Arsenal 4:3 Leicester City
Despite twice taking the lead, City went home with nothing from a thrilling season curtain-raiser at the Emirates, suffering a late collapse and losing 4-3 to Arsenal…
The last City player to score a winner at Arsenal was Mike Stringfellow, in 1973, so this trip is always made more in hope than expectation.
With Huth, Iborra and Drinkwater ruled out through injury, and Iheanacho not quite up to match fitness, it was difficult to argue with Craig Shakespeare’s first starting line-up of the season. Maguire made his debut in defence, and James started his first game for City in over two years.
However, less than two minutes into the 2017-18 season City found themselves a goal down. Elneny curled a cross into the area, and an unmarked Lacazette had time and space to direct a header past Scmeichel from ten yards.
But City responded well and were level just three minutes later. Albrighton swung in a cross from the left, Maguire nodded it back across from the goalline and Okazaki leapt the highest to head past Cech from close in.
In a lively opening spell there were chances for Oxlade-Chamberlain and Vardy as play swept from end to end.
A good passing move from Arsenal then ended with Welbeck having a goalbound shot blocked by Maguire.
Arsenal had the upper hand by this stage and threatened again when Kolasinac fired in a shot which Schmeichel tipped away at the near post.
But it was City who took a 29th minute lead with a classic break. Albrighton hared down the left and delivered a cross into the goalmouth, which Vardy sidefooted home from four yards, having slipped between two defenders.
City pressed forward again, and this time it was Fuchs who delivered a good cross from the left, Okazaki going inches wide with his header.
Loud appeals for a penalty were turned down by referee Mike Dean who recognised that Kolasinac had been a yard away when he struck the ball at Ndidi’s arm.
But City didn’t make it to half time with their lead. After a scramble on the edge of the area Arsenal passed their way through City’s back line, but with the entire City defence appealing for offside, Kolasinac squared for Welbeck who steered the ball past Schmeichel from close range with seconds of the half remaining.
The second half started in more pedestrian fashion than the first, and City created the first real chance when a good ball forward from Mahrez saw Vardy outpacing two defenders, but Cech had timed his run well to come out and sweep up.
Vardy didn’t have long to wait for his second goal of the season, as City regained the lead in the 56th minute. Mahrez delivered a corner from the right and Vardy took advantage of slack marking to rise and direct a header in at the far post.
Arsenal began to press forward and Schmeichel blocked a long range effort from Oxlade-Chamberlain and then smothered an effort from Bellerin at his near post.
The pressure then increased when Arsene Wenger introduced Ramsey and Giroud to the action. Ramsey immediatley went close with a header, under pressure from Fuchs.
Craig Shakespeare made his first change in the 72nd minute, bringing on Amartey for Okazaki, before Ozil and Oxlade-Chamberlain both sent shots narrowly wide of the left hand post.
City were fighting a rearguard action, which Shakespeare attempted to relieve by bringing on Iheanacho for James, to give City more presence up front. But it appeared to backfire with the home side equalising in the 83rd minute.
A blatant handball from Ozil wasn’t seen by the referee and from the resulting corner Ramsey was allowed too much space on the right and had time to line up a shot past Schmeichel to level the game.
Worse was to follow two minutes later when Arsenal went ahead, Giroud winning a battle with Maguire to head home from a corner.
It was a heart-breaker for City and their followers, and despite throwing everything forward in five minutes of time added on, they couldn’t find a way through.
The winless run away to Arsenal now stretches to 44 years, but there was plenty to be optimistic about with this performance.
Craig Shakerspeare commented: “We spoke about being compact and being a threat with the pace of Vardy. We executed that well. We’re disappointed to score three and come away with a defeat.”
Arsenal: Cech, Holding (Giroud 67), Monreal, Kolasinac, Bellerín, Elneny (Ramsey 67), Xhaka, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Welbeck (Walcott 75), Lacazette.
Subs Not Used: Ospina, Iwobi, Mustafi, Coquelin.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Mahrez, James (Iheanacho 82), Ndidi, Albrighton (Gray 88), Okazaki (Amartey 72), Vardy.
Substitutes: Chilwell, King, Hamer, Slimani.
Referee: M Dean. Attendance: 59,387.
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