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)

FOLLOW LIVE: Seattle v. Portland, ATLUTD v. DCU on a busy MLS Sunday

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Strap yourself in for a very busy Sunday of soccer, as four MLS games are set to consume your attention for the rest of the day.

[ FOLLOW: MLS scoreboard, for the next 7.5 hours ]

The day begins with Atlanta United hosting D.C. United in a 3-versus-2 matchup in the Eastern Conference, and ends with the Seattle Sounders hosting the Portland Timbers in arguably the biggest and best rivalry in MLS.

In between all that, a suddenly resurgent Orlando City SC hosts the New York Red Bulls, and FC Cincinnati hosts the red-hot (unbeaten in nine games) New England Revolution, in case you feel the need to cram a little more soccer into your afternoon/evening.

Sunday’s full MLS schedule

Atlanta United v. D.C. United — 4 p.m. ET
FC Cincinnati v. New England Revolution — 6 p.m. ET
Orlando City SC v. New York Red Bulls — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders v. Portland Timbers — 9:30 p.m. ET

Rumored Neymar for Bale swap: Who wins?

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Who would gain more of an advantage from the rumored, sensational Gareth Bale for Neymar swap: Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid?

Both players are currently problems for their clubs, though neither is known as a true rabble-rouser; Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane wants to be done with the newly-minted 30-year-old Bale, while PSG knows Neymar wants to leave and would love to satiate Kylian Mbappe’s appetite to be the man at their club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

Presumably some money would be headed PSG’s way in addition to Bale, and both clubs would be getting a motivated megawatt star.

Neymar doesn’t turn 28 until February, but the difference in age may be offset by the Brazilian’s track record of injuries.

In fact, his injury status last season combines with an off-field accusation of sexual assault and a red card for confronting a fan to overshadow his production: Neymar’s 23 goals and 13 assists in just over 2300 minutes last season, including five and two in the Champions League (and a goal and an assist against defensively-stout Liverpool).

Bale presents very few personality challenges, and PSG won’t have a problem with his massive wages (especially with Neymar off the books). His numbers have dipped in two of three seasons since his otherworldly 2015-16, but La Liga is a more difficult scoring league than Ligue 1.

Neymar has twice been a Ballon d’Or finalist and, presuming his legal troubles don’t persist, could be a title fight changer in La Liga. Imagine the Neymar, Eden Hazard, and Luka Jovic trying to outgun Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, and Luis Suarez? Insane.

We’d say Real would be winning the straight-up swap, and that it’s pretty unlikely to go down that way. So it depends what PSG does with the relative Financial Fair Play freedom that would come with the money that also arrives from Spain. Is it Idrissa Gana Gueye? Someone else who helps take PSG’s Champions League hopes to the next level?

Manchester United in ‘concrete talks’ with Lille over Pepe

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Manchester United are reportedly in “concrete talks” to agree a fee with Lille for much-tracked playmaker Nicolas Pepe.

The 24-year-old attacking midfielder has been linked with Liverpool and Arsenal amongst others, and Lille has admitted he’ll be leaving the club.

[ REPORT: Man Utd, Leicester agree Maguire fee ]

United’s reported salvo was around $87.5 million. He’d give them a star who could play across from Anthony Martial or as an attacking midfielder under Romelu Lukaku.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Teji Savanier garnered better season-long ratings than Pepe in the 2018-19 Ligue 1 campaign, and Pepe’s 22 goals and 11 assists stand out from the pack. Only Mbappe had more goals and only Savanier more assists.

Pepe has four goals in 11 caps for the Ivory Coast, and made three starts in Les Elephants’ five-match run at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. He’s a fit for the Premier League, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s system. And if the Red Devils can keep him from Liverpool, well, all the better we’re sure.

Report: Manchester United, Leicester agree to monster Maguire fee

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Manchester United and Leicester City have agreed a fee for Harry Maguire, clearing the way for the English center back to join the Old Trafford set.

That fee is a whopping $100 million, according to Bleacher Report’s Dean Jones. That’s about $4 million more than the world record for a defender, set when Liverpool purchased Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton.

[ MORE: USMNT CB to West Ham? ]

Maguire has been a statistical monster for Leicester City, and he passes the eye test, too.

Manchester United has needed to upgrade its stable of center backs for some time, and now the biggest question is who will work best alongside the 6-foot-4 26-year-old.

The former Sheffield United, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City defender is now 20-times capped by England.

The move could have a ripple effect on the Premier League, as the Foxes have been expected to bid for Burnley star James Tarkowski should Maguire leave the King Power Stadium.