A late Jamie Vardy equaliser earned Leicester a valuable 1-1 draw at Arsenal, as the hosts were left ruing Eddie Nketiah’s second half red card.
It was the Foxes who started brightly at the Emirates Stadium, but as so often happens the opening goal went against the run of play. Teenager Bukayo Saka burst forward down the right after collecting Dani Ceballos’ perfectly weighted through ball, before squaring for captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, to slide home from close range.
Alexandre Lacazette came close to doubling the Gunners’ lead on a number of occasions, and he even put the ball in the net midway through the second half – but his effort was ruled out for a narrow offside.
The Gunners were reduced to ten men when Nketiah saw red not long after coming on, allowing the away side to dominate proceedings in the final quarter of an hour. And the Foxes found an equaliser with just five minutes remaining through Jamie Vardy, who tapped home at the back post after good work from Demarai Gray.
Here’s 90min‘s breakdown of the game…
Key Talking Point
Mikel Arteta once again opted to go with the 3-4-3 formation, but Eddie Nketiah was replaced up front by Alexandre Lacazette. Not only did the Gunners look tight at the back in the first half, they were also a real threat each time they went forward. In fact, it could – and perhaps should – have been two or three nil up by half time.
But their inability to extend their lead in the first half came back to bite them. With Leicester on top in the second half, Nketiah’s sending off allowed the away side to gain an even greater foothold in the contest. In the end, the Gunners weren’t able to cling on – but there were undoubtedly positives to take.
Starting XI: Martínez (7); Mustafi (6), Luiz (6), Kolasinac (6); Bellerín (6), Ceballos (7), Xhaka (6), Tierney (7); Saka (7*), Aubameyang (7), Lacazette (5)
Substitutes: Nketiah (2), Willock (5), Torreira (5), Maitland-Niles (N/A)
With Nicolas Pepe on the bench again, Saka once again started on the right of a front three – and he was a constant threat. The youngster picked up intelligent positions, while he expertly linked up with the overlapping Hector Bellerin.
Saka plays with a maturity beyond his years, notably his composure in and around the goal is particularly impressive. After driving through the heart of the Leicester defence, Saka would then produce real quality by either unleashing a fine effort on goal, or by looking up and playing a pinpoint pass to a teammate – as he did for the opener.
The future is very bright for this talented teenager.
Key Talking Point
Make no mistake about it, Leicester have had a fantastic season so far. But their form since the restart has left them in a real fight for Champions League football – and while their performance on Tuesday won’t have helped their points tally much, they showed great determination to fight back.
With another star player ruled out through injury in Ben Chilwell, Brendan Rodgers opted to switch to a back three with Ryan Bennett coming into the backline. It was a tactical decision which didn’t really pay off as the three central defenders were caught out of position on numerous occasions in the first half – and the Gunners’ attackers were able to exploit these gaps time and time again.
Rodgers responded early in the second half by bringing on Christian Fuchs, which helped stabilise the team. The Foxes pushed on and dominated the second period and eventually found a late leveller. The extra man will have helped, but the desire to keep pushing until the end will have been pleasing for Rodgers.
Starting XI: Schmeichel (7); Bennett (5), Evans (5), Söyüncü (5); Justin (6), Ndidi (6), Tielemans (6), Albrighton (5); Pérez (6), Iheanacho (6), Vardy (7*).
Substitutes: Barnes (6), Fuchs (6), Gray (6), Praet (6)
Jamie Vardy contributes so much more to this Leicester team than just goals. His overall work rate is astonishing, constantly chasing and harrying his opponents and looking to force them into mistakes.
On the ball, the striker also showed his vision by linking up very well with his strike partner. Equally, drifting out wide to pick up pockets of space, Vardy played a number of pinpoint crosses into the feet of Iheanacho to set him up.
Of course, Vardy’s awareness in front of goal also allowed him to sneak at the back and tap home the equaliser with minutes remaining.
Arsenal next have the small matter of a north London derby on Sunday, before the Gunners host champions Liverpool the following Wednesday.
Leicester, meanwhile, travel to take on Bournemouth on Sunday before hosting Sheffield United at King Power Stadium.