Man Utd Must Fix ‘Mentality And Tactics’, Says Pogba

Manchester United’s French midfielder Paul Pogba applauds the fans at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 16, 2021. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP)

 

Paul Pogba delivered a withering assessment of the state of Manchester United’s form after a 4-2 defeat to Leicester left the Red Devils already five points adrift in the Premier League title race.

United have not won an English top-flight title since 2013 but were expected to challenge this season after splashing out to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane in the transfer window.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men have taken just one point from a possible nine against Aston Villa, Everton and Leicester in their last three league games.

United also crashed out of the League Cup last month and are under pressure for Wednesday’s Champions League clash with Atalanta after losing their opening group game to Swiss side Young Boys.

“If we want to win the title, these are the games we need to win, even if they are very hard,” Pogba told Sky Sports.

“We have been having these kinds of games for a long time and haven’t found the problem. We have conceded easy and stupid goals.”

United’s defence was easily exposed by a Leicester side that had not won since August before Saturday.

Solskjaer started with all of Pogba, Bruno Fernandes, Sancho, Mason Greenwood and Ronaldo and hinted afterwards he may have to sacrifice some of his attacking stars to better balance the side.

“We know that the fans were going to push and put pressure on us and we need to be more mature, play with more experience and arrogance – in a good way – by taking the ball and playing our football,” added Pogba.

“We need to find the key for this change because we deserved to lose.

“I don’t know if it is the mindset of the players. We need to change something. We need to find the mentality and tactics to win. We have to look as individuals and as a team to fix this.”

Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville said Solskjaer’s forward players were not working hard enough defensively.

“I love them as players those five, but having them all in the same team there’s not enough workhorses,” said Neville.

“We needed workhorses alongside the great players. Manchester United at this moment in time are imbalanced.”

The pressure is rising on Solskjaer to turn things around quickly ahead of a demanding run of fixtures.

Solskjaer’s men face Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in their next six Premier League games.

Leicester Pile Pressure On Solskjaer As Man Utd Collapse

Manchester United's Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 16, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Manchester United’s Norwegian manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Manchester United at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on October 16, 2021. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Leicester piled pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer with a late goal spree in their thrilling 4-2 victory against troubled Manchester United on Saturday.

Solskjaer will face renewed scrutiny after United’s collapse at the King Power Stadium left them without a win in their last three Premier League games.

The United manager saw Mason Greenwood open the scoring early on, only for Leicester’s Youri Tielemans to equalise before half-time.

Caglar Soyuncu put Leicester in front in the closing stages before Marcus Rashford marked his first appearance this season after shoulder surgery with United’s leveller.

READ ALSO: It Is Time For Rashford To Focus On Football, Says Solskjaer

In a dramatic denouement, Leicester ended United’s English league record 29-game unbeaten run away from home with goals from Jamie Vardy and Patson Daka in the last seven minutes.

It was a bitter blow for Solskjaer, who had already endured criticism after United were beaten by Aston Villa and held by Everton in their final games before the recent international break.

While Solskjaer may not be in immediate danger of the sack, the Norwegian must emerge with some notable victories from a testing period featuring matches against Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Atalanta twice in the Champions League.

Cristiano Ronaldo started after Solskjaer controversially left him on the bench for the first 57 minutes against Everton, but the Portugal star was held in check.

Spluttering United have won only one of their last five games in all competitions.

Adding to United’s woes, the club were forced to defend their decision to fly the 100-mile journey to Leicester.

Claiming their travel plans changed due to “circumstances” amid reports of motorway traffic congestion, United were accused of disregarding climate change issues.

United played as though they were hampered by the jet-lag associated with much longer flights throughout a wretched display.

Ashen-faced Solskjaer

Greenwood put United ahead in the 19th minute when he cut in from the right and played a one-two with a Bruno Fernandes before smashing an unstoppable 20-yard strike into the top corner.

It was the 20-year-old’s first goal since August and his fourth of the season.

Ronaldo’s strike was fisted away by Kasper Schmeichel, but Leicester were level in the 31st minute as Tielemans matched Greenwood’s moment of magic.

Harry Maguire, rusty on his return from a two-match calf injury lay-off, sloppily surrendered possession to Kelechi Iheanacho as he tried to play out from the back.

Iheanacho found Tielemans and the Belgium midfielder clipped a sublime lofted finish over David De Gea for his second goal this season.

Leicester had the upper hand and Iheanacho shot wide late in the first half before testing De Gea soon after the interval.

United were struggling to find their rhythm and although Nemanja Matic lashed narrowly wide with a long-range blast, it wasn’t long before Solskjaer took off the anonymous Jadon Sancho.

There was little improvement in United’s performance and De Gea had to make a good save to turn Tielemans’ shot onto the woodwork.

De Gea plunged to his left to deny Daka, but Leicester’s pressure paid off in the 78th minute.

Daka’s shot was saved by De Gea and when the ball deflected off Ayoze Perez, Soyuncu was on hand to fire home from close-range.

Solskjaer must have felt a wave of relief when Rashford ran onto Victor Lindelof’s ball over the top and smashed past Schmeichel in the 82nd minute.

But, less than 60 seconds later, Solskjaer’s face was ashen again as Perez’s pass found Vardy and the striker slotted into the corner with the outside of his boot.

Zambian striker Daka added to Solskjaer’s misery in stoppage-time when he tapped in Tielemans’ free-kick for his first Leicester goal.

AFP

Iheanacho Scores Winner As Leicester Beat Man City To Lift Community Shield

Leicester City's Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho (C) scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho (C) scores the opening goal from the penalty spot during the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Jack Grealish’s Manchester City debut was spoiled by Kelechi Iheanacho as the Leicester striker’s late penalty clinched a 1-0 win in the Community Shield on Saturday.

All eyes were on Grealish when he came on as a second half substitute following his British record £100 million ($139 million) move from Aston Villa on Thursday.

After training with his new team-mates for the first time on Friday, Grealish replaced Sam Edozie in the 65th minute and looked lively in his cameo appearance.

Grealish, the most expensive English player of all-time, carried more threat than any of his team-mates.

But Grealish’s first game in a City shirt ended in disappointment as Iheanacho netted the last minute winner from the penalty spot after the Nigerian was hauled down by Nathan Ake.

Defeat in the annual curtain raiser to the English top-flight season will matter little to City if they can replicate last term’s superb form, which carried them to Premier League and League Cup glory.

But the Champions League runners-up start their title defence at Tottenham on August 15 with an unsettled look that will concern Pep Guardiola.

With Guardiola admitting City’s interest in Tottenham striker Harry Kane on Friday, it was notable that his team lacked the kind of cutting edge the England captain would surely provide.

Persuading Tottenham to sell for less than their £150 million ($208 million) asking price remains City’s hope, but they might be advised to splash on the evidence of this largely toothless display.

Admittedly, City were without Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden after the playmakers both suffered injuries at Euro 2020.

Leicester City players celebrate after Leicester City's Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored the opening goal during the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Leicester City players celebrate after Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho scored the opening goal during the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

With several other City stars resting from Euro and Copa America duty, Guardiola fielded a weakened team featuring teenage debutant Edozie and fellow academy graduate Cole Palmer.

For Leicester, their second Community Shield triumph — and their first for 50 years — showed they can build on last season’s maiden FA Cup victory.

Three months after beating Chelsea in the final, Leicester were back at Wembley nursing a defensive injury crisis before the season has even started, with Wesley Fofana, James Justin and Jonny Evans all sidelined.

Grealish class

Brendan Rodgers did have Harvey Barnes back for the winger’s first appearance since February after a serious knee injury.

Barnes showed no signs of rust as he drew a good save from Zack Steffen with a stinging low drive.

City had threatened early on when Ilkay Gundogan’s free-kick was superbly tipped over by Kasper Schmeichel.

But Leicester looked the more cohesive unit in the first half and Steffen saved alertly from Jamie Vardy’s close-range flick.

Manchester City's English midfielder Jack Grealish applauds the fans at the end of the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP
Manchester City’s English midfielder Jack Grealish applauds the fans at the end of the English FA Community Shield football match between Manchester City and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north London on August 7, 2021. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

It might have been a friendly, but Guardiola’s frustration at City’s struggles boiled over when he was booked for an angry rant at the fourth official after Palmer was penalised for a foul.

Vardy was inches away from opening the scoring when he met Barnes’ cross with an agile half-volley that was pushed onto the post by Steffen.

Grealish warmed up to huge cheers early in the second half before wild finishes from Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez wasted good chances to put City ahead.

City fans got their wish with 25 minutes left when Grealish was introduced to huge cheers.

Grealish, wearing the number 10 shirt, got plenty of touches as he glided around the final third in search of space.

The most fouled player in the Premier League last season thought he had won a free-kick on the edge of the area after an incisive burst, but Paul Tierney waved play on.

An astute pass from Grealish picked out Bernardo Silva’s run into the Leicester area, but his team-mate’s cross wasn’t up to scratch.

Despite Grealish’s class, it was Leicester who finished with the trophy thanks to Ake’s blunder.

Caught in possession by Iheanacho, Ake clearly tripped the striker, conceding a penalty that the Leicester star drilled high into the net.

 

AFP

Leicester Blow Champions League Chance As Kane Signs Off With Golden Boot

Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) reacts at the end of the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

 

Leicester blew the chance to qualify for the Champions League for just the second time in the club’s history as the Foxes lost 4-2 to Tottenham on Sunday.

Jamie Vardy twice put Brendan Rodgers’s men ahead from the penalty spot.

But Harry Kane, on what could be his final appearance for Spurs, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal and a late double from Gareth Bale secured seventh place in the Premier League for Tottenham and a place in next season’s Europa Conference League.

Leicester spent more days in the Premier League top four than any other club this season, but for the second consecutive year they fell away in the final weeks of the campaign to miss out on the riches and prestige of Champions League football.

Chelsea’s 2-1 defeat at Aston Villa opened the door for the FA Cup winners to take advantage and move into fourth.

For much of a dramatic afternoon, it looked like Leicester would do just that as Vardy slotted home his first penalty on 18 minutes.

Kane is keen to move on from his boyhood club after Tottenham also missed out on the Champions League for a second straight year.

But the England captain secured the consolation prize of winning the Golden Boot as he slammed home his 23rd Premier League goal of the campaign four minutes before half-time.

Vardy was spot on again seven minutes into the second-half to put Leicester back in pole position to round off a fine season after lifting the FA Cup for the first time in their history last weekend.

Schmeichel was one of the heroes at Wembley eight days ago, but the Dane’s mistake cost his side dear with a place in the Champions League worth at least £60 million.

The Leicester captain flapped at a corner to punch the ball into his own net 14 minutes from time.

With the home side then chasing a winner, Bale struck twice in the final 10 minutes to also sign off his loan spell from Real Madrid on a high.

Leicester were furious Kane was not penalised for handball before he teed up the Welshman to slot into an unguarded goal.

Bale then tapped home his 16th goal of the season after his initial effort came off the post deep into stoppage time.

AFP

Iheanacho Scores But Chelsea Beat Leicester To Gain Top-Four Advantage

Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) applauds the fans following during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Chelsea won the match 2-1. PETER CZIBORRA / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) applauds the fans following during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Chelsea won the match 2-1. PETER CZIBORRA / POOL / AFP

 

Kelechi Iheanco’s goal was not enough as Chelsea avenged their FA Cup final defeat by Leicester to move above the Foxes into third in the Premier League with a 2-1 win in front of 8,000 fans at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

Antonio Rudiger and Jorginho, from the penalty spot, scored the goals for Thomas Tuchel’s men to keep a place in next season’s Champions League in their own hands.

However, victory came at a cost for the Blues as N’Golo Kante limped off injured in the first half just 11 days before they face Manchester City in the Champions League final.

Victory away to Aston Villa on Sunday will guarantee Chelsea a top-four finish.

Leicester will forever have the memories of winning the FA Cup for the first time at Wembley on Saturday, but are now at risk of missing out on Champions League football on the final day of the campaign for the second consecutive season.

Brendan Rodgers’s men still lead Liverpool by three points, but the Reds will go fourth on goal difference if they win at Burnley on Wednesday.

Leicester host Tottenham on the final day, while Jurgen Klopp’s men welcome Crystal Palace to Anfield.

Chelsea's Italian midfielder Jorginho (R) celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s Italian midfielder Jorginho (R) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge in London on May 18, 2021. Glyn KIRK / POOL / AFP

 

Roared on by the biggest attendance at Stamford Bridge in over 14 months, Chelsea exploded out the blocks with Leicester barely able to get out their own half in the first 45 minutes.

However, a combination of Kasper Schmeichel and controversial refereeing kept the hosts at bay until the break.

Chelsea were denied in a dramatic end to the cup final by a VAR review which ruled out Ben Chilwell’s goal for offside.

Timo Werner had two more goals disallowed in the first half as the German international was firstly flagged offside before his second effort was ruled out by a VAR review for handball.

But in between, Werner was rightly dismayed when he was somehow denied a penalty.

Bizarre decision

Youri Tielemans’s stunning strike was the difference between the sides three days ago, but the Belgian was caught dallying on the ball inside his own box by Werner and kicked the former RB Leipzig striker as he attempted to clear.

Referee Mike Dean bizarrely blew for a free-kick against Werner and was not asked to review his original decision by VAR.

With millions on the line for a place in the Champions League, that decision could have proved very costly for Chelsea.

But there was little doubt about the outcome once Rudiger bundled home a corner two minutes into the second half.

Werner finally got a VAR call to go his way to double Chelsea’s lead 24 minutes from time.

Wesley Fofana’s foul on Werner was initially given as a free-kick outside the box, but on review Dean was told to point to the penalty spot.

Jorginho coolly sent Schmeichel the wrong way and for 10 minutes, Chelsea looked to be cruising.

However, Leicester set up a nervy finale when Wilfred Ndidi robbed Mateo Kovacic and teed up Iheanacho to slot home his 19th goal of the season.

The Nigerian also became the first player to score on all seven days of the week in a single Premier League season.

Leicester had a glorious chance to salvage a point and keep their top-four fate in their own hands in the final minute, but Ayoze Perez blasted over from Ricardo Pereira’s cut-back.

Tempers flared in stoppage time with both sets of players, substitutes and coaches involved in an altercation after Rudiger took exception to a challenge from Pereira on Chilwell.

Chelsea, though, kept their heads to see out the final few seconds and take a huge step towards another season of Champions League football.

 

Tuchel Tells Chelsea Not To Fear Leicester Rematch

Chelsea’s German head coach Thomas Tuchel gives a post match interview after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. – Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP)

 

Thomas Tuchel encouraged his Chelsea players not to waste the success of his first few months in charge at Stamford Bridge in the final week of the Premier League season ahead of a FA Cup final rematch against Leicester on Tuesday.

Chelsea were beaten 1-0 by the Foxes at Wembley on Saturday to miss out on their first shot at silverware this month.

Tuchel’s men also face Manchester City in the Champions League final on May 29, but need two wins from their final two Premier League games just to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Liverpool’s dramatic late win at West Brom on Sunday, thanks to goalkeeper Alisson Becker’s 95th minute header, means the Reds should finish in the top four if they win their last two games at the expense of one of Leicester or Chelsea.

“It is easier to be self-confident when you constantly win, but there is no need to be afraid,” said Tuchel after experiencing back-to-back defeats for the first time since he took charge in January. “We need to believe in ourselves.

“It’s super important for our ambitions (to qualify for the Champions League). The situation is very clear, it is still in our hands. It is what we have worked hard for.”

Tuchel dismissed suggestions the cup final defeat had put more pressure on his side to gain revenge against the Foxes.

But he lamented a 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal last week, when he made seven changes with one eye on Wembley, for blowing a commanding position in the battle for a top-four finish.

The German said he did not watch Liverpool’s late win at the Hawthorns due to his superstition.

“It did not help not to watch it,” he added. “It does not make things boring, it was a fantastic header in the last minute that makes things pretty interesting, but it is still in our hands.

“The setback was the Arsenal game, it is our fault it is so close again. We left the door open and Liverpool put a foot into the door.

“We had a huge performance so far but we need to finish the job. We need to focus, forget the other results and rely on ourselves.”

AFP

Rodgers Confident Leicester Will Seal Champions League Spot

Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers holds up a winner’s medal as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in northwest London on May 15, 2021.
Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Brendan Rodgers says his Leicester players are ready to seize the opportunity of rounding off a wonderful season by qualifying for the Champions League to add to Saturday’s FA Cup triumph.

The Foxes face an instant re-match with Chelsea after edging the Blues 1-0 at Wembley to give the club its first FA Cup victory after four previous losses in the final.

Leicester are presently third in the table and victory over fourth-placed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge would secure their top-four place — Tuesday’s opponents are two points worse off with two matches remaining.

However, 2020 title winners Liverpool are just three points adrift of Leicester having found a decent run of late form.

Goalkeeper Allison’s last gasp-headed goal to beat relegated West Bromwich Albion 2-1 on Sunday kept them firmly in the hunt.

Rodgers brushed off the impact the Brazilian’s late goal could have on the race for the Champions League spots.

“There’s no ramifications for us,” he said.

“Everything’s still in our hands.

“The players have been absolutely brilliant up until this point.

“We’ve got European football, we’ve got two games now to arrive into the top four.

“We focus on ourselves and we’ve got a great opportunity to qualify.

“With two games to go, we aim to take it.”

Leicester City’s English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory.
Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Rodgers will be hoping for a different outcome to what happened last season.

Leicester lost out on Champions League football on the last day after their league form deserted them after the resumption following the first coronavirus lockdown.

The 48-year-old Northern Irishman says his players recovered from Saturday’s exertions on Sunday and are well up for Tuesday’s clash.

He fully expects the game to resemble the final which was decided by a sublime long-range effort from Belgian star Youri Tielemans.

“Two teams, super organised, it’s going to be a tight game,” he said.

“That was the beauty of it.

“Maybe neutrals are looking for 5-4 for an FA Cup final but two teams pressing, organised, not so many chances in the game, and then eventually a moment of quality from Youri and a moment of quality from (goalkeeper) Kasper (Schmeichel) allows us to win the cup.

“If it’s the same tomorrow night, then I’ll be really pleased.”

Rodgers says he is not expecting Leicester to spend large amounts of money in the close season even if they qualify for the Champions League, but he hopes the cup victory will make it an easy sell to prospective targets.

“I think success always aids in the recruitment of players,” he said.

“Leicester hopefully is an attractive club.

“When you win a cup final against such a big opponent then of course that can let players see that they want a piece of that and hopefully that can be the case in the summer.”

Leicester Win FA Cup For First Time After Tielemans Screamer

Leicester City's Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans (L) celebrates scoring his team's first goal with Leicester City's Spanish striker Ayoze Perez (R) during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Belgian midfielder Youri Tielemans (L) celebrates scoring his team’s first goal with Leicester City’s Spanish striker Ayoze Perez (R) during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021.
MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP

 

Leicester won the FA Cup for the first time in the club’s 137-year history on Saturday as Youri Tielemans’s sensational strike beat Chelsea 1-0 in front of 22,000 fans at Wembley.

The largest crowd for a sports event in England since the coronavirus pandemic hit 14 months ago were treated to a goal worthy to win any trophy as the Belgian midfielder blasted into the top corner on 63 minutes.

Kasper Schmeichel produced a stunning save to deny Mason Mount late on and Chelsea also had a goal ruled out by a VAR review for offside.

Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

Five years after the Foxes stunned the Premier League’s giants to become champions, Leicester have now claimed English football’s other prestigious trophy at the fifth time of asking.

Four times they had previously lost the final, but the last of those was 52 years ago.

A historic week for Brendan Rodgers’s men could get even better as they are on the verge of sealing a place in next season’s Champions League.

The sides meet again in three days’ time at Stamford Bridge in a pivotal clash to decide who secures a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Chelsea need a quick response after losing for just the fourth time in 27 games since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The ball ends up in the Leicester net but after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review the goal id disallowed for offside during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
The ball ends up in the Leicester net but after a VAR (Video Assistant Referee) review the goal id disallowed for offside during the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

The Blues also have a Champions League final to look forward to against Manchester City in two weeks’ time, but could end the campaign without silverware or a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

Chelsea’s success under Tuchel has come thanks to an excellent defensive record, but their struggles at the other end were again exposed.

Tuchel’s men dominated before half-time but laboured to create clear-cut chances despite Leicester losing defensive lynchpin Jonny Evans to injury midway through the first half.

Wayward Werner

Timo Werner’s wayward finishing has characterised his first season in England since joining from RB Leipzig for £47 million ($66 million) and the German international had another day to forget in front of goal.

Tuchel turned away in disgust after Werner blazed high and wide from the edge of the box with the Leicester defence stretched midway through the first half.

Werner then came closest to breaking the deadlock before half-time as his header drifted just wide and evaded Cesar Azpilicueta as the Chelsea captain launched himself in at the far post.

The welcome return of noise echoing down from 6,000 fans of each side from both ends of the ground helped mask a general lack of quality on the field.

Leicester City's Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) is thrown into the air by his players on the pitch after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers (C) is thrown into the air by his players on the pitch after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Another 10,000 local supporters, key workers and Football Association stakeholders were also in attendance as Wembley gears up for hosting matches at Euro 2020 next month at 25 percent capacity.

One moment of magic proved decisive as Tielemans collected possession midway inside the Chelsea half and strode forward before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Tuchel flexed the strength in depth of his squad in an attempt to find an equaliser as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were all introduced off the bench.

But they were denied by the brilliance of Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.

Chilwell, whose every touch was booed by the Leicester support, nearly came back to haunt his old club as his header was turned onto the post by the Dane.

Mount then could not believe his luck as his sweetly struck shot was turned behind by a brilliant stop from Schmeichel.

Even when the Leicester ‘keeper was beaten, Chelsea were denied by a VAR review.

A Wes Morgan own goal looked set to send the game to extra-time, but Chilwell had strayed offside in the build-up.

Leicester players and fans celebrated the decision like a goal and were in raptures again moments later after seeing out a nervy finale.

 

AFP

Joy For Ndidi, Iheanacho As Leicester Lift English FA Cup For First Time

Leicester City's Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi holds the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi holds the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

Super Eagles stars Wilfred Ndidi and Kelechi Iheanacho played key parts as Leicester beat Chelsea on Saturday to lift its first English FA Cup.

Although it was Youri Tielemans’s sensational screamer which handed Leicester victory, Iheanacho, who had a dour final, has been instrumental throughout the tournament, scoring four goals.

Meanwhile, Ndidi was as solid as ever, playing the full 90 minutes on Saturday.

Five years after the Foxes stunned the Premier League’s giants to become champions, Leicester have now, with the help of the Nigerians, claimed English football’s other prestigious trophy at the fifth time of asking.

Four times they had previously lost the final, but the last of those was 52 years ago.

“Perfect birthday gift for my daughter Loudly,” Ndidi said after the win. “What a feeling having to see the fans again. Thank you everyone.”

 

“It’s a historical day for the football club,” said Rodgers. “Winning the FA Cup for the first time. I’m so happy for the players and suppporters. They’ve lost four finals and now a fifth time we’ve managed to do it for them.”

A historic week for Rodgers’s men could get even better as they are on the verge of sealing a place in next season’s Champions League.

The sides meet again in three days’ time at Stamford Bridge in a pivotal clash to decide who secures a top-four finish in the Premier League.

Leicester City's Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates on the pitch as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates on the pitch as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Kirsty Wigglesworth / POOL / AFP

 

And Rodgers suggested his side were the neutrals favourites as they aim to upset the applecart of the Premier League’s ‘big six’ once more.

Chelsea were among the clubs to sign up to the failed, quasi-closed European Super League (ESL) project last month, along with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

“The success of this team and club is getting to positions like this and competing. The so-called bigger clubs are expected to win but our success is competing and if we can perform like today we can go and win,” added Rodgers.

“After everything that has happened this year, I’m sure there were people hoping from a neutral perspective that we could go on and upset the odds.”

Chelsea need a quick response after losing for just the fourth time in 27 games since Thomas Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

The Blues also have a Champions League final to look forward to against Manchester City in two weeks’ time, but could end the campaign without silverware or a place in Europe’s premier club competition next season.

“Of course we are disappointed but we are not angry,” said Tuchel. “This performance was enough to win it, today we are simply unlucky. You need luck in this game to be able to win”

VAR to the rescue

Chelsea’s success under Tuchel has come thanks to an excellent defensive record, but their struggles at the other end were again exposed as they rarely threatened until going behind.

The welcome return of noise echoing down from 6,000 fans of each side from both ends of the ground helped mask a general lack of quality on the field for the first hour.

One moment of magic proved decisive as Tielemans collected possession midway inside the Chelsea half and strode forward before unleashing an unstoppable strike into the top corner past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Tuchel flexed the strength in depth of his squad in an attempt to find an equaliser as Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ben Chilwell, Kai Havertz, Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic were all introduced off the bench.

But they were denied by the brilliance of Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal.

Chilwell, whose every touch was booed by the Leicester support, twice nearly came back to haunt his old club as his first effort was turned onto the post by the Dane.

Leicester City's English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City's Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner's trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s English-born Jamaican defender Wes Morgan (L) and Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (R) hold up the winner’s trophy as the Leicester players celebrate victory after the English FA Cup final football match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Wembley Stadium in north west London on May 15, 2021. Nick Potts / POOL / AFP

 

Mason Mount then could not believe his luck as his sweetly struck shot was turned behind by a brilliant stop from Schmeichel.

Even when the Leicester ‘keeper was beaten, Chelsea were denied by a VAR review.

Wes Morgan’s attempted clearance deflected in off Chilwell, but the England international had strayed offside in the build-up.

“Thank you VAR! What an amazing technology,” said Tielemans.

Leicester players and fans celebrated the decision like a goal and were in raptures again moments later after seeing out a nervy finale.

 

 

Man City Crowned Premier League Champions After Man Utd Defeat

Manchester City fans, Ian Leonard and his son Jack celebrate winning the Premier League title outside the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021, after their closest challengers for the title Manchester United, lost to Leicester City this evening. Paul ELLIS / AFP
Manchester City fans, Ian Leonard and his son Jack celebrate winning the Premier League title outside the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021, after their closest challengers for the title Manchester United, lost to Leicester City this evening. Paul ELLIS / AFP

 

Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions for the third time in four seasons after Manchester United crashed to a 2-1 defeat against Leicester on Tuesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side are 10 points clear of second placed United and have wrapped up the title with three games to spare.

In the midst of a gruelling run of three games in five days, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer effectively handed the title to arch rivals City by picking a weakened team with 10 changes.

With many of City’s players watching on television, Luke Thomas’ 10th minute volley put Leicester ahead before Mason Greenwood equalised five minutes later.

Caglar Soyuncu’s towering header in the 66th minute ensured City could pop the champagne corks for a title party that has seemed inevitable for months.

City were denied the chance to celebrate on Sunday when Chelsea won 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium, while United kept them waiting with a victory at Aston Villa on Sunday.

But the delay was only temporary and City, who also won the League Cup in April, can finally savour a title triumph that is all the sweeter given the obstacles they have overcome this term.

Treble-chasing City’s seventh top-flight title could be the prelude to an even greater triumph on May 29 when they face Chelsea in their first ever Champions League final.

Drained by the late finish to last season and ill-prepared due to the subsequent lack of a proper pre-season, City were slow out of the blocks.

Leicester City's players react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021. Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP
Leicester City’s players react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Leicester City at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on May 11, 2021. Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP

 

After a dismal 1-1 draw against lowly West Bromwich Albion in December, City had won just five of their opening 12 Premier League games.

It was the worst start to a season of Guardiola’s managerial career, prompting the Spaniard in the startling admission that he didn’t like his team.

A coronavirus outbreak in the squad added to Guardiola’s problems in December.

Having surrendered the title meekly to Liverpool the previous season, it seemed City were heading for a period of regression.

But Guardiola masterminded such a superb recovery that City turned the title race into a procession, giving him three Premier League crowns to go with three La Liga trophies with Barcelona and three at Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

Dominant Dias

One of keys to City’s success has been the inspired form of Ruben Dias, who has transformed Guardiola’s defence since arriving from Benfica in August.

The Portugal centre-back’s rock-solid partnership with the revitalised John Stones laid the title foundations.

Even without club record goalscorer Sergio Aguero for long periods due to fitness issues, City have been a potent force.

File photo: (l to R) Manchester City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias and Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker react after the UEFA Champions League, last 16, 1st-leg football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v Manchester City at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on February 24, 2021. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

The emergence of England playmaker Phil Foden as a match-winning force was crucial, with Kevin De Bruyne as consistent as ever despite battling injuries.

Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez produced spells of lethal finishing, while dynamic full-back Joao Cancelo wreaked havoc with his attacking bursts.

Manchester United and Chelsea appear poised for strong title challenges next season and Liverpool are likely to improve after an injury-hit campaign.

But, after the exits of City legends David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure in recent years, Guardiola has created a new generation capable of reigning supreme for years to come.

Guardiola’s latest Premier League success gives him an astonishing 26 major trophies in his managerial career.

With two trophies already secured this season, the City boss can focus on completing a memorable treble by winning his club’s first Champions League crown.

He will have his work cut out after Thomas Tuchel’s side won the last two meetings between the sides, including the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley.

For all Guardiola’s protestations that domestic success is the most significant achievement, it is the Champions League that remains his holy grail.

The 50-year-old has not won the tournament since the second of his triumphs with Barcelona in 2011, leading to belittling claims Argentina superstar Lionel Messi was the key to those Champions League victories rather than the coach.

Taking City to the Champions League title in their maiden final appearance would be a glorious way for Guardiola to silence his critics once and for all.

 

AFP

Rodgers Hails ‘Phenomenal’ Iheanacho As Leicester Close In On Top Four

Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho (L) is congratulated by Leicester City’s Northern Irish manager Brendan Rodgers on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Crystal Palace at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 26, 2021. Leicester won the game 2-1.
ANDREW BOYERS / POOL / AFP

 

Brendan Rodgers has hailed “phenomenal” Kelechi Iheanacho after the red-hot forward struck again as Leicester strengthened their grip on a Champions League spot — further vindicating his decision to pair him with Jamie Vardy.

The 24-year-old Nigeria international’s 10th Premier League goal of the season — and 17th in all competitions — secured a 2-1 win for the Foxes against Crystal Palace on Monday.

He has now scored more goals in the top-flight this season than he managed for Leicester over the previous three campaigns.

Leicester, who suffered the agony of missing out on the top four on the final day of last season, now have a seven-point lead over fifth-placed West Ham with just five games to play.

Iheanacho and Vardy only started eight games together last season and did not do so this campaign until February 28 — due to injuries to other players, including James Maddison.

But they have both played every match since.

“The top priority for me as a coach is helping players to develop,” said Rodgers. “It’s been difficult for Kels because of the style we normally played, which was one striker — Jamie Vardy.

“We had to change it around with injuries, he’s come in and been exceptional. Not just his goals, he’s so happy to work hard for the team and his quality is phenomenal.”

Iheanacho has netted 14 goals in his last 14 appearances for Leicester in all competitions, as many as he managed in his previous 76 for the Foxes.

Rodgers said the forward, who joined Leicester from Manchester City in 2017, was a selfless player, shown by the way he set up Timothy Castagne for the equaliser against Palace.

“Over the last few months Kelechi has been absolutely incredible,” said Rodgers. “It wasn’t just his goal but his work-rate, he wants to press the game. He has no ego whatsoever and he works so hard.”

 

Leicester City’s Nigerian striker Kelechi Iheanacho celebrates their win on the final whistle in the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Crystal Palace at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on April 26, 2021. Leicester won the game 2-1.
ANDREW BOYERS / POOL / AFP

 

Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel is not surprised by Iheanacho’s hot streak, having experienced his accuracy in training.

“Kele is incredibly intelligent when it comes to his finishing,” Schmeichel told Sky Sports. “He does it in training all the time. He’s a nightmare in training to be fair.

“He’s just a big strong lad who can put himself about. He’s fast, he’s got absolutely everything to be a top striker and he’s showing it now, which is great.”

Iheanacho is on track to become the first player other than Vardy to top the club’s goalscoring charts since 2014/15.

“That (race to be top scorer) is not what we talk about,” Iheanacho told the BBC.

“As a team we work for each other, it doesn’t matter who scores the goals. There’s so much to improve in games so I’ll keep going, keep doing my best.”

-AFP

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