London: Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers is hoping Jamie Vardy’s late equaliser to salvage a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Tuesday will prove a turning point as the ‘Foxes’ try to cling on to a place in the Premier League top four.
Rodgers’s men have now won only once in six games since the English season restarted last month, but made the most of Eddie Nketiah’s red card 15 minutes from time at the Emirates.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s strike gave the Gunners a well-deserved first-half lead, but Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal ensured Arsenal failed to add to their advantage.
And after Nketiah saw red, Vardy slotted home from Demarai Gray’s cross to open up a four-point lead on fifth-placed Manchester United, who travel to Aston Villa on Thursday.
“I think it’s huge for us,” said Rodgers. “The second half we were outstanding. We were much quicker in our play and even 11 v 11 we were the better team.
“I was really pleased with how we managed 11 vs 10. We got a deserved goal and if we had made the final pass we could have gone on and won the game. We take a point and it could be a very important point for us.”
Arsenal’s own chances of a top-four finish appear gone as they remain nine points adrift in seventh.
But after a poor start to the restart with back-to-back defeats at Manchester City and Brighton, there were more promising signs from Mikel Arteta’s men as his reign at the Emirates begins to take shape.
“We lost two points today that in my opinion we completely deserved,” said Arteta. “You can see the effort, intensity, and desire the players are putting in. I am extremely proud.
“You have to learn, when you play against this opposition you have to kill them.”
Bukayo Saka has flourished since Arteta replaced Unai Emery in December and the 18-year-old was again at the heart of an excellent first 45 minutes from Arsenal.
Saka created the opening goal as he latched onto a defence-splitting pass from the outstanding Dani Ceballos and teased Jonny Evans into falling over his own feet before laying Aubameyang’s 20th Premier League goal of the season on a plate.
But for Schmeichel in the Leicester goal, the hosts would have been out of sight before half-time as the Danish number one produced an incredible low save to deny Alexandre Lacazette in between further smart stops from the French striker and Saka.
Arsenal were far less potent as an attacking force after the break, but Lacazette’s frustrating night in front of goal was rounded off when he did turn in from David Luiz’s flick-on only to be flagged offside.
Seconds after Lacazette was replaced by Nketiah, the Gunners were down to 10 when the young striker’s late lunge on James Justin was deemed worthy of a red card by referee Chris Kavanagh after he came to the side of the pitch to review the incident.
Rodgers immediately threw on an extra attacking option in Gray and his cross was the service Vardy had been seeking all night as turned home to regain his two-goal advantage over Aubameyang in the race for the Golden Boot.