Arsenal beaten again as Maitland-Niles sees red at Leicester
Gunners suffer their third defeat in the space of a week, ahead of Europa League semi-final against Valencia
28 April, 2019 — By Steve Barnett
LEICESTER CITY 3 (Tielemans 59, Vardy 86, 90+4)
ARSENAL 0 (Maitland-Niles sent off 36)
LACKLUSTRE Arsenal all but kissed goodbye to any chance of qualifying for the Champions League via the Premier League this afternoon (Sunday) after being dismantled by Leicester City.
A 3-0 loss at the King Power Stadium condemned the Gunners to their third defeat in the space of a week. Even before the 36th-minute dismissal of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who was sent off for two bookable offences, the Gunners were outplayed, outpaced and outfought by the Foxes.
After the game Arsenal boss Unai Emery was being somewhat generous with his thoughts that it was the sending-off that changed the game.
“We worked, we prepared our gameplan, 11 versus 11, and the match was going just like we prepared,” he said. “The red card has affected our game plan a lot. One player less is difficult. The condition for losing is the red card.”
Emery effectively added that he has now lost interest in the Premier League table, saying: “We will continue, we will not look at the table. The Europa League is a big motivation for us to win it.”
Arsenal tackle Valencia in the Europa League semi final-first leg on Thursday at the Emirates Stadium. If they are just as sluggish and stale against the Spanish side as they were today it promises to be a painful evening.
Leicester started brightly, twice going close in the opening 10 minutes. First Jonny Evans sent a diving header straight at Bernd Leno from close range. Then Youri Tielemans found James Maddison, who blasted a shot at goal only to see his effort blocked for a corner. Bar a somewhat snatched shot from Alexandre Lacazette it was a Foxes free-for-all, with Jamie Vardy setting up Maddison at the near post, whose effort from a tight angle brought another save from Leno.
From the resulting corner the German shot-stopper made his best save of the first half as he clawed away Wilfred Ndidi’s header just as the Leicester midfielder was about to start celebrating.
It didn’t look like the visitors were going to win the game with 11 men on the field, so when Maitland-Niles was shown a red card just after the half-hour mark it became a case of not if, but by how many they would lose by. Having already been booked for a block on Ben Chilwell, Maitland-Niles caught Maddison after slipping and was given his marching orders – although the full-back can feel hard done by as to whether the challenge really merited a second yellow.
From then on in it seemed a case of sitting back and waiting for Leicester to score. The deadlock was finally broken just before the hour mark when Tielemans got on the end of Maddison’s cross to powerfully head home the opening goal.
Only Leno saved the Gunners from an absolute hiding, making a string of great saves in a one-man resistance – the best of which was a double save to first beat away Ricardo Pereira’s low shot, and then deny Harvey Barnes from the follow-up. A goalkeeper can only be as good as the defence in front of him, however, and Leno could do little about Leicester’s late rally.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel booted the ball down field to Vardy, whose initial looping effort hit the crossbar before the former England striker nodded home the rebound to make it 2-0. Vardy then tapped home a quick second, and Leicester’s third, in injury time.
LEICESTER CITY: Schmeichel, Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Chilwell, Ndidi (Barnes, 45), Choudhury (Mendy, 79), Maddison, Albrighton (Gray, 86), Tielemans, Vardy.
Substitutes not used: Ward, Soyuncu, Iheanacho, Fuchs.
ARSENAL: Leno, Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Mustafi, Kolasinac, Torreira, Xhaka, Mkhitaryan (Guendouzi, 74), Iwobi (Koscielny, 45), Lacazette (Nketiah, 79), Aubameyang.
Substitutes not used: Cech, Elneny, Mavropanos, Willock.