Leicester jeopardizes Champions League hopes with collapse
LONDON — In the top four since September, Leicester’s Champions League hopes are no longer so certain.
A 4-1 capitulation at relegation-threatened Bournemouth on Sunday summed up Leicester’s form since the Premier League returned from its three-month coronavirus-enforced shutdown.
“I would say a big apology to the supporters because that was unacceptable for a Leicester team,” Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said. “You cannot do that and I have never been anywhere near that since I’ve been here, it was a huge disappointment. We lacked the spirit and attitude.”
Leicester has won only once in the six league games since the restart, collecting six points and slipping from third to fourth.
It could be down to fifth on Monday night if Manchester United beats Southampton. Fifth could, however, clinch England’s fourth and final Champions League place if second-place Manchester City’s Champions League ban for next season is confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Monday.
Wolverhampton is also still in sight of fifth place, moving to three points behind United after beating Everton 3-0 on Sunday.
Arsenal and Tottenham, though, are realistically in a scrap for a Europa League place. Tottenham has the edge after beating Arsenal 2-1 in the north London derby to leapfrog its rival into eighth place. But Sheffield United, in its first season back in the league, is ahead of them in seventh place.
Despite winning the league at 5,000-1 odds in 2016, Leicester is a much-changed side and overachieving in Rodgers’ first full season in charge. But throwing away the third-place cushion would make not qualifying for the Champions League hard to accept.
Jamie Vardy did put Leicester in front in the first half at Bournemouth, which turned the game around during a two-minute spell after the break.
Junior Stanislas equalized from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after Callum Wilson was dragged down by Wilfred Ndidi and Dominic Solanke put the hosts in front quickly after the restart.
Leicester defender Caglar Soyuncu was shown a straight red card in the aftermath for kicking out at Wilson as he attempted to retrieve the ball.
“We gave them a lifeline into the game with the penalty,” Rodgers said, “and then all of a sudden, very quickly you are 2-1 behind, but I was more disappointed with the reaction.”
Bournemouth stretched its lead in the 83rd when Stanislas’ strike across goal took a huge deflection off Jonny Evans to wrong-foot goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
Having not scored before Sunday in the league since joining Bournemouth from Liverpool in January 2019, Solanke poked a shot between the legs of Schmeichel for his second of the night in the 87th, after capitalizing on a loose pass. The win leaves Bournemouth three points from safety.
“I didn’t see that coming, to be honest,” Rodgers said. “Second half we lacked personality and that’s the biggest disappointment.”
It was the first Premier League north London derby at Tottenham’s new stadium but with no fans allowed inside due to the coronavirus restriction.
Alexandre Lacazette bent Arsenal’s opener into the top corner in the 16th minute. But Sead Kolašinac’s misplaced pass allowed Tottenham to level inside three minutes, with Son Heung-min taking the ball out to a tight angle but still managing to chip goalkeeper Emiliano Martínez.
Son, who was dropped from the starting lineup for the 0-0 draw at Bournemouth on Thursday, provided the corner that Toby Alderweireld sent past Martínez in the 81st with a glancing header.
Trezeguet scored twice as Aston Villa helped its slim survival hopes with a 2-0 victory against Crystal Palace. The Egypt international scored in each half to hand third-from-last Villa its first win in 11 league games and move the team to within four points of safety with three games left.
Palace’s run of five straight Premier League defeats is now manager Roy Hodgson’s equal worst sequence in the competition. But the south London club is safe at 12 points clear of the relegation zone.
Palace will be without Christian Benteke for the final three games of the season. The former Villa striker was sent off after the final whistle for violent conduct after kicking out at Villa defender Ezri Konsa.
After a slow start at Molineux, Wolves went in front in first-half stoppage time through Raul Jimenez’s penalty and Leander Dendoncker netted 46 seconds after the break. Diogo Jota grabbed the third when he struck low past goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.