First of the two big games on Sunday was played at the Emirates where Arsenal hosted the league leaders, Leicester City. The Foxes were five points ahead of the Gunners at the table and hoped to stay undefeated for 8th game in a row.
The first half haven’t produced many clear goalscoring opportunities, and when everybody thought it would finish goalless, the referee Martin Atkinson awarded a penalty for the visitors. Almost 60,000 Arsenal fans were disgusted with the decision. The replay clearly showed it was a harsh one, and Jamie Vardy deliberately put his leg between Monreal’s. Nonetheless, the penalty was given, and the EPL top scorer calmly converted it. It was 0:1 after the first 45 minutes.
Arsene Wenger’s side started more aggressively after the interval, and they were all over the place. The Foxes struggled to keep possession and Vardy was cut off in the attack. Danny Simpson received a red card only five minutes after the first yellow. He grabbed Olivier Giroud’s shirt, and this decision is dubious as well. It is rare that the referee sent off the player only a few minutes after the first yellow, but it looked like some compensation for the Leicester’s penalty.
From that moment, Arsenal completely controlled the game, and the Foxes were forced to back up deep into their half, and the Gunners took the advantage and harassed Kasper Schmeichel in almost every attacking possession. The goalkeeper’s brilliance kept the clean sheet for his team, though, but only until the 70th minute. Substitute Theo Walcott found the net after an unselfish reaction from Giroud and the English international hammered the ball past excellent Schmeichel. It was pandemonium on the stands, and Arsenal still had 20+ minutes for a complete comeback.
Danny Welbeck came in instead Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the 83rd minute, marking his long-awaited comeback from an injury. Arsenal was desperate to score a winner, but the Leicester’s defence, led by fantastic Schmeichel, fought off all the attacks. Atkinson signalled for four added minutes, and then Marcin Wasilewski committed a rather stupid foul after a challenge on Nacho Monreal. Wasilewski punched the Spaniard in the face, and the ref gave awarded a free-kick in the dying second of the game. It was too far for Ozil to attempt a shot, but instead, he whipped the cross in and who else but Danny Welbeck scored a late winner for the Gunners and gave them a championship hope.
It was a thrilling afternoon in London, and Claudio Ranieri left the Emirates clearly disappointed. Leicester is still at the top of the table, but the gap between them and Arsenal is now only two points. The Foxes will host Norwich City in the next round while Arsenal will travel to Old Trafford to play another tough game against Man United.