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Van Persie treble hands Manchester United incredible Champions League comeback win over Olympiakos

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A sensational Robin van Persie hat trick gave Manchester United a 3-0 win over Olympiakos at Old Trafford on Wednesday night, as the Red Devils secured a stunning comeback victory to make it through to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League 3-2 on aggregate.

Trailing 2-0 from the first leg, United had a mountain to climb but RVP single-handedly cancelled out Olympiakos’ advantage with a penalty kick midway through the first half and then a cool finish right at the interval to make it 2-0. Those goals, especially the second, lifted the roof off of Old Trafford as the home fans believed a remarkable comeback was in the offing.

Five minutes after the break the incredible turnaround was complete, as RVP curled a free kick from 25-yards around the wall to wrong-foot Olympiakos ‘keeper Roberto and put United 3-0 up. Late on Olympiakos pushed for a goal that would’ve put them through on away goals, but United held on to seal a memorable win which sees them advance to the last eight for the first time since they reached the final in 2010-2011.

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Manchester United started nervously as Olympiakos whipped in some great crosses from the left that United eventually cleared, as tension began to build  early at Old Trafford.

In the 6th minute Rooney had United’s first effort of the game, as his bending free kick was acrobatically punched away by Roberto, then shortly after Robin van Persie had a half chance. After that the game went into a scrappy period as first Kostas Manolas was booked, then Antonio Valencia was involved in a clash of heads with Joel Campbell and when he got up the Ecuadorian was scythed down by Alejandro Dominguez who was also shown a yellow card. Shortly after Michael Carrick also got a yellow, as a real blood and thunder affair played out under the floodlights.

source: Getty Images
RVP bags his first goal from the penalty spot, as United’s Dutch striker came to the rescue.

Olympiakos had a gilt-edge chance to go 3-0 ahead on aggregate in the 15th minute, as Joel Campbell bamboozled Phil Jones then pulled the ball back to Perez… but he ballooned his effort over from six yards out. In the 17th minute Rooney then headed towards goal but Olympiakos ‘keeper Roberto tipped the ball onto the post and away to safety.

Then in the 23rd minute United were awarded a penalty, as RVP was nudged in the back by Jose Holebas and referee Björn Kuipers pointed to the spot. Van Persie stepped up and slammed home the penalty kick to put United 1-0 up, as the home fans started to dream of a monumental comeback. Just before the half hour Olympiakos whipped in a dangerous ball from the right which Carrick somehow managed to hook clear from danger, as the away side came back into the match before the interval.

Before the break United pushed to level the score up on aggregate, as Patrice Evra’s header was brilliantly clawed out of the top corner by Roberto. But right on half time RVP scored his and United’s second of the match to send Old Trafford wild. A beautiful chipped ball from Carrick found Rooney, and the Englishman found his strike partner RVP to slot home a cool finish as Old Trafford erupted just with United 2-0 ahead.

It took just six minutes after the interval for RVP to smash in a free kick from the edge of the box to make it 3-0 on the night,  giving the Dutchman a hat trick, as the Red Devils were battering Olympiakos and were in front for the first time in the tie. The Greek side tried to regroup but United looked comfortable defensively as a long-range effort from Dominguez flew over the bar. However inevitable tension began to build amongst the home fans as the clock ticked down in Manchester.

Despite pulverizing their opponents, United were stuck in a excruciating stick-or-twist situation as they held off from attacking but invited pressure from Olympiakos. David Fuster has a shot well saved by David De Gea, as Olympiakos chucked the kitchen sink at United in the closing stages with plenty of nervy moments for the home fans to endure.

With Moyes ferociously gesticulating from the technical area and spurring his team on, United sucked all the energy out of the game. However that nouse, coupled with RVP’s sensational display, was enough to seal their passage into the last eight of the Champions League, after a night that will live long in the memory.

Good times are back at Old Trafford, for now.

LINEUPS

Manchester United: De Gea; Rafael, Jones, Ferdinand, Evra; Valencia (Young, 77′), Carrick, Giggs, Welbeck (Fletcher, 81′); Rooney, van Persie (Fellaini, 89′)

Goals: Van Persie (23′, 45′, 51′)

Olympiakos: Roberto, Maniatis, Holebas, Manolas, Marcano, Leandro Salino (Machado, 74′), N’Dinga, Perez (Valdez, 57′), Fuster (Vergos, 82′), Campbell, Dominguez

Player ratings from Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City: Who shone in title clash?

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It was pulsating. It was crazy. It could prove to be a decisive moment in the Premier League title race.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Arsenal’s last-gasp 2-1 win over 10-man Leicester City came after Jamie Vardy had controversially given the Foxes the lead, but subs Theo Walcott and then Danny Welbeck with the final attack of the game cut Leicester’s lead at the top of the PL to two points as the Gunners grabbed a huge win.

[ MORE: Welbeck reacts to heroics ]

Here’s a look at how each player fared on Sunday in what could prove to be a pivotal result as the title race has been blown wide open.


Arsenal

Petr Cech – 7 – Good stop down low from Vardy early on and commanded his box well. Hardly troubled in second half.

Hector Bellerin – 6 – Not as enterprising as usual in attack but very disciplined.

Per Mertesacker – 6 – Did okay. Fears about Vardy exposing his pace unfounded. Hardly tested when Leicester went down to 10.

Laurent Koscielny – 5 – Clattered into Kante in build up to Leicester’s goal. Came off at half time with an injury.

Nacho Monreal – 5 – Gave away the PK and although unlucky he got himself in a bad spot. Could’ve conceded another in second half too.

Francis Coquelin – 6 – Typical workmanlike display from the French midfielder. Tried his best to control Kante.

Aaron Ramsey – 6 -Missed several chances but kept on pouring forward. Needs to improve finishing. Big time.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6 – Gave Leicester so many issues early on but faded as the game wore on.

Mesut Ozil – 6 – Yeah, he was going to get a 5 but that ball in for Welbeck’s equalizer was majestic. None of his flicks came off today.

Alexis Sanchez – 6 – Looked a little tired but kept on trucking. Leicester doubled up on him every time he got the ball. His pace got Simpson sent off.

Olivier Giroud – 8 – Didn’t score and had three or four half chances with headers but his knockdown for Walcott’s goal was sublime and not easy to negotiate Huth and Morgan on your own.

Subs: Calum Chambers (On for Koscielny, 45′ – 6 – Steady outing for the young center back), Theo Walcott (On for Coquelin, 61′ – 7 – Added pace which Leicester couldn’t handle. Good finish for the goal), Danny Welbeck (On for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 83′ – 7 – After nine months out, what a return. Glancing header won it for the Gunners)


Leicester City

Kasper Schmeichel – 7 – Made some tremendous saves, especially from Giroud in the second half.

Danny Simpson – 3 – Silly two yellows at the start of the second half as Simpson couldn’t handle Sanchez’s pace. Cost his team dear.

Robert Huth – 6 – Typically robust display. Cleared and blocked whatever he could.

Wes Morgan – 6 – See above. Will be disappointed the defense didn’t mark Welbeck tighter for the winner though.

Christian Fuchs – 5 – Had a bit of a nightmare early on and although he recovered the Gunners always looked dangerous down his flank.

N'Golo Kante – 9 – This guy was everywhere. Didn’t deserve to be on the losing team. Only Leicester man with energy to get up and support Vardy in second half.

Danny Drinkwater – 6 – Put in a shift but became overrun in second half.

Riyad Mahrez – 6 – Was causing problems and could have had a penalty kick in the second half. He was taken off but probably should have stayed on.

Marc Albrighton – 5 – Clipped in one good ball for Vardy early on and that was about it.

Shinji Okazaki – 5 – Plenty of running but didn’t get involved in the game. Had one chance in first half he fired over but flagged offside. He was onside by a yard though…

Jamie Vardy – 6 – Hmm. He scored the penalty kick which he won by dragging his leg into Monreal’s. No place for diving in the game. That said, forced Cech into a good save and looked sharp. Ran out of energy in the second half as the lone forward.

Subs: Marcin Wasilewski (On for Mahrez, 58′ – 4 – Did okay until he gave away a silly free kick right at the end which Arsenal scored from), Demarai Gray (On for OKazaki, 61′ – 5 – Added some pace on the break and one vital interception in defense), Andy King (On for Albrighton, 83′ – 5 – Didn’t have time to make a real impact)

Welbeck’s Arsenal heroics complete “roller coaster” ride; Walcott proud

during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium.
Michael Regan / Getty Images Sport
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Danny Welbeck hadn’t played for Arsenal in 10 months. It took him 12 minutes to score a goal that could live in Gunners’ history.

[ WATCH: The incredible late winner at the Emirates ]

Welbeck’s headed turn of a Mesut Ozil free kick deep into stoppage time lifted the Gunners to within two points of the Premier League’s first slot in a 2-1 win over Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

A September setback meant knee surgery for Welbeck, and an even longer spell on the sidelines for the embattled Englishman.

All that helped Sunday’s goal felt even more massive.

From Sky Sports:

“Dying seconds, we kept pushing, had chance after chance. I missed the first opportunity and tried to make amends. It is important and the most important thing is to get the win. It has been a roller-coaster for me, a difficult moment and my family and friends know what I have been through.

Welbeck’s Arsenal and England teammate Theo Walcott, who scored the Gunners’ other goal, was pretty happy for his striker.

“This man hasn’t played for nine months and to get into the mix like that, special players come into into big games. That could be massive.”

He said it. Could Arsenal’s Manchester United import be the man who scored the biggest goal of a title run?

VIDEO: Watch Welbeck score incredible late winner for Arsenal

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Danny Welbeck is now an Arsenal legend.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The England international hasn’t featured in a Premier League game since last April due to injury and came on for the final stages with Arsenal and Leicester drawing 1-1.

Then, this happened.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 2-1 Leicester – Gunners snatch win ]

In the 95th minute Mesut Ozil whipped in an inch-perfect cross and Welbeck glanced home to sent the Emirates wild.

Click play on the video above to relive what will go down as perhaps the moment of the season so far with Leicester’s lead at the top of the Premier League now cut to just two points and Arsenal breathing down their necks.

Scenes at the Emirates. Scenes.

Three things we learned from Arsenal’s dramatic late win vs. Leicester City

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On Sunday Arsenal beat Leicester City 2-1 at the Emirates Stadium with Danny Welbeck‘s stunning stoppage time winner sealing a massive win for the Gunners and reducing Leicester’s lead at the top to just two points.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

After Jamie Vardy had given Leicester a controversial lead via a penalty kick he won, a red card for Danny Simpson early in the second half turned the tide of this match and Theo Walcott‘s equalizer set up the dramatic finale Welbeck delivered.

Stunning. Here’s what we learned from a sensational clash in north London.

GUNNERS GRIND OUT

They did it. They actually did it. So many times in the past Arsenal have been in this situation at a crucial time of the season and they’ve blown it. Not on Sunday.

On Valentine’s Day the Gunners broke the hearts of Leicester’s fans with Welbeck glancing a header into the far corner with the final attack of the game. It was what Arsenal deserved as they forced the issue from the start and were unlucky to go behind after Vardy’s skulduggery to win and then score a penalty kick. Wenger made the right subs at the right time with both Walcott and Welbeck jumping off the bench to net huge goals in what is a pivotal 10-day spell. Heading into a two-week break in the Premier League calendar, the momentum is now with Arsenal and Leicester’s hearts will be heavy instead of fluttering. Moments like Welbeck’s 95th minute are exactly why you end up winning the PL title. True champions have a never say die attitude and despite missing chances and coming up against an in-form Kasper Schmeichel, the Gunners dug deep and ground what could be a season defining win. They still remain two points off first-place Leicester but it is surely now advantage Arsenal in the title race.


DIVING VARDY SUCKS ARSENAL IN

The major moment which shaped this game arrived in the 44th minute. It all started on the edge of Leicester’s own box — as does most of their best attacking play — as Ozil looked to be clearly fouled by Wes Morgan but referee Martin Atkinson waved played on and Arsenal’s player hesitated for a second too long. The brilliant N'Golo Kante (more on him below) broke free down the right and Laurent Koscielny fouled him but Atkinson waved play on. Jamie Vardy then latched onto the ball and suckered both Nacho Monreal and Atkinson in as he flicked the ball past the Arsenal left back and dragged his left leg into Monreal’s body. Call it what you want: clever, cheating. Vardy knew what he was doing and it’s not the first time he’s done it this season.

He slammed home the spot kick to make it 1-0 and although you could fault Monreal for initially sticking his leg out, Vardy looked to go over. The crux of this debate should revolve around why no free kick was given for Morgan clambering over Ozil. That would have stopped the trademark lightning-quick counter that has become the lifeblood of Leciester’s remarkable rise to the top of the PL this season. Riyad Mahrez went down in the opening five minutes of the second half in a similar fashion as he bamboozled Monreal with his slick moves and felt a clip on his knee so went down. Atkinson didn’t fall for it this time.

Walcott equalized and Welbeck grabbed the dagger in Leicester’s heart at the end and perhaps it was what the Foxes deserved after the way they took the lead. Vardy dived. Justice prevailed.


KANTE MAKES FOXES TICK

N’Golo Kante didn’t deserve to be on the losing team. He is not a holding midfielder. He is a machine. Kante had 47 touches in the first half and was absolutely all over the pitch. He broke down Arsenal’s attacks and after Christian Fuchs struggled to cope with the pace of both Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin early on, Kante shuffled over and shut down the left flank. He is the undisputed heartbeat of Leicester’s team. Sure, Vardy provides the pace and Mahrez the trickery but the industry and grit comes from the tiny midfielder signed from Caen in the summer for what now looks like a paltry $8 million. Even when Leicester were reduced to 10-men he was the driving force, the only man who could had the energy to get on the ball and drive forward in support of Vardy. It was a monumental display from the man who was plying his trade in the lower tiers of French soccer until recently. Now, he looks like one of the most complete central midfielders in the PL.