LONDON, Feb 14, (Agencies): Substitute Danny Welbeck scored a dramatic stoppage-time winner as Arsenal resurrected their Premier League title challenge with a heart-stopping 2-1 Valentine’s Day victory over leaders Leicester City on Sunday.
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 Ozil’s free-kick on his return after 10 months out with a serious knee injury.
The England striker’s goal lifted Arsenal to within two points of Leicester and also gave hope to Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City, five and six points off the pace respectively, ahead of their meeting at the Etihad Stadium later in the day. Welbeck told Sky Sports: “It has been a rollercoaster for me, a difficult moment, and my family and friends know what I have been through.”
Welbeck’s goal, after fellow substitute Theo Walcott had cancelled out Jamie Vardy’s first-half penalty, saw Wenger’s men complete a league double over Leicester following their 5-2 away win in September. While Arsenal must now prepare for contests with Hull City and Barcelona, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester have two weeks to regain their strength before resuming their improbable title bid at home to Norwich City.
Manchester City never recovered from falling behind to Leicester in their 3-1 defeat last weekend and Arsenal seemed determined to avoid the same fate on a chilly north London afternoon, quickly pushing the visitors back.
With less than two minutes gone, Alexis Sanchez threw himself at Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s corner and headed wide, with N’Golo Kante surviving a penalty-box handball appeal shortly after.
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel then raced out boldly to prevent Aaron Ramsey reaching Ozil’s pass and within seconds Vardy had forced Petr Cech to save with a downward header at the other end.
It proved the pattern of the first half. Arsenal attacked — Wes Morgan blocking from Olivier Giroud and Sanchez, Giroud twice heading off-target at corners — and Leicester countered, Kante obliging Cech to claw the ball away from his top-left corner with a curling shot.
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 drilling his 19th goal of the campaign past Cech.
The Leicester end erupted. 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 after Ramsey had drilled wide and Giroud had headed another chance over, their luck changed when Simpson was shown a second yellow card for tugging Giroud back, five minutes after his first for tripping Sanchez.
City 2, Spurs 1
Christian Eriksen celebrated his 24th birthday with the winning goal for Tottenham Hotspur when they beat Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday to stay second in the Premier League table.
Spurs broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute after referee Mark Clattenburg ruled that City’s Raheem Sterling had handled in the area even though he turned his back as Danny Rose crossed and the ball hardly seemed to hit his arm.
But that did not worry Kane who fired his spot kick down the centre of the goal and past his England team mate Joe Hart into the net.
Yaya Toure almost equalised for the home side when he hit the bar with a 57th minute free kick, but they were soon level when Kelechi Iheanacho swept a cross from Gael Clichy into the roof of the Spurs net.
Eriksen though gave Spurs all three points when he scored in the 83rd minute after a surging run from Erik Lamela.
P W D L GF GA Pts
Leicester 26 15 8 3 48 29 53
Tottenham 26 14 9 3 47 20 51
Arsenal 26 15 6 5 41 23 51
Man City 26 14 5 7 48 28 47
Man Utd 26 11 8 7 33 24 41
Southampton 26 11 7 8 34 24 40
West Ham 26 10 10 6 40 31 40
Liverpool 26 10 8 8 38 36 38
Watford 26 10 6 10 29 28 36
Stoke 26 10 6 10 27 32 36
Everton 26 8 11 7 46 35 35
Chelsea 26 8 9 9 38 36 33
Palace 26 9 5 12 27 32 32
West Brom 26 8 8 10 24 32 32
Bournemouth 26 7 7 12 30 44 28
Swansea 26 6 9 11 24 34 27
Norwich 26 6 6 14 30 50 24
Newcastle 26 6 6 14 27 49 24
Sunderland 26 6 5 15 32 50 23
Villa 26 3 7 16 20 46 16
Note: Standings read as played, won, draw, lost, goals for, goals against, & points