with Vardy ruled offside to spoil Shinji Okazaki’s shot at goal after a lovely lofted delivery from underrated Marc Albrighton.
While, at the other end of the pitch Kasper Schmeichel was forced to spring off his line to intercept Aaron Ramsey well outside his area after Leicester were for once caught on the counter themselves.
The goalie’s decision to dash out proved inspired, but Petr Cech was not to be outdone equalled his Danish counterpart’s heroics by smothering a Vardy header after another dangerous delivery was pumped in by Albrighton.
Foxes draw first blood
A frantic first-half continued to be fast and furious, as energetic Oxlade-Chamberlain once again found joy down the right flank against flustered full back Christian Fuchs, picking out Olivier Giroud, but the French forward was squeezed out by determined skipper Wes Morgan.
It was more of the same as Oxlade-Chamberlain proved a bullish protagonist again, with Morgan again disrupting a Giroud chance, as the battle grew ever more intense with attacks picked off at both ends.
On half an hour goal hungry Giroud finally rippled the Foxes’ net, but fell to his knees in celebration too soon, as his backwards header from a mischievous Mesut Ozil chip saw the flag raised for offside.
The Gunners were then made to pay as, for all their peppering of Leicester’s area, it was the Midlands men who again proved more potent.
Of course, it was Vardy who turned the tide, as referee Martin Atkinson waved away shout for a foul on Ozil and gave Leicester and advantage after a tough challenge on dominant N’Golo Kante. The leading Premier League scorer jinked into Arsenal’s area and Nacho Monreal took the bait, leaving his leg trailing for Vardy to trip and fall in a heap.
Atkinson awarded a spot-kick much to the hosts’ dismay, and Vardy sent outstretched Cech the wrong way, with a lethal finish in the low right corner to score his 19th league strike of the season and give Leicester the lead headed into the break.
Simpson sees Red
The Gunners were galvanized after half-time, as Ozil and Ramsey showed early intent to turn the tide, the first seeing his shot blocked by diligent Danny Drinkwater while the latter’s follow-up was rifled wide.
Riyad Mahrez then saw his claims for a second penalty denied, despite another unwisely dangling Monreal leg in the Arsenal area, but it was not the Algeria international’s day.
There was then a flurry of cards and fiery exchanges, as former Manchester United man Danny Simpson saw red for a second caution, foolishly hauling down Giroud for his second yellow and an early bath.
A taste of the temperature on the pitch was provided by midfield shield Francis Coquelin, who attempted to get into an altercation with wing magician Mahrez as the wideman was walking off the turf.
Walcott springs Foxes trap
Arsenal turned up the pressure on 10-man Leicester and it paid off around the 70th minute mark, with substitute Walcott providing the killer edge.
It was rampant right back Hector Bellerin who found space to fire a high ball across the Foxes box to Giroud, with the Frenchman using all his strength to nod down to Walcott, who nipped in to net the leveller past onrushing stopper Schmeichel – his third in as many recent matches against this opposition.
Wenger’s Gunners kept their foot on the gas, with Sanchez scuffing sight of goal as the game entered the final 10 plus minutes of normal time, with the Foxes stoutly resisting a wave of attacks, with Vardy tirelessly trying to provide an outlet.
Welbeck last-gasp goal propels Gunners forward
Per Mertesacker was gifted the opportunity to prove himself a Premier League hero, but guided his weak header from a divine Ozil ball agonisngly wide, with returning striker Welbeck also blocked dramatically at the last by resilient Morgan
It was then a superb Schmeichel’s turn to again save his side from a bitter blow, somehow stretching his right glove to deny Giroud’s lashed effort that looked destined to ruffle the net.
The Foxes seemed certain to see out the final minute on the stoppage clock, but in sensational finish, a late free-kick from Ozil proved their dramatic undoing, with none other than Welbeck grabbing the winning goal. He rose to head deftly home and finish the match which could not have been better scripted had Arsenal tried. When it comes to the title race, game on.