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March 1, 2021

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Arsenal rekindles Europe hopes

Arsenal revived its hopes of playing in European competition next season after goals from David Luiz, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe helped it to a 3-1 win at Leicester City in an entertaining English Premier League clash yesterday.

The result lifted Arsenal two places up to ninth on 37 points from 26 games while Leicester stayed third on 49 points, trailing leader Manchester City by 13 points with 12 games remaining, after suffering a second setback in three days following its Europa League elimination.

The Foxes produced another poor performance at King Power Stadium after Thursday’s 0-2 home defeat by Slavia Prague sent them crashing out of Europe’s second-tier competition, where Arsenal progressed into the last 16 with a 4-3 aggregate win over Benfica.

Lacazette said two successive wins would boost Arsenal’s confidence in its bid to climb higher up the standings.

“We want to go as high as possible in the league and the reaction today after the goal we conceded was really good,” the French striker told BT Sport.

“We know it’s really important now, we have March, April and May to finish well. Comeback wins in two successive games will be a massive confidence boost.”

Leicester took a sixth-minute lead as Youri Tielemans robbed two Arsenal players of the ball on the right flank and cut inside the area before firing a low shot into the far corner.

The Gunners equalized in the 39th when Luiz headed a Willian cross into the bottom right corner and Lacazette turned the tide in first-half stoppage time as he drilled in a penalty after a VAR check showed Wilfred Ndidi had handled the ball in the area.

Poor defending cost Leicester again in the 52nd as it allowed the visitors to break through the middle before Willian slipped the ball to Pepe and the Ivorian forward tucked it from two meters.

It was Pepe’s fourth goal in his last seven league starts, underlining a long-awaited improvement from the winger.

Arsenal held on comfortably in the closing stages and missed chances to win by a bigger margin as Kieran Tierney volleyed just wide from 20 meters and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang came close with a fizzing low shot.

Kelechi Iheanacho summed up Leicester’s afternoon in the last minute of stoppage time when he blazed the ball over the bar with the goal at his mercy.

Leicester was also left to deal with an injury to in-form midfielder Harvey Barnes.

Barnes was carried off early in the second half with an apparent knee injury, and defender Jonny Evans was also hurt later in the game. Leicester was already without attacking midfielder James Maddison, who has a hip injury.

In yesterday’s other early match, Fulham had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.

Third bottom Fulham is 3 points behind fourth bottom Newcastle United in the fight to avoid relegation.

Later, Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start as Chelsea boss will be under threat against second-placed Manchester United.

Troubled Liverpool was traveling to bottom of the table Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur hosted Burnley.

On Saturday, City’s centerbacks Ruben Dias and John Stones both struck as the EPL leader beat West Ham United 2-1.

Pep Guardiola’s men are now 13 points clear thanks to a 20-game winning run in all competitions that has seen them close in on an unprecedented quadruple of trophies.

For the first time in recent weeks, City showed signs of fatigue, though, and needed the dominant center-back pairing that has been a huge part of its success defensively this season to also make their mark at the other end.

“After 10 or 15 minutes today we realized we were not going to paint anything beautiful,” said Guardiola. “When you play a lot of games — in the league and then the Champions League — this is normal. We were lucky to get all three points.”


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