Football: Arsenal gun down Leicester

Danny Welbeck celebrates his goal against Leicester City with team-mate Alexis Sanchez. Welbeck's winner helped Arsenal narrow Leicester's lead to two points.
Danny Welbeck celebrates his goal against Leicester City with team-mate Alexis Sanchez. Welbeck's winner helped Arsenal narrow Leicester's lead to two points. PHOTO: REUTERS

Super-sub Welbeck returns from injury with winner to help them lay down title credentials

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal 2

Leicester City 1

LONDON • One Danny hung his head and the other used his, as Arsenal bolstered their Premier League title ambitions while hampering Leicester City's.

Danny Welbeck, in his first match back after 10 months out, scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner to complete Arsenal's comeback yesterday.

DOING THE MATHS

It was a pivotal moment today because the mathematics meant it could be eight points or it could be two points.

ARSENE WENGER , Arsenal manager, on the significance of th is match on the title race.

Down to 10 men following Danny Simpson's 54th-minute dismissal, Leicester were clinging on at a tension-bound Emirates Stadium when Welbeck headed in a 95th-minute winner from Mesut Oezil's free kick.

The England striker's goal lifted Arsenal to within two points of Leicester ahead of yesterday's game between Manchester City and Tottenham.

Fellow substitute Theo Walcott had cancelled out Jamie Vardy's first-half penalty as the Gunners provided another twist to a roller-coaster season.

Yesterday alone provided plenty of ups and downs for both sides.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger suffered what looked like a blow of sorts before kick-off with the news that Per Mertesacker would replace the injured Gabriel, pitting the slowest, least mobile top-class defender in the league against a team with the joint-fastest striker in Vardy.

As half-time drew near, Leicester went ahead, Vardy luring Nacho Monreal into a challenge and then tumbling to the ground before picking himself up and slotting his 19th goal of the season past Petr Cech.

Arsenal's fans, convinced that referee Martin Atkinson had been hoodwinked by Vardy, booed the officials off at the interval.

There was a further blow for the hosts at half-time as Laurent Koscielny was forced off with a dead leg, which brought Calum Chambers into the fray.

But nine minutes into the second half, the landscape changed abruptly as the referee showed Simpson a second yellow card for a limp tug on Olivier Giroud's arm as he turned.

Five minutes earlier, Simpson had received his first booking for pulling down Alexis Sanchez.

The two managers duly rearranged their teams for the final half hour, with Claudio Ranieri sending on Marcin Wasilewski and Demarai Gray in place of Riyad Mahrez and Shinji Okazaki while Wenger threw on Walcott for Francis Coquelin.

It was the Arsenal change that was to prove telling, as Walcott equalised in the 70th minute by side-footing home after Giroud nodded Hector Bellerin's cross into his path. It was Arsenal's first shot on target.

Their sixth and final shot on target in this game was telling too.

Wasilewski conceded a free kick against Monreal in stoppage time and Welbeck rushed in to meet Oezil's delivery with an unerring downward header.

"It's the first time in my career that I've missed so much football in a period of time and it was a difficult moment... to get that winning goal, it's a beautiful feeling," Welbeck, sidelined since April last year with a serious knee injury, told Sky Sports.

Wenger revealed that the Arsenal team chanted Welbeck's name when he came back into the dressing room. They knew how much the goal meant to the striker, and how much the result meant to their title hopes.

"It was a pivotal moment today because the mathematics meant it could be eight points or it could be two points," Wenger said. "That is a great change."

Ranieri felt that the pivotal moment was Simpson's dismissal.

"I don't know if in a normal match that our two yellow cards was a sending-off," said the Leicester manager.

"They were normal fouls, but not yellow cards. I think the referee was too severe to us for the sending-off. Eleven v eleven, I'm sure we win the match."

Instead, Leicester fell to just their third league defeat this season. Not that the Italian was keen to let it get to his players.

"We are still top of the table - we must carry on and smile," he said. "We lost to our opponents - we must say well done."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2016, with the headline 'ARSENAL GUN DOWN FOXES'. Print Edition | Subscribe