Arsenal vs Leicester City. Premier League.
Report and free match highlights as Arsenal concede for the first time in three Premier League games
Wednesday 8 July 2020 06:01, UK
Jamie Vardy's late goal helped Leicester to snatch a late 1-1 draw against 10-man Arsenal with VAR once again playing its part.
The battle for the European places was the main headline going into the game, but the sub-plot of the Golden Boot race reared its head when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (21) slotted home to take him one goal behind current leader Vardy.
But Arsenal were dealt a blow in the 75th minute when Eddie Nketiah was sent off just minutes after coming on as a substitute for a crunching challenge on James Justin. There was a long VAR check and use of the pitchside monitor by referee Chris Kavanagh, who ultimately decided his initial yellow card should be upgraded to a red.
VAR was involved in another big decision not long after when Vardy (84) equalised but another lengthy check deemed that Ayoze Perez - who was in an offside position as the ball was played in - did not get a touch onto the cross before his team-mate tapped home.
The goal re-established Vardy's two-goal lead in the Golden Boot battle and more importantly, gave Leicester a four-point cushion over Manchester United in fifth but they have slipped down into fourth after Chelsea's narrow 3-2 win against Crystal Palace earlier in the day. Arsenal remain in seventh with 50 points.
Leicester began well in the pouring north London rain and went close twice in the opening 15 minutes. Vardy fired a volley goalwards after some poor control from David Luiz, but it went straight at Emiliano Martinez. Not long after, a short corner caught Arsenal out as Marc Albrighton's cross found Kelechi Iheanacho at the top of the area, but Martinez stuck a foot out to see the low shot away.
But it was Arsenal who took the lead in the 21st minute. A sensational diagonal pass from Dani Ceballos picked out the run of Bukayo Saka on the right, with Caglar Soyuncu slipping on the wet surface as he tried to block the ball. This allowed Saka to drive down the wing - with Jonny Evans also slipping in the process - with his squared pass for Aubameyang emphatically slotted home by the Arsenal captain.
Arsenal: Martinez (6), Mustafi (7), Luiz (7), Kolasinac (7), Bellerin (7), Ceballos (8), Xhaka (7), Tierney (8), Saka (7), Lacazette (7), Aubameyang (7).
Subs used: Nketiah (n/a), Willock (5), Torreira (n/a), Maitland-Niles (n/a).
Leicester: Schmeichel (7), Justin (7), Evans (7), Soyuncu (6), Bennett (6), Perez (7), Tielemans (7), Ndidi (6), Albrighton (6), Iheanacho (6), Vardy (7).
Subs used: Barnes (7), Fuchs (6), Gray (7), Praet (n/a).
Man of the match: Kieran Tierney.
Arsenal should have added a few more in the first half but were thwarted by the ever-reliable Kasper Schmeichel. On the half-hour mark, Alexandre Lacazette picked out the unmarked Saka on the right of the area, but the 18-year-old's shot was saved by the goalkeeper's feet.
Not long after, Schmeichel made an incredible double save. Aubameyang and Saka linked up down the right before the latter chipped the ball into the area for Lacazette, but the Frenchman's strike was pushed away by a stretching Schmeichel arm. Hector Bellerin then tried his luck from a tight angle, but the Leicester goalkeeper tipped the ball acrobatically over the crossbar.
Similarly to the first half, Leicester began the second period well too and tested Martinez in the 56th minute. Vardy drove down the right flank before squaring the ball for the waiting Iheanacho, who hit the cross with a first-time volley. However, the Arsenal goalkeeper made a good save low down.
The game was fairly even until VAR intervened in the 73rd minute. Nketiah - who had come on as a substitute two minutes earlier - made a clumsy yet dangerous challenge on Justin, catching him on the knee, and received a yellow card. With multiple replays, VAR was unable to decide if the booking should be upgraded to a red and referee Kavanagh went over to the pitchside monitor. It took only a few seconds to make his decision and, in the 75th minute, Nketiah was sent off.
VAR was not finished there. With a man advantage, Leicester scored nine minutes later as Demarai Gray's curling cross was tapped home by Vardy - but there was a big question of offside. The decision rested on whether Perez had touched the ball with an outstretched foot, having been in an offside position when the ball was played. However, after another replay-filled check, the goal stood.
It continued Vardy's scoring steak against Arsenal - netting 10 goals in his last 10 Premier League games against the Gunners, including seven in his last six - but Mikel Arteta's side do remain unbeaten in five games in all competitions as the race for European football continues.
After a stuttering start to his Arsenal career, Tierney is finally starting to come into his own at Arsenal. He made six crosses - a joint high with Ceballos - and all of them came from open play.
Playing against a Leicester defence that struggled at times, Tierney made the most of his opportunities and he is only just getting his Arsenal career off the ground - a very exciting prospect.
Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta: "I am extremely proud of the team - the way we played, against this type of opposition, and how dominant we were. In the first half we should have gone three or four-nil up and killed the game.
"With the red card decision, he doesn't see the player and you have to know that he is a young kid. But if that is a red card then Leicester have to play with 10 men after 42 minutes [when Vardy caught Shkodran Mustafi in the face with a stray foot]. That has to be a red card as well.
"We lost two points which we completed deserved. We need to learn. Against this type of opposition, when you have them you have to kill them."
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers: "It was a clear red card. I don't think Eddie meant to make the challenge that he did, he's obviously stretching for it but you can clearly see that the ball has bounced up, he's stretching his leg. I'm just thankful that JJ [James Justin] wasn't injured.
"I haven't seen it to be honest [Vardy on Mustafi]. Mikel will have his feelings on it but I think with Nketiah's, it wasn't intentional but it was definitely dangerous on the stretch to go in studs up and you see the contact right on the knee. I felt the referee made a good decision on that.
"I think a point is huge for us. Arsenal have been on a really good run, playing with big confidence but we've been able to come here after a tough game at the weekend and play well. We can't win the game but we don't lose it which is really good for the spirit and we'll now get ready and go into the game at the weekend.
"It gives us great confidence again to continue with this mindset and stay focused on the next game."
Sky Sports' Nick Wright:
While the result was ultimately disappointing for Arsenal, there was more evidence of the progress being made under Arteta.
As he pointed out in his post-match interview with Sky Sports, the Gunners should have scored more than once in the first half. In fact, they probably should have been out of sight. Aubameyang and Saka ran riot for periods. It was just a shame for them that Lacazette could not take his chances.
There were more signs of improvement in midfield, where Dani Ceballos produced what Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp described as a passing "masterclass" in the first half, and there was also evidence that the team is getting to grips with Arteta's off-the-ball demands. Their pressing was aggressive and it stifled Leicester.
It was perhaps understandable, then, that they started to tire in the closing stages, especially after they were reduced to 10 men, but while the Arsenal of old might have crumbled after Vardy's leveller, there was certainly no lack of fight as they battled to hold on for a point.
"You can see the effort, the intensity and the quality that the players are putting in," said Arteta. "That's why I'm extremely proud of them."
Champions League qualification may prove to be beyond them this season, but they do at least appear to be heading in the right direction.
It's a big one up next for Arsenal - a trip to north London rivals Tottenham on Sunday, live on Sky Sports (kick-off 4.30pm). For Leicester, they play Bournemouth away on the same day, also to be shown live on Sky Sports (kick-off 7pm).