Three things we learned from Leicester vs. West Ham

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LEICESTER, England — The Foxes thought they had it. Then this dramatic fairytale took a dark turn… then they had it again.

[ VIDEO: Did Moss get it right? ]

Leicester City and West Ham United drew 2-2 at the King Power Stadium on Sunday — Leicester are eight points clear of second-place Tottenham who play on Monday — as a second half filled with drama ensued.

[ MORE: Carroll talks to NBC’s crew

Here’s what we learned from a crazy encounter the King Power.


VARDY PARTY CONTINUES… JUST

Jamie Vardy, 29, has been the hero so many times this season for Leicester. On Sunday it seemed like that would once again be the case as he latched onto N'Golo Kante‘s pass in the first half following a breakaway and smashed home to join Harry Kane as the leading goalscorer in the PL.

[ MORE: Vardy to get extra ban? ]

In the first half Vardy was booked for a late but not malicious challenge on Cheikhou Kouyate and then this happened with over 30 minutes to go.

There’s no debate about this. Referee Jon Moss got the call spot on. Look at the video above. Vardy not once, but twice has a look to his right and can see the defender coming. He intentionally drags his legs into the defender and goes down. It was a great decision and Vardy had suddenly turned into the villain. He was applauded off the pitch but Leicester’s supporters will be without him for the game with Swansea City next weekend as the one-game suspension for two yellow cards cannot be appealed. He may also miss more games if it is proven he swore at Moss on his way off the pitch.

Vardy looked as if he would be the ultimate villain as West Ham United scored twice through Andy Carroll and Aaron Cresswell but then Leonardo Ulloa‘s spot kick got him out of jail. It is hard to criticize Vardy because he’s the main reason Leicester is in this incredible position with four games to go. However, there was no need for him to take a tumble in the box. Had Leicester lost, the Vardy Party would have lost some momentum. After this dramatic finish, it’s still going strong.

DIVINE INTERVENTION AT PLAY

With the first attack of the game West Ham should have been ahead. Then, as it seems to have done for most of this season, divine intervention saved Leicester.

Kouyate’s header from Dimitri Payet‘s free kick flew off him at an awkward angle and looked destined for the top corner. Kasper Schmeichel somehow got a slight fingertip on the ball and it hit the post. The ball then preceded to roll across the line, hit the other post and roll back into Schmeichel’s arms. For a moment the King Power stood silent. What had we all just witnessed?

[ MORE: Ranieri hails “soul, heart” of players ]

Those saying luck has been on Leicester’s side this season are scoffed at. Yet along with the sensational consistency of their players, Claudio Ranieri‘s experience and the faltering of the perennial title challengers, luck has played a big part in this run.

In the last three games alone you can point to pivotal moments going in their favor and lady luck seeming to shine down on the Foxes as they look to seal one of the greatest stories in sporting history. Against Southampton a few handball decisions in the box went their way and against Sunderland Jack Rodwell somehow skied an effort at a pivotal moment.

Then, just when it looked like they would lose for just the second time at home this season to throw a spanner in the works of their title hopes — with Spurs potentially going just four points behind them with four games to go — Moss awarded them a penalty for Carroll’s nudge on Jeffrey Schlupp. Ulloa scored the spot kick to make it 2-2 and the King Power erupted. Suddenly all was not lost for Leicester and lady luck had intervened again.

Greater powers are at work pushing Leicester towards this title. The opening shot of the game and the last action points to as much.

MOSS BUCKLES UNDER PRESSURE

After sending off Vardy and awarding West Ham a penalty kick, Jon Moss was the most hated man not only in the King Power Stadium but of every Leicester fan in the world.

He got Vardy’s red card and West Ham’s penalty decision correct but when it came to the penalty kick for Leicester in stoppage time, he didn’t get it right. It seemed like Moss buckled under the pressure and the ferocious abuse being chucked his way by the home fans. In the process he cost West Ham a crucial three points in their battle to finish in the top four.

Carroll did not need to make the challenge but he looked to have shouldered Schlupp who went down easily. Moss evened things up. Nobody wants to be remembered as the referee who cost Leicester the title and even though Moss was booed by the entire stadium at the final whistle, Leicester’s fans will be thanking him for snatching them back a point to keep them eight points ahead of Spurs who play at Stoke City on Monday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra)

Charlotte MLS club files trademarks for eight potential names

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It is being heavily reported that Charlotte is the next city to earn a club in the rapidly expanding Major League Soccer landscape, and Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper has taken the next step towards that possibility.

The new club needs a name, and they appear to be nearing a selection. Tepper filed for eight different name trademarks, according to multiple reports, including The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue who confirmed the filings were made under Tepper’s Panthers address.

Here is the list of names he filed copyright requests for:

“Charlotte FC” would be a bare-bones and generic name that follows in the footsteps of recent MLS expansion clubs such as Orlando City SC, NYCFC or LAFC. Others are a little more colorful, including “Carolina Gliders FC” or “Charlotte Monarchs FC,” while a few others like “Charlotte Town FC” or “Charlotte Athletic FC” clearly call forth thoughts of smaller English clubs.

Rodrigue speculated that the relative lack of “Carolina” encompassing names is potentially due to the possibility of an expansion bid from Raleigh down the road, and a Carolina team would potentially provide an unnecessary roadblock to that future prospect. There is a clear lack of region-encompassing names in Major League Soccer, with “New England Revolution” the only example, and there’s no real reason to break that mold with another potential bid city down the road.

Which name is your favorite? What would you have gone with if you could name the club?

LIVE, UCL: Two knockout spots remain; Man City, Tottenham in play

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Two more spots in the knockout round remain unclaimed as the final day of group stage play begins on Wednesday.

Groups C and D both require a second team to progress through to the Round of 16, with five teams still in the mix.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

Manchester City has already won Group D, but the remaining three teams Shakhtar Donetsk, Dinamo Zagreb, and Atalanta all remain in contention for the second spot. Shakhtar currently sits second and has a home match with Atalanta, while Dinamo Zagreb host Man City in Croatia. Both those games feature in the early 12:55 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Group D, meanwhile, has a pair of sides vying for the last spot. Atletico Madrid has a point advantage, currently sitting in second with a home match against already eliminated Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow. Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, hosts group winners Juventus in Germany.

Elsewhere, Tottenham Hotspur has already locked up a spot in the knockout stage, locked into the second spot in Group A, and they finish out the group stage with a visit to confirmed group winners Bayern Munich. Jose Mourinho told the press he forbid his players from watching any footage of the 7-2 defeat to Bayern to begin group stage play, and is resting “a few players” ahead of the festive Premier League fixtures.

Finally, Group A has already been decided with Real Madrid confirmed to finish second behind winners Paris Saint-Germain, but the two still have to complete the fixture list. Madrid heads to Belgium to take on Club Brugge, while PSG hosts Galatasaray. The Spanish side is most likely to rest players, with a weekend visit to Valencia coming up on Sunday followed by a midweek El Clasico that was rescheduled from earlier in the season.

Below is the full schedule for the last UCL games on Wednesday, with all games kicking off at 3 p.m. ET unless otherwise noted, and you can follow the action live by clicking on the link above.


Wednesday Champions League action

Group A

Club Brugge v. Real Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v. Galatasaray

Group B

Bayern Munich v. Tottenham Hotspur
Olympiakos v. Red Star Belgrade

Group C

Dinamo Zagreb v. Manchester City (12:55 p.m. ET)
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Atalanta (12:55 p.m. ET)

Group D

Atletico Madrid v. Lokomotiv Moscow
Bayer Leverkusen v. Juventus

Late goalkeeper strike seals knockout spot in UEFA Youth League

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Club Brugge goalkeeper Senne Lammens may just be 17 years old, but he just lived every goalkeeper’s dream: to score a dramatic equalizer in the dying seconds of a game to send the club through to a European competition’s knockout stage.

The young goalkeeper came forward on a corner in the 94th minute of a game against Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League Wednesday morning in Belgium. With the visitors leading 2-1 and added time just about expired, Brugge needed to score an equalizer to secure passage to the knockout stage, lest they be left at the mercy of Galatasaray’s match against PSG.

Lammens delivered. The corner swung in to the top of the six-yard box and the youngster was on hand to head home a pinpoint effort inside the far post.

The header was quite literally the last act of the game, with stoppage time already creeping more than 60 seconds past the minimum three added minutes.

Lammens has shuttled back and forth between the youth squad and the senior squad this season serving occasionally as an emergency third goalkeeper behind Simon Mignolet and Ethan Horvath. Mostly, though, he’s been with the youth squad appearing in five of their six UEFA Youth League games, with three wins and a draw.

Report: Arsenal not interested in Ancelotti “profile”

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According to The Athletic reporter David Ornstein, Arsenal is not interested in a manager of Carlo Ancelotti’s “profile.”

The Italian was recently let go by Napoli after a disappointing first half of the season despite qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage.

Ancelotti has won a Premier League title, three Champions League titles, and a Scudetto during his career but apparently a manager with his resume does not interest the Gunners, who may be looking for a more youthful boss with a longer-term strategy and potentially stronger club or domestic ties.

At 60 years old, Ancelotti has been fired from posts at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, and now Napoli over the last four years. Over those four seasons, he has just one league title, the 2016/17 Bundesliga crown he won with Bayern in runaway fashion, and has exceeded expectations in very limited capacities, instead seeing things turn sour at each job relatively quickly. This season at Napoli, the club sits seventh in the Serie A table, mired in a horrible seven-match winless run that has seen them tumble further from the Champions League places.

Ornstein’s report also touched on the timeline of a potential hire, with the club apparently still deciding on whether to see out the season with interim manager Freddie Ljungberg or make a mid-season appointment. He states that the club “want situation settled asap” but also prefer “right man over quick decision.” He does not identify who the number one target is, but suggests that if that person is available at this point in time, they will make the hire mid-season, otherwise there will be a waiting game.