Leicester title party put on hold after Man Utd stalemate at Old Trafford
Lee Gormley | May 1, 2016
Manchester United 1-1 Leicester City
- Anthony Martial opens scoring after eight minutes
- Wes Morgan equalises with strong header on 17 minutes
- Riyad Mahrez sees first-half penalty appeal turned down
- Danny Drinkwater given red card in closing stages
- Leicester City Premier League title win prolonged with draw
Foxes held at Old Trafford
Leicester City’s Premier League title party was prolonged at Old Trafford, as Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United, with goals coming from Anthony Martial and visiting captain Wes Morgan.
Louis van Gaal’s Red Devils also saw their hopes of securing a top four position hurt with the home stalemate, while the league leaders will still be crowned champions if second-placed Tottenham fail to win on their travels to Chelsea on Monday night.
France forward Martial continued his sublime scoring season by opening proceedings after just eight minutes, with skipper Morgan then heading in the equaliser from a corner, while Danny Drinkwater was sent off in the dying minutes as his side were denied a historic league victory in Manchester.
Martial and Morgan strike early
The hosts began like a side determined not to let there be a title triumph occur on their own patch, as they started brightly and dominated possession early on, with Wayne Rooney pulling the strings from a central position, while Martial looked threatening on the left.
It didn’t take long for that superior start to pay off, with Jesse Lingard laying off Antonio Valencia on the right for a lofted delivery, which Martial was able to clinically tuck home underneath Kasper Schmeichel at his near post after just eight minutes gone.
Moments later, recently crowned PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez plucked a Drinkwater pass from the air in Man Utd’s penalty area and perfectly found a charging Shinji Okazaki, but the Japanese forward could only direct his awkward header wide of David de Gea’s right post.
The Red Devils continued their rampant surges forward and if not for a superb diving save from Schmeichel they would have secured a second early goal, with the Danish stopper halting Lingard’s close-range effort, following a knockdown from Marouane Fellaini and a left-sided cross from Marcos Rojo.
Man Utd’s lead didn’t last long, though, conceding for the first time domestically in 398 minutes, as Foxes captain Morgan headed home from a brilliantly lofted Drinkwater free-kick, as he jumped highest to beat a helpless De Gea and add to these thrilling opening stages.
Strong Mahrez penalty appeal
Martial was continuing to make a nuisance of himself and won a free-kick in a threatening position, moments after Fellaini was fortunate to not be dismissed for a dangerous elbow on Robert Huth, with skipper Rooney unable to get his subsequent shot over the Foxes’ defensive wall.
Leicester were pegged back and allowed the home outfit to enjoy more of the possession, a familiar occurrence with the Foxes this season, as they patiently waited for a chance to counter swiftly on the break.
Leonardo Ulloa and Mahrez linked up on the edge of the Man Utd area to gift Jeffrey Schlupp with a shot on goal, but Valencia was able to block, while Lingard looked to immediately break through one-on-one at the opposite end following a Danny Simpson mistake, though Schmeichel rushed out to clear any danger.
Young striker Marcus Rashford got away his first attempt on goal after half an hour played, but it was a tame effort which was blocked solidly by Huth, eventually trickling comfortably into Schmeichel’s hands.
De Gea was forced to backtrack and deny Schlupp’s cross turned shot with not long remaining in the first-half, while Mahrez was perhaps unlucky not to have won a penalty after collecting the clearance, with Rojo having clumsily taken him down in the area. Though, his appeals were turned down before the midway break was reached.
Leicester threatening in second-half
After an epic first 45 minutes, Leicester went out in search for a decisive goal which would see them crowned champions in the second period, and Morgan almost added another instantly from a corner after overpowering Rojo again, but De Gea was up to the task his time.
Okazaki was deputising up front in place of the suspended Jamie Vardy and he came close to firing Leicester ahead, following a great run down the right flank and equally dangerous cross from Man Utd academy product Simpson.
Daley Blind and Chris Smalling were having to work hard to keep the supposedly depleted Leicester strikeforce at bay in the second-half, with Ulloa constantly causing trouble with his imposing presence and Okazaki finding pockets of space.
Drinkwater was having to tread carefully for the remainder of the encounter after picking up a cautioning for his rash challenge on Rashford, as the youngster stormed forward on the left wing, with Leicester holding strong as usual.
Steady build-up from Valencia and Martial saw Rooney receive the ball in space and, with the legendary Eric Cantona watching on in the crowd, the current captain audaciously tried to chip Schmeichel with an attempt reminiscent of the onlooking Frenchman’s famous 1996 lob. But it was without the same end product.
Tense finish at Old Trafford
The hosts thrust Spaniard Juan Mata into proceedings after the hour mark was reached, while Ranieri opted to swap Okazaki for rapid winger Demarai Gray, as the Old Trafford faithful became frustrated by their side being unable to emulate that freeflowing start to the previous half.
Fellaini, who could possibly face punishment for his elbow exploits in the first-half, was also taken off by Van Gaal and replaced by Spanish midfielder Ander Herrera, as United looked to earn a vital three points in their quest for a Champions League position.
A well-placed delivery from makeshift midfielder Rooney almost saw Smalling become an unlikely goalscoring hero, but the England defender could only header wide with 10 minutes to go on home soil.
Memphis Depay was Van Gaal’s last throw of the dice in the latter stages, but N’Golo Kante was performing gallantly in the middle to thwart attacks, while Drinkwater was given his marching orders in final five minutes for fouling the Dutchman as his side were held to a 1-1 draw.
Anything less than victory for Spurs on Monday night against Chelsea will see Leicester reign supreme this season, but Mauricio Pochettino’s Londoners are 8/5 with Coral to earn three points at Stamford Bridge.