Leicester City were held to a 1-1 draw by Norwich City all but ending their faint championship hopes.
The Foxes, given how Liverpool can’t stop winning, needed to respond in the same vein by keeping all three points at the King Power Stadium but despite their best efforts they would short giving Jurgen Klopp’s men a bonus Christmas present.
As for Norwich, this was a much-needed point in their battle to stay up, it now leaves them three points adrift of safety, but that could all change by the close of today’s play.
Naturally, there were individual winners and losers.
Winner: Teemu Pukki
Teemu Pukki began the season like a house on fire. He’d score six goals across his first five league outings before enduring a lengthy dought. The 29-year-old Finnish marksman, who has subsequently become a cult hero within the ‘Fantasy Football’ community, would go through eight consecutive matches without finding the back of the net. This, naturally, became worrisome for supporters who began to consider whether the party was over, but you can’t keep a good man down.
What a finish from the great man! 💪 pic.twitter.com/yKHjFc4tWm
— Norwich City FC (@NorwichCityFC) December 14, 2019
Arsenal rocking up at Carrow Road earlier this month was the spark Pukki needed, he would score at Southampton a few days later, before suffering another blank against Sheffield United though it turned out to be nothing more than a blip as the former Celtic man – against pre-match expectations – put the visitors in front. Brendan Rodgers’ side, though, were their own worst enemy giving Emiliano Buendía the freedom of midfield to slip his teammate in and he would do the rest.
Loser: Tim Krul
Leicester’s response to going behind wasn’t immediate. You can hardly blame them given the state of shock they would have been in. Maybe that is a tad arrogance on their part, underestimating today’s opposition, but given recent performances – and what they are chasing — that mindset is understandable. After dusting themselves down, the Foxes would press forward, and were duly rewarded.
The equaliser came via a James Maddison corner. Jamie Vardy, who is experiencing an imperious run of goalscoring form, would nod the ball that ultimately ended beyond Tim Krul in the Norwich goal. Vardy initially celebrated what he thought was a ninth consecutive Premier League he’s scored in, but it would be taken of him, as his effort was going wide if not for Krul’s intervention.
Winner: Man City
No one in pre-season could have envisaged this scenario. Manchester City, the defending Premier League champions and strong favorites to secure a rare three-peat, were handed a boost ahead of their meeting with Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium after the Foxes were held to a 1-1 draw.
We are here because of City’s incredible fluctuations – one week they are Europe’s most supreme team, the next a shadow of themselves – and Leicester, against many folks predictions, enjoying their best ever Premier League start. As things stand, a win for City in north London reduces the gap to second place Leiciester to four points, all this before their showdown in Manchester next week.
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Loser: Kelechi Iheanacho
Rodgers surprised many by fielding the same starting lineup from last weekend’s victory at Aston Villa meaning a successive outing from the get-go for Kelechi Iheanacho whose been rewarding his manager’s faith of late. Iheanacho, to his credit, waited for this opportunity having been on the periphery until a recent substitute appearance against Everton in which he scored the winner.
That would lead to a start in the aforementioned game at Villa Park, where the Nigerian international scored and created another goal, but he couldn’t replicate those heroics this afternoon. That being said, Iheanacho wasn’t far away from drama, just before the Foxes got back into the game, he’d be involved in an unsavory moment that led to Todd Cantwell being booked.
With the 4-3-1-2 system not working, and Iheanacho – playing alongside Vardy up top – in danger of being shown a yellow himself (or worse) given emotions were running high, Rodgers would bring him off minutes before the break consequently reverting Leicester to a now familiar 4-3-3 shape by introducing Demarai Gray.
Winner: Emiliano Buendía
As touched upon, Buendía was effective for Norwich today, his succulent through ball resulted in the Canaries breaking the deadlock and unexpectedly going ahead. It’s not been a shabby first campaign in England’s top division for the 22-year-old Argentine winger.
In this game at least, only Maddison (6) created more goalscoring opportunities than him (5), which brings his overall tally for the campaign to 41 which leaves him behind just four players with all of them – Kevin De Bruyne (60), Trent Alexander-Arnold (52) and Maddison (43) – having prior Premier League experience.
Loser: Leicester City
Leiciester’s season is shaping up to be a strong one despite this setback. That being said, another win keeps any slim championship hope alive, two points dropped here only gives Liverpool even more breathing room – their lead is now 10 points – but more than maintaining that gap was the chance of recording a piece of Premier League history. Until now only six teams have won nine consecutive games since the 1992/93 season in England’s top division. Those clubs are the self-described ‘big six’, the Foxes could have joined them, and truth be told they wouldn’t look out of place as former champions.