Leicester City were beaten by Newcastle United, a 10-men Southampton stopped them and then there were hiccups here and there which only piled the pressure on them – a place in the Champions League next season looked bleak until last evening when they beat Manchester United at Old Trafford to keep the hopes alive.
It was a much-needed victory as it puts Leicester nine ahead of Liverpool and eight clear of West Ham. They are tantalizingly close to earning their place among the European elite. They can look forward to Saturday’s FA Cup final with renewed confidence.
The Foxes became only the fourth team to win away at both Manchester clubs in the same Premier League campaign. Seven months after a historic 5-2 demolition of Pep Guardiola’s team, Caglar Soyuncu secured victory at Old Trafford.
In the book of Ole Gunnar Solskjær, the rearranged schedule against Liverpool on Thursday had been the topmost priority and thus brought changes to the squad – Anthony Elanga and Amad Diallo made Premier League debuts. Brendan had switched to 4-4-2 and benched James Maddison. The selection of LukeThomas instead of Ricardo Pereira proved vital.
Within ten minutes Thomas made his presence felt – From the edge of the six-yard box, he spanked home a volley at the far post after getting on the end of a cross from the left and scripted a terrific finish.
“An unbelievable finish,” said Rodgers. “He will never forget that. It was a special night for him.”
After five minutes the sharp Mason Greenwood struck for the Red Devils.
After receiving a low cross from Amad Diallo, who outmuscled Thomas with pace on the edge of the Leicester penalty area, Greenwood got past Soyuncu, took it wide into space, and fired a low diagonal effort past the outstretched arm of Schmeichel and into the bottom corner.
After the break, the Foxes continued to press and it paid rich dividends.
They were more purposeful as Tielemans emerged highly effective as he pierced the Manchester United defence with a pass when David de Gea denied Kelechi Iheanacho. Solskjær then disputed the award of the corner.
From a decently taken corner, Soyuncu gave Marcus Rashford the slip at the far post and powers home a header. Leicester City had taken the lead.
Leicester maintained a 5-4-1 formation in the remaining minutes and weathered the storm.
The Red Devils were beaten.
“A huge step,” said Rodgers. “The players have definitely overachieved with all the big teams around.”
The defeat of Manchester United meant that officially Manchester is Blue.
Manchester City are the champions of the Premier League again.