Leister City ended their dreadful home run with their first ever victory over Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal on the Frenchman’s final visit to the King Power Stadium as Gunners boss.
A second half penalty from Jamie Vardy and a late Riyad Mahrez strike ensured it was a first win in seven home games for Claude Puel’s men as ten-man Arsenal’s dreadful away form continued.
After a couple of poor displays from City, which led to fans’ frustrations bubbling over in the defeat to West Ham United on Saturday, this was a return to much better form from Puel’s men, who took the lead through Kelechi Iheanacho before Arsenal were reduced to ten men.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang equalised at the start of the second half but Vardy’s penalty after Demarai Gray was fouled and Mahrez’s last minute solo effort gave Puel a much-needed victory against his old mentor, Wenger, who was given a standing ovation by City fans at the end. There were no shortages of farewells before the game.
While Wenger was saying goodbye to Arsenal at the end of the season after 22 years in charge, during which he had never lost a game to City, City were also saying goodbye to Roboth Huth, who is leaving the club at the end of the season after City decided not to renew the 33-year-old’s contract and an injury-raveged season.
He is unlikely to be the only departure amidst a hectic summer of squad rebuilding as City rounded off their home fixture schedule. For example, was this the last time City fans would see Mahrez in a City shirt at the King Power Stadium? If so, his late goal was a fitting finale.
After a run of six home games without a win on home soil, and after picking up just one point from his last five games, City boss Puel was still the centre of speculation that if City suffered two poor results and performances in their final two games he could also be saying goodbye at the end of the season, despite a mid-table finish.
He hasn’t been helped by a horrendous injury list in the last couple of weeks and was further dealt a blow the day before the game when the FA announced that Marc Albrighton would be banned for the rest of the season after admitting a charge of misconduct following his red card at Crystal Palace. Danny Simpson did return after a groin injury at right-back, while Fousseni Diabate shook off a sickness bug to start on the left flank.
Iheanacho came in as the support striker to Vardy while Eldin Jakupovic was preferred to Ben Hamer in goal as Kasper Schmeichel remains sidelined.
It looked ominous for Puel and City early on as the Gunners stroked the ball around with confidence, carving City open on a couple of occasions and Jakupovic had to deny Alex Iwobi, but the way Arsenal had committed themselves to the game gave City hope.
Sure enough, the game was turned on its head in the 14th minute when City took the lead against the run of play.
Vardy had forced a good save out of Petr Cech and from the corner Iheanacho sent his free header all the way back to the corner taker, Mahrez, but he did a better job from Diabate’s knock-down as he hammered the ball past Cech.
Iheanacho was the catalyst and the Gunners were reduced to ten men a minute later when Iheanacho caught centre back Konstantinos Mavropanos in possession and was hauled down as he raced through on goal.
It was now one-way traffic with City exuding the confidence, intensity and energy that had been so obviously lacking in recent displays.