Leicester show mettle as the top-four race heats up
Leicester City turned up the heat in the English Premier League’s top-four battle as they struck late to earn a 2-1 victory at relegation-threatened Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (March 6).
Adam Lallana had given the Seagulls an early lead, but the Foxes levelled through Kelechi Iheanacho, before Daniel Amartey’s 87th-minute header completed a comeback win for Leicester who stretched their unbeaten away run to 10 games.
It moved Brendan Rodgers’ side above Manchester United into second place with 53 points from 28 games, with United away to runaway leaders Manchester City on Sunday.
With injuries mounting, Leicester had wobbled of late with defeat by Arsenal and then a draw with Burnley raising questions about their staying power.
They were second best against Brighton in the first half, with Lallana scoring his first goal for the Seagulls to give the hosts a deserved half-time lead. But the Foxes finally got their act together after the break and levelled just past the hour through Iheanacho.
Amartey then headed in late as Leicester made a timely return to winning ways as the season enters the home straight.
“Very important win,” said Rodgers, whose side missed out on the Champions League qualification spots on the last matchweek of last season, having been well-placed throughout the campaign.
“First half, we didn’t press the game well enough and we deserved to be behind. We had to ask a question at half-time and in the second half I thought we were brilliant.”
Leicester are six points ahead of fourth-placed Chelsea and seven ahead of fifth-placed Everton with those two meeting at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
For Brighton, it is now only one home win all season and the alarm bells are starting to ring as they are three points above Fulham who occupy the last relegation place.
“We are where we are in the league. We know we are in a fight, we know we have to perform and be at our best,” Brighton manager Graham Potter said.
“You need a bit of luck and today we didn’t earn as much as we should have.”
Earlier, Southampton ended a horrendous run of form as they beat bottom club Sheffield United 2-0.
Skipper James Ward-Prowse’s first-half penalty and a thunderbolt from Che Adams secured the Saints' first win in 10 games to calm the jitters and move them 10 points clear of the relegation places.
“There are still a lot of games to go. We’ve been much higher in the table, then we had this negative run. It’s important we can turn it around now,” Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuettl said after his 100th game in charge.
Burnley also secured an important point in their quest to stay clear of trouble as they drew 1-1 with Arsenal. A dreadful defensive error by Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka was capitalised on by Burnely striker Chris Wood at Turf Moor after the visitors had taken the lead early on through Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Ninth-placed Aston Villa’s hopes of re-igniting their own top-four hopes were frustrated as they struck the woodwork twice in the opening 16 minutes in a 0-0 draw at home to Midlands rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers. – REUTERS