Leicester City moved back to the top of the Premier League after a fantastic weekend of football. The Foxes won 3-0 at home to Stoke, whilst previous leaders Arsenal lost to Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium and Manchester City could only manage a draw at West Ham.
The results leave Leicester three points clear of Arsenal and Manchester City with 15 games left of this extraordinary season. Tottenham remain fourth following their 3-1 win over Crystal Palace, closing the gap to two points behind third placed Arsenal. Manchester United lost once more, this time at home to Southampton, to see them drift five points away from the Champions League places.
In a brilliant performance, Leicester City swept aside a poor Stoke City team, who themselves were not at full strength. Leicester dominated the first half with a high pressing game and a threat going forward but could not break through the Stoke defence, which suffered a blow when captain Ryan Shawcross had to come off injured mid-way through the opening half.
But just three minutes before the break, the Foxes opened the scoring. After Marc Albrighton’s corner was only partially cleared, Danny Drinkwater’s rasping drive from 20 yards beat Jack Butland after a couple of deflections on the way through. It was Drinkwater’s first Premier League goal and the home side’s first from outside the penalty box this season!
Drinkwater continued to impress, working tirelessly in the middle of the field alongside the sensational N’Golo Kante, and turned the provider in the second half. Minutes after Joselu had a golden chance to draw the visitors level, but headed straight at Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester doubled their lead. Butland’s goal kick was chested down by Riyad Mahrez on the halfway line, who then played the ball to Leonardo Ulloa (who replaced the brilliant Shinji Okazaki). Ulloa layed the ball off to Drinkwater who clipped the ball over the Stoke defence with a magnificent first-time left-footed pass for Jamie Vardy to run onto. Vardy got in front of substitute Marc Wilson and rounded Butland excellently before tucking the ball away for his first goal for 10 hours and 17 minutes!
The win was capped in style. Schmeichel’s long clearance was flicked on by Ulloa for Vardy to chase. The England forward held the ball up well before passing to Mahrez on the edge of the area. Mahrez, who was awarded the Algerian Ballon D’or on Sunday, then produced the most outrageous piece of skill to get past defender Philipp Wollscheid. Mahrez nudged the ball with outside of his left foot then quickly used the inside of his left boot to flick the ball through the stunned defender’s legs before his miscued shot presented Ulloa with an open goal to slide home a third.
The win was crucial following last week’s disappointing draw at Villa Park for Leicester as they prepare for a very difficult February. The Foxes face Liverpool at home next Tuesday before trips to Manchester City and Arsenal in consecutive weekends. Claudio Ranieri will be hoping that his Leicester side can still be in and around the top spots at the end of the next month and then people will HAVE to consider Leicester City Football Club as genuine title contenders.
There is, however, a very long way to go and with the unpredictability of this season, anything could happen! All I know is, Leicester fans are simply enjoying the ride and living the dream whilst the bubble has certainly not burst yet!