EPL: Man City Beat Leicester, Extend Lead To 17 Points

Manchester City's French defender Benjamin Mendy (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester City at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 3, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP
Manchester City’s French defender Benjamin Mendy (R) celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester City at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 3, 2021. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City moved ever closer to a third Premier League title in four seasons as a rare goal from Benjamin Mendy and Gabriel Jesus’s strike earned a 2-0 win at third-placed Leicester on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s men now hold a commanding 17-point lead at the top of the table, albeit Manchester United can cut into that gap with two games in hand.

However, it appears a matter of when, not if, City will reclaim the status of English champions after losing their crown to Liverpool last season.

City are even aiming to go one better than their domestic treble of Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup two years ago by winning a first ever quadruple in English football history.

READ ALSO: Iheanacho Signs Contract Extension Deal With Leicester

That would mean winning the Champions League for the first time and Guardiola showed that competition remains the priority with his team selection ahead of Borussia Dortmund’s trip to the Etihad for the first leg of their quarter-final tie on Tuesday.

John Stones, Joao Cancelo, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling were among the star names left on the bench after their exertions on international duty over the past 10 days.

Yet, the visitors were still dominant against a Leicester side that had lost just twice in their previous 16 Premier League games.

Sergio Aguero was given a rare start up front just days after the Argentine announced his glorious 10-year stay in Manchester will come to a close at the end of the season.

However, his presence denied City an early opener when Fernandinho’s long-range strike arrowed into the bottom corner only for the goal to be disallowed as Aguero was standing in an offside position in front of Kasper Schmeichel.

Manchester City's Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C right) shoots to score his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester City at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 3, 2021. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP
Manchester City’s Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus (C right) shoots to score his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester City at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 3, 2021. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

Leicester are one of only three teams to beat City in the league this season, having romped to a 5-2 victory at the Etihad in September.

Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick that day and thought he had added to his excellent record against City in first-half stoppage time when he rounded Ederson to slot into an empty net, only to also be denied by the offside flag.

City’s dominance of possession and patience was finally rewarded just before the hour mark from an unlikely source.

Riyad Mahrez stung the palms of his former teammate Schmeichel, but from the rebound, the ball fell at the feet of Mendy at the back post, who cut onto his weaker right foot and scored just his second goal in four seasons as a City player.

Guardiola could then afford the luxury of introducing Sterling as Leicester had to open up and chase an equaliser.

And the England international created the killer second goal as he was released in behind by a brilliant pass from Kevin De Bruyne before squaring for Jesus to score on his 24th birthday.

Thanks to Chelsea’s shock 5-2 thrashing by West Brom earlier on Saturday, Leicester still enjoy a five-point cushion over the Blues and seven-point advantage over fifth-placed West Ham in the race for a top-four finish and Champions League football next season.

But Brendan Rodgers’s men will be looking over their shoulders anxiously over the next few days as the Hammers, Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton all have the chance to close in on the top four.

 

AFP

Iheanacho Signs Contract Extension Deal With Leicester

Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho.

 

In-form Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho has signed a new contract with Leicester that will keep him at the Premier League club until 2024.

Iheanacho has scored nine times in his last nine appearances in all competitions as Leicester cemented their grip on third place in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup semi-finals.

The 24-year-old, who arrived at Leicester from Manchester City in 2017, scored five goals in three Premier League matches in March, earning him the top-flight Player of the Month prize.

“I can’t express how I’m feeling. I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m overwhelmed! It’s a great moment and I’m happy that Leicester City gave me a new contract,” Iheanacho told Leicester’s website.

“It’s been a great time here. It’s not been easy, but there’s a lot of people here that are good people, great people to work with. They are nice people and they make me feel comfortable and welcome since I came in.

“It’s been really great being here. It’s like a family. I’m happy being here and hopefully I can stay here many more years.”

 

READ ALSO: Iheanacho Beats Harry Kane, Others To EPL Player Of The Month Award

 

Iheanacho’s tally this season of 12 has taken him to 32 goals for Leicester in 117 games in all competitions.

“I think you see a young player playing at the top of his game,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said.

“I can only speak for the two years I’ve been here but his work, his ambition to become a better player was always there.

“He’s a wonderful character within the squad, constantly smiling, and whatever role he’s been asked to play he’s played it very well.”

 

 

Lesotho’s captain (2nd L) Lerotholi Nkau vies fro the ball with Nigerian attacker Kelechi Iheanacho (2nd R) during the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifying match between Nigeria and Lesotho at Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos on March 30, 2021. (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)

Man Utd Crashed Out Of FA Cup Due To Fatigue – Solskjaer

 

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup quarter-final football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on March 21, 2021. Leicester won the game 3-1. Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gestures on the touchline during the English FA Cup quarter-final football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on March 21, 2021. Leicester won the game 3-1.
Oli SCARFF / POOL / AFP

 

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer defended his decision to field a weakened team as Manchester United crashed out of the FA Cup with a 3-1 quarter-final defeat at Leicester on Sunday.

Solskjaer made five changes from the United side that beat AC Milan in the Europa League last-16 second leg on Thursday.

Paul Pogba was back in the starting line-up but Bruno Fernandes was left on the bench until the second half, while Marcus Rashford was missing from the squad.

United responded to the switches with a lethargic display as they were beaten for the first time in 30 domestic away games.

READ ALSO: Leicester Advance To FA Cup Semis As Iheanacho’s Double Send United Out

Mason Greenwood cancelled out Kelechi Iheanacho’s opener, but second-half goals from Youri Tielemans and Iheanacho killed off United.

It leaves Solskjaer with only the Europa League left as a realistic opportunity to win the first silverware of his reign as United boss.

Insisting he had no regrets about his selection, Solskjaer said: “I would have started the same team again. Every team selection has reasons behind it.

“On Thursday Bruno broke all his records physically and the boy is not inhuman.

“He has played a game every three or four days. It was a chance to start both Donny (Van de Beek) and Paul (Pogba) but the accumulation of games maybe caught up with us.

“We knew we had substitutes who could come on and make a difference. Everyone could see we weren’t as sharp as we have been.”

Without a major trophy since 2017, United are 14 points behind Premier League leaders Manchester City and face Spanish side Granada in the Europa League quarter-finals in April.

“You are always disappointed, especially when it’s the end of the line of a cup run. We couldn’t find the normal spark, brightness and energy,” Solskjaer said.

“Maybe all the games caught up with us. Thursday was a big night and today we didn’t have the zip.”

Brendan Rodgers urged Leicester to create history after his team reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1982.

Leicester have made four final appearances but have never won the competition.

“We are in the semi-final and we have a chance to get to the final and create history,” said Rodgers, whose side will face Southampton in the last four at Wembley in April.

“When it comes we will fight and give everything we can to achieve that.

“For the club to get to the final and win the trophy would be really special. It’s a trophy in their history they haven’t won. I would be so happy for the owners.

“There are lots of teams ahead of us in terms of budget or whatever else, maybe history, but the ambition is there to win titles and be competitive.”

 

AFP

Premier League: Leicester Strike Late To Share Points With Man Utd

Leicester City's English striker Jamie Vardy (L) celebrates with Leicester City's English midfielder James Maddison (R) after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on December 26, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy (L) celebrates with Leicester City’s English midfielder James Maddison (R) after scoring their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on December 26, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester United missed out on the chance to move within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool as Axel Tuanzebe’s own goal five minutes from time earned second-placed Leicester a 2-2 draw on Saturday.

Slow starts had been a feature for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men on the road this season as they had won their previous six away league games despite conceding first.

However, this time it was the Red Devils who twice failed to hold onto the lead.

Harvey Barnes’s fierce strike cancelled out Marcus Rashford’s opener before half-time.

Bruno Fernandes thought he had claimed another away win 11 minutes from time, but Jamie Vardy’s predatory instincts kept Leicester one point and one place above United in the table as his shot deflected in off Tuanzebe.

Liverpool’s lead at the top now stands at three points and Jurgen Klopp’s men can move further clear when they host West Brom at Anfield on Sunday.

Solskjaer has been keen to put an end to his side’s sluggish starts and should have been celebrating inside 90 seconds when Rashford headed over Fernandes’s inch-perfect cross with only Kasper Schmeichel to beat.

The England international was not so forgiving to the Foxes when given a second chance midway through the first-half as he swept Fernandes’s prodded through ball into the bottom corner for his 13th goal of the season.

Leicester’s only threat before falling behind had come from a mishit clearance from David De Gea from which Barnes could not pick out a teammate in the middle.

However, Barnes hauled his side back into the game with one moment of brilliance as his powerful blast from outside the box had too much power for De Gea on 31 minutes.

United continued to pose the greater threat, but lacked the killer instinct on the counter-attack that has played a major role when they have had success this season.

Paul Pogba again had to make do with a place on the bench, but the Frenchman made an instant impact when he was introduced just before the hour mark and helped United take control of the midfield.

Solskjaer’s men were still most dangerous when given space to run in behind as Fred fed Rashford whose fierce shot was repelled by a brilliant save by Schmeichel.

Moments later Rashford was the creator as Anthony Martial coolly slotted beyond the giant Dane in the Leicester goal, but this time the offside flag, backed up by a VAR review, denied United.

Edinson Cavani was also brought off the bench by Solskjaer in search of a winner in the final 15 minutes and the Uruguayan made a big impact as he fed Fernandes for the Portuguese to drill home his 14th goal of the season.

But United failed to hold out for a record-equalling 11th consecutive away Premier League win as Vardy’s movement outfoxed the visitor’s defence as he turned Ayoze Perez’s cross towards goal and the ball bounced in off the unfortunate Tuanzebe.

 

AFP

Ademola Lookman Scores As Fulham Shock Leicester, Climb Out Of Relegation Zone

Fulham’s English striker Ademola Lookman (L) celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Fulham at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on November 30, 2020. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

Fulham climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone after finally solving their penalty woes in a shock 2-1 win at Leicester on Monday.

Scott Parker’s side won for just the second time in the league this season thanks to Ademola Lookman’s opener and Ivan Cavaleiro’s penalty.

Fulham had missed three of their four previous penalties this term, but Cavaleiro held his nerve to convert from the spot for the crucial second goal.

It was an emotional success for the Cottagers, with Lookman celebrating his goal by displaying one of Papa Bouba Diop’s Senegal shirts after Fulham’s former midfielder died aged 42 at the weekend.

Harvey Barnes scored for Leicester in the closing minutes, but Fulham held on and move one point above the bottom three.

 

Fulham’s Cameroonian midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa (R) vies with Leicester City’s Northern Irish defender Jonny Evans (C) during the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Fulham at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on November 30, 2020. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

It was only Fulham’s second away win in the past 26 Premier League matches and their first since a victory at Bournemouth in April 2019.

Leicester would have gone second with a win, but instead, they remain fourth — three points behind leaders Tottenham — after a second successive league defeat.

Leicester dominated possession in the first half and hit the woodwork twice in a matter of seconds after James Maddison’s free-kick rebounded off the Fulham wall.

The loose ball reached Youri Tielemans, whose volley from outside the area smacked the post and ran for Wesley Fofana to smash his shot off the crossbar.

Jamie Vardy went close to rewarding Leicester’s dominance with an agile flicked effort from Dennis Praet’s cross, but Alphonse Areola made the save at his near post.

READ ALSO: Cavani Apologises For Misunderstood Social Media Post

Antonee Robinson wasted a good chance to put Fulham ahead against the run of play when he shot straight at Kasper Schmeichel.

It was a warning Leicester failed to heed as Lookman struck for the Cottagers in the 30th minute.

Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa carried the ball from inside his own half, advancing unchecked before playing a defence-splitting pass to on-loan Leipzig winger Lookman, who guided a cool finish past Schmeichel.

Parker’s team doubled their lead in the 38th minute with a rare penalty success.

Christian Fuchs fouled Bobby Decordova-Reid and the spot-kick was awarded by referee Simon Hooper after he checked the pitchside monitor.

After Fulham missed three penalties earlier this season, Cavaleiro opted for power as he blasted past Schmeichel into the top corner.

Chances were at a premium as Fulham dug in to preserve their lead after the break.

Barnes set up a tense finish with a fierce strike from Vardy’s knockdown in the 86th minute.

James Justin shot just wide in stoppage time, but it was too late to save Leicester.

AFP

Liverpool Brush Aside Leicester Despite Major Absences

Liverpool's Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 22, 2020. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP
Liverpool’s Brazilian midfielder Roberto Firmino celebrates after scoring a goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Leicester City at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on November 22, 2020. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

Liverpool were not derailed by an injury crisis as Jurgen Klopp’s men produced a dominant display to beat Leicester 3-0 and move level on points with Premier League leaders Tottenham.

Klopp was missing seven first-team regulars through injury and top scorer Mohamed Salah due to a positive coronavirus test, but Liverpool still swept aside a Leicester team who had started the weekend on top of the table.

Jonny Evans’s own goal was just reward for the Reds’ bright start before Diogo Jota set a record-breaking start to life at Anfield.

The Portuguese international became the first Liverpool player to score in his first four home league games when he headed home Andy Robertson’s inch-perfect cross.

READ ALSO: Arsenal’s Barren Draw With Leeds Takes Arteta’s Team To 11th On The Table

Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal kept the score down as he made a series of second-half saves, notably from Sadio Mane and Jota, while Evans had a lucky escape as the post prevented him from scoring a second own goal.

Roberto Firmino thought he had been denied just his third league goal in 24 games when the Brazilian’s shot came back off the post and his follow-up was cleared by Marc Albrighton with just 10 millimetres of the ball not over the line.

But Firmino rounded off a brilliant team performance by rising highest to meet James Milner’s corner.

Another muscle injury suffered by Naby Keita was the only negative for Klopp on a night when his side showed they will not give up their title easily despite losing centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez for the rest of the season.

Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers has now lost all three meetings against his former club and just like the previous meeting between the sides, which Liverpool won 4-0 in December, the Foxes were shown the gulf they have to bridge to become title contenders.

Harvey Barnes wasted one big opportunity for the visitors when he sliced wide Jamie Vardy’s cross at 1-0.

But the end to a six-game winning run sees Leicester fall back to fourth, two points off the top.

Liverpool paid tribute to former goalkeeper Ray Clemence, who died aged 72 after a long battle with prostate cancer this week, before kick-off.

Alisson Becker wore a replica of Clemence’s jersey from the 1981 European Cup final win over Real Madrid in the warm-up, while his former teammates Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush paid their respects from the stands.

And two of Liverpool’s greatest ever players also got the chance to show their appreciation to the current crop, who surpassed a club record they set between 1978 and 1981, as Klopp’s men are now unbeaten in 64 league games at Anfield stretching back to April 2017.

 

AFP

Rodgers Hails ‘World Class’ Vardy As Leicester Move Fourth On EPL Log

Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium in London on October 25, 2020. Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP

 

Brendan Rodgers saluted “world-class” Jamie Vardy after he sealed Leicester’s late 1-0 win as spluttering Arsenal crashed to a third defeat in their last four Premier League games on Sunday.

Vardy was only fit enough for the bench after a calf injury, but Foxes manager Rodgers sent the striker on with 30 minutes left. Vardy responded with his sixth goal of the season.

The 33-year-old has made a habit of tormenting Arsenal and has now scored 11 goals in 12 Premier League games against them.

“Our plan was always to bring Jamie Vardy into the game and he can stretch it,” said Rodgers.

“He makes the big contributions in the big games,” he added after Leicester’s first win at Arsenal since 1973.

“That shows you the level he is at and he is a world-class player. I’m lucky to have him.”

Leicester climbed to fourth after ending a run of two successive league defeats.

“We deserved it, we played against a really good side and have players who can run in behind,” Rodgers said.

“To keep a clean sheet and play with the quality and calmness was good.”

Arsenal are languishing in 10th after a second consecutive league loss following their 1-0 defeat at Manchester City last weekend.

But it might have been a different story when, early in a then goalless game, Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette headed in from a corner only for his effort to be disallowed for offside against Granit Xhaka.

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was also disappointed by his team’s lack of cutting edge.

“I’m really disappointed, we had it in our hands in the first half and I don’t know how the hell Lacazette’s goal was disallowed,” Arteta said.

“It is difficult to create spaces with 10 men behind the ball, but we should have finished the game better.”

The principle problem is a sudden dip in form for captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabon forward is without a goal in his last five league games — his worst drought since 2014, although he did net against Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday.

Aubameyang has scored just once in the league this season, hardly the kind of form Arteta would have hoped for after handing the striker a lucrative new contract in September.

Arsenal’s ability to challenge for a top-four place rests on Aubameyang leading the charge. So far this term he has been a flop.

– Luiz blow –

Arsenal keeper Bernd Leno was at fault for the goal his side conceded in Vienna and the German nearly gifted Leicester the lead inside the first two minutes.

Leno came dashing way off his line but his attempted clearance went straight to James Maddison. The midfielder’s 40-yard effort floated just wide.

Alexandre Lacazette headed in from an Arsenal corner moments later, but the goal was disallowed for offside against Granit Xhaka.

Arsenal were on top and Bukayo Saka’s strike forced a good save from Kasper Schmeichel before Aubameyang headed over from Kieran Tierney’s cross.

Lacazette should have done better with a good chance from another Tierney cross before Saka shot into the side-netting.

Arsenal suffered a blow when David Luiz limped off early in the second half.

Arteta sent on Nicolas Pepe midway through the half in a bid to perk Arsenal up.

Bellerin brought a good save from Schmeichel when he met Aubameyang’s cross with a powerful volley.

But Arsenal were hit with a sucker punch in the 80th minute.

Youri Tielemans’ ball over the top for Cengiz Under was perfectly weighted and the Turk squared across goal for Vardy to head into the empty net.

Leicester Sign French Defender Wesley Fofana From St Etienne

Photo Credit: Leicester

 

Leicester signed promising French defender Wesley Fofana from St Etienne on Friday in a deal worth a reported £32 million ($41 million).

Fofana agreed a five-year contract with Leicester after the Premier League club ended their interest in Burnley centre-back James Tarkowski.

The 19-year-old will arrive at the King Power Stadium subject to international clearance.

“I’m very happy to be here. I’ve watched Leicester closely since they won the title and they’re a top club in the Premier League,” Fofana told Leicester’s website.

“I know I will learn a lot from the players and the manager here, which is one of the main reasons I came. I can’t wait to get started.”

Fofana urged St Etienne to let him leave for Leicester after an opening bid was rejected last month and he has finally got his wish to join Brendan Rodgers’ side.

Fofana made his debut for St Etienne in May 2019 and has made 26 appearances in all competitions for Les Verts.

He has also been named in France’s Under-21s squad for this month’s Euro 2021 qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Slovakia.

Fofana was part of the St Etienne side which reached last season’s final of the Coupe de France, where they lost 1-0 to Paris Saint Germain.

He played four times in Ligue 1 this season, helping his team keep three clean sheets.

Fofana becomes Leicester’s second signing of the transfer window after the arrival of Belgian international full-back Timothy Castagne.

After the disappointment of narrowly missing out on a place in the Champions League last season, the Foxes have made a stunning start to the new campaign.

Rodgers’ men have won all three Premier League games to sit top of the table, including a 5-2 thrashing of Manchester City last weekend.

-AFP

Revitalised Leicester Ready To ‘Attack’, Says Rodgers

Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (R) celebrates with Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy after winning the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Burnley at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on September 20, 2020. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP)

 

Brendan Rodgers said Leicester were “ready to “attack the season again” after two wins from their opening two Premier League matches eased the pain of a disappointing end to last season.

The former champions are top of the table on goal difference after beating Burnley 4-2 on Sunday.

It was the 100th victory for Rodgers in the Premier League in his 210th game — Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish and Kevin Keegan are the only British managers to have reached the landmark in fewer matches.

Leicester lost out on a Champions League spot on the final day of the last campaign after a poor run when football resumed following the coronavirus shutdown.

“It (starting well), was always going to be important because there can be a hangover, if you don’t address it,” said Rodgers.

“But we spoke about it in our short pre-season period and felt ready to move on.

“The players have good motivation, they’ve scored seven goals in two games and it shows we’re ready to attack the season again.”

Sunday was the first time Leicester had ended the day at the top of the table since they won the title in 2015/16, but the Northern Irishman said it was far early to describe them as potential challengers.

“It’s only two games. After 10 games you start to get an idea of where the league is at,” said Rodgers. “We’re not even thinking about that (a sustained challenge).

“We’re looking to develop the team and the experiences of last season, both in the league and the cup, will really enrich us.

“Whatever way it finished last season we still had a fantastic season to finish where we did (fifth).”

AFP

Five Things We Learned From The Premier League’s Return

mane-sadio
Mane celebrates one of his goal in the game. Photo: [email protected]

 

The Premier League began with a bang this weekend as Liverpool launched their title defence with a pulsating 4-3 win over new boys Leeds.

Arsenal and Leicester both recorded impressive 3-0 victories but Jose Mourinho was left fuming after he tasted defeated on the opening day of a league campaign for the first time in his career.

Big-spending Chelsea eased to a 3-1 win at Brighton, but Blues goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga made another blunder.

AFP Sport picks out five things we learned from the opening weekend of the season.
‘Special’ Leeds a welcome addition

The return of Leeds to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, and with the mercurial Marcelo Bielsa at the helm, was highly anticipated and it did not disappoint.

The new boys were two minutes away from taking points off the champions until Mohamed Salah completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot to ensure Liverpool emerged victorious at an empty Anfield.

“Leeds are special,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, in the knowledge that other title contenders will struggle to beat Bielsa’s men this season.

As the scoreline suggests, improvements will be needed at the back but Leeds will remain true to Bielsa’s philosophy in trying to impose themselves on the opposition and on the evidence of their opening salvo, there should be no fear of dropping back down to the second tier.

Sensible VAR

The biggest surprise of the Premier League’s return came with the lack of controversy caused by VAR as new interpretations of how to use the technology largely led to more sensible decisions.

Southampton’s Kyle Walker-Peters saw a red card downgraded to a yellow after referee Jon Moss came to the sidelines himself to assess a replay.

Newcastle’s Jeff Hendrick was not penalised after the ball struck his arm, which was by his side, during the Magpies’ 2-0 win at West Ham thanks to a more generous interpretation of the handball rule for defenders.

Arsenal show top-four promise

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal have made a habit of upsetting the odds, defeating Manchester City and Chelsea on their way to winning the FA Cup last season and beating Liverpool twice in recent months.

Those victories were earned through defensive discipline and a threat on the counter-attack, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the main dangerman.

Before Saturday’s trip to Fulham there were questions over how the Gunners would deal with sides who would not open up against them but Arteta’s men responded with an emphatic 3-0 win at Craven Cottage.

New signing Willian had a major role to play in all three goals, scored by Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang and another debutant, Gabriel Magalhaes, as Arsenal laid down a marker in their bid to finish in the top four.

Ancelotti gets the better of Mourinho

Everton and Tottenham both turned to multiple Champions League-winning coaches in the middle of last season to revive their fortunes, but both will be judged on what they achieve this season.

On the opening weekend, Carlo Ancelotti got the better of Jose Mourinho as Everton won away from home against traditional top-six opposition for the first time since 2013.

New signings Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure gave the Toffees the dynamism and grit they have badly missed in recent seasons in midfield, while James Rodriguez showed glimpses of the quality that once made him one of the world’s most in-demand players.

Spurs, by contrast, look lacklustre, with Mourinho labelling his players “lazy” out of possession and showing little sign of halting their slide since reaching the Champions League final just over a year ago.

Kepa blunders again

As Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga allowed Leandro Trossard’s long-range shot to slip through his weak attempted save, Blues boss Frank Lampard must have had a familiar sinking feeling.

Despite Trossard’s equaliser for Brighton, Lampard’s expensively revamped side went on to win 3-1.

But since he joined Chelsea in 2018, Kepa has conceded 19 Premier League goals from outside the area — more than any other keeper.

The Spaniard, the world’s most expensive keeper, was dropped by Lampard twice last season after a series of costly blunders.

Although Kepa started the new campaign in the team, he might not have his place for much longer as a move for Rennes’ Edouard Mendy is reportedly close to completion.

AFP

Golden Boot: Salah, Vardy, Aubameyang In Hot Race For Topscorer

Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates after he scores his team's fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 1, 2020. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah celebrates after he scores his team’s fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between Liverpool and Southampton at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on February 1, 2020.
Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

 

While the Premier League title has already been won by Liverpool in record time, the battle to finish as the top-flight’s leading scorer is set to go down to the wire.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah could add the Golden Boot to his Premier League winners’ medal, but he has work to do to catch Leicester’s Jamie Vardy, who sits top of the goal charts with four games left.

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also in contention to get his hands on the prize after sharing it with Salah and Sadio Mane last season when the trio each scored 22 goals.

Southampton’s Danny Ings is the dark horse after an unexpectedly prolific campaign.

Jamie Vardy

With 22 league goals to his credit so far this term, Vardy is in pole position to take the prize, especially after rediscovering his peak form over the last week.

Vardy failed to score in Leicester’s first four games after the coronavirus hiatus, but the 33-year-old netted twice against Crystal Palace to pass 100 Premier League goals and struck again at Arsenal.

“He’s a legend here for the rest of his time at the club, it’s just what he adds to that status over the rest of his career,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said after Vardy became the 29th player to join the Premier League 100-goal club.

Winning the Golden Boot would be another landmark moment for Vardy, who has defied the odds throughout his remarkable rise from non-league journeyman to Premier League champion four years ago.

Vardy’s next opportunity to increase his grip on top spot comes against lowly Bournemouth on Sunday.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

The Arsenal forward has scored three times in his last three appearances to move into second place in the goal race.

Aubameyang has netted 20 times this season, his prolific form increased Arsenal’s desire to get the Gabon international to extend a contract that expires at the end of next season.

The 31-year-old is yet to agree a new deal amid reported interest from Barcelona and Paris Saint Germain.

His value to Arsenal comes not just in his goals but in his ability to play wide on the left as well as up front.

Sunday’s north London derby at Tottenham and a home game against Liverpool in their following game give Aubameyang a chance to put pressure on Vardy when the spotlight is brightest.

Mohamed Salah

Having won the Golden Boot in 2018 and finished in joint first place last year, the Liverpool forward needs a late goal spree to make it three successive seasons on top of the leaderboard.

Salah’s brace in a 3-1 win at Brighton on Wednesday took him to 19 goals and, with Liverpool chasing a new Premier League points record, the Egyptian is likely to remain in the team even with the title won.

With nine assists this season, compared to four for Vardy, two for Aubameyang and two for Ings, the 28-year-old all round value to Liverpool is arguably higher than any of his Golden Boot rivals.

Next up for Liverpool is Saturday’s clash with Burnley followed by games against Arsenal, Chelsea and Newcastle to round off a memorable campaign that could finish on a high for Salah on a personal note as well.

Danny Ings

The Southampton striker bagged his 19th goal of the season in Thursday’s 1-1 draw at Everton.

After a blistering run during the winter, the goals had dried up a little for Ings, but the 27-year-old has been back in predatory form since the restart.

Ahead of Monday’s trip to Manchester United, Ings’ four goals in his last five matches have underlined the former Liverpool forward’s case for a possible England call-up when international football resumes.

First, Ings will focus on becoming the first Golden Boot winner to play for a club outside the Premier League’s ‘big six’ since Sunderland’s Kevin Phillips in 1999-2000.

 

 

-AFP

Arsenal Boss Arteta Bemused By VAR Role In Nketiah’s Red Card

 

 

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta said he does not understand VAR after its role in the red card for young Gunners forward Eddie Nketiah’s in Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Leicester. 

Nketiah was sent off seconds after coming on when his late lunge on James Justin was deemed worthy of a sending-off by referee Chris Kavanagh after he came to the side of the pitch to review the incident.

“In the last year I have never seen a referee check any images,” Arteta told Sky Sports.

“I do not understand the rules. But I can do nothing now.”

In January this year, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the body that manages elite referees, said referees should start using pitchside monitors for red card decisions where it is felt they should have the final say.

Following that advice Southampton’s Moussa Djenepo was red-carded by Graham Scott after he used the monitors to review a foul in the 1-0 defeat by Newcastle on March 7.

Arteta felt there was no consistency and a Leicester player should have been sent off in the closing minutes of the first half.

“It can be a red card but then Leicester have to play with 10 men,” said Arteta.

“For an incident that happened between the 40th and 45th minute, it has to be a red card as well.”

Arteta is the latest manager to question VAR with Chelsea’s Frank Lampard, Everton’s Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho of Tottenham Hotspur calling for a review of the rules at the season.

The draw left Leicester fourth and still in the running for a Champions League place while Arsenal are seventh.

 

 

-AFP