A great night for VAR and Vardy

Arsenal 1 v Leicester City 1

Emirates Stadium 7th July 2020

Report by Colin Murrant

With Chelsea beating Crystal Palace in the early evening match, The Foxes started the match in the unusual position of fourth. The earlier result in South London sent Chelsea two points clear in third place and, with Manchester United in fine form in fifth, the pressure was on City to win away at Arsenal, a task they had not achieved since September 1973: in fact, their last point was in back in 1995.

City were notably without Chilwell and Madison, Rodgers going to a back three with Ryan Bennett making his first start and only second appearance for City.

Following the ‘take the knee’, City kicked off wearing their all blue kit on a rain-soaked surface. It was a fairly uneventful start and it was the ninth minute before Vardy had the first shot of the match, receiving the ball on the edge of the box with his back to goal, he turned and his low shot was saved by Martinez. 3 minutes later and Martinez saved Arsenal again as, following a neat short corner, he blocked an Iheanacho shot with his legs.

City were generally in control with some aggressive pressing. On 20 minutes Tierney had a shot from 30 yards that stung Schmeichel but a few seconds later Arsenal took the lead. Ceballos passed to Saka who in turn fed Aubameyang, unmarked at the far post, for his 20th goal of the season.

It was now Arsenal having the better of the play and on 32 minutes Schmeichel made at first an excellent save from Lacazette, and then had to push the ball over for a corner, which led to nothing. On 35 minutes Vardy centred the ball and Iheanacho put the ball home only for the goal to be disallowed for a coming together on the edge of the box in the build-up. Up the other end, Bellerin picked out Lacazette who should have done better with his header as the ball was straight at The City keeper.

Ae the match moved into added-on time, Justin had a header following a cross but the ball sailed wide of the far post and that concluded the first half action in which City had had their periods of domination but in which The Gunners had had the best chances.

City started the second half brightly and Vardy broke down the left and his ball, in towards the near post, found Justin whose shot hit the Arsenal defender and was cleared. Evans took Lacazette out on the edge of the box, from 25 yards Luiz shot and a slight defection meant Schmeichel had to keep his eye on the ball as it skidded to him as he turned it away and behind for a corner.

Vardy then laid a beautiful ball into Iheanacho, his half volley was saved by Martinez. On 58 minutes Fuchs and Barnes came on to replace Iheanacho and Albrighton as City switched to 3-4-3. City were having good possession and a ball from Perez found Vardy who turned but mishit his shot from the middle of the box. An Arsenal corner was flicked on by Luiz who found the unmarked Lacazette marginally offside when he put the ball in the net.

Willock and NKetiah replaced Lacazette and Saka on 70 minutes, Nketiah soon in the book for a nasty looking foul on Justin, which was checked by VAR and for once the match referee checked the pitch side monitor before it was upgraded to red for serious foul play.

Rodgers immediately brought Gray on for Bennett as City tried to make the extra man count. Torreira came on for Ceballos as Arsenal were defending deeper; Praet came on for Ndidi and Leicester stepped up their attacking intent. On 84 minutes the breakthrough, as a great ball from Gray found Vardy at the far post, although a long wait for a VAR decision was more than nerve racking. But Vardy had netted for the 10th time against Arsenal and his 22nd of the season.

It was all City but little in the way of chances materialised. The board went up for 8 minutes added on time as Leicester commanded possession and patiently built up attacks. Aubameyang was replaced by Maitland-Niles as Arsenal went more on the defensive. City had got the point that their performance deserved; how significant it will be in the context of the season will become more apparent over the next 4 games.

For once City had benefitted from VAR, both decisions correct. Vardy remains at the top of the scorers, chart, City are gradually regaining form but most importantly City have a point against the Arsenal to remain in Champions League contention. Finally, pity anyone who was at Highbury to see Mark Draper score the equaliser 25 years ago and could not be at The Emirates tonight to see the next point gained. The scorers Draper and Vardy (20 years apart) cost City £1.25m and £1m respectively, now there’s a thought!

Arsenal: Martinez, Mustafi, Luiz, Kolasinac, Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Tierney, Saka, Lacazette, Aubameyang. Subs: Papastathopoulos, Torreira, Maitland-Niles, Holding, Pepe, Nelson, Willock, Nketiah, Macey

Leicester: Schmeichel, Bennett, Evans, Soyuncu, Justin, Ndidi, Tielemans, Albrighton, Perez, Iheanacho, Vardy
Subs: Morgan, Gray, Ward, Barnes, Choudhury, James, Mendy, Praet, Fuchs

Referee: Kavanagh

Attendance: c300, although Arsenal usually add a few thousand on the gate!

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation