Leicester 3-0 Arsenal: Maitland-Niles sent off as defeat leaves Gunners top four hopes in tatters
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off as Arsenal suffered a 3-0 defeat at Leicester, one which could spell the end of their chase for a top four place, thanks to second-half goals from Youri Tielemans and Jamie Vardy at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.
An entertaining first-half saw both sides have their chances, with James Maddison and Vardy forcing good saves from Bernd Leno, while at the other end Alexandre Lacazette fired just past the post with half-volley and Alex Iwobi called Kasper Schmeical into action.
The Gunners were struck a massive blow with 36 minutes gone, when Ainsley Maitland-Niles was sent off for a second yellow card following a late challenge on James Maddison, leaving Unai Emery’s side down to 10 men.
The home side made the man advantage pay with 58 minutes on the clock as an unmarked Tielemans headed past Leno to open the scoring.
The visitors couldn’t find a way back into the game, creating little going forward as they slumped to yet another disappointing defeat, leaving their top four hopes in tatters.
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Arsenal, looking for a response after defeats to Crystal Palace and Wolves, had clearly been told to stay compact by Emery, with the away side happy to let Leicester have the ball while keeping their shape.
The Foxes had the games best chance with 18 minutes played though, when James Maddison dragged a shot just past the post from the edge of the area.
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Despite having just 18 per cent possession in the opening 20 minutes, the Gunners were looking dangerous on the counter-attack, with Lacazette side footing a half-volley from an Iwobi cross just the wrong side of the upright for the visitors best early chance.
Leicester were looking dangerous too, and very nearly took the lead with just over a quarter of an hour played. They found Leno in inspired form though, with the German stopper first tipping behind Maddison’s low drive, before palming away Wilfred Ndidi’s header from the resulting corner.
With Arsenal sitting off the home side, they were free to pick passes in behind for Jamie Vardy, whose pace proved too much for Shkordran Mustafi and Sokratis with 30 minutes on the clock, but he didn’t have the finish to match the run, lifting his shot over both Leno and the crossbar.
A lively first-half continue when Iwobi forced a save out of Kasper Schmeichel just four minutes later after good work from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the break.
The games turning point came with 36 minutes gone when Maitland-Niles – harshly booked for a challenge earlier in the half – went in late on Maddison after losing possession, with referee Michael Oliver hesitating before reaching for his pocket. Out came the second yellow the right-back was off.
The sending off left Arsenal with little shape, and Vardy nearly exposed it with three minutes to go until half-time, drifting into the channel and forcing a smart save out of Leno at his near post.
Iwobi was sacrificed at half-time as Emery shored up his back line by bringing on Laurent Koscielny and moving Mustafi to right-back.
The second-half continued in the same vein as the first though, with Leicester seeing most of the ball, and they made their man advantage pay with 58 minutes gone.
Maddison – who looked dangerous throughout – curled an inviting ball into the box, with Arsenal failing to pick up the run of Tielemans who unmarked nodded past a helpless Leno to make it 1-0 to the Foxes.
Emery, unhappy with the decisions going against his side, was very nearly sent to the stands himself, but was given a reprieve after a stern talking to from referee Oliver.
The scoreline could have been much worse had it not been for Leno, who made a string of saves to keep the score at 1-0 with almost 75 minutes gone.
The German could do little to stop Vardy on 86 minutes though, as the striker nodded home the rebound after racing through and seeing his chip come back off the crossbar, sending the King Power into a frenzy.
It was then 3-0 with seconds left, as Nampalys Mendy burst through the Gunners shaky defence to square for Vardy to tap home his second with the last kick of the game.
Arseanl went back to North London empty handed and their chances of finishing in the top four now looking slim after a third consecutive defeat, knowing next Sunday’s clash with Brighton is now a must-win game.