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Three things we learned from Leicester vs. Arsenal

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Leicester City and Arsenal drew 0-0 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday as the top two teams from last season canceled each other out.

The game sprung into life in the final stages with Petr Cech denying Riyad Mahrez with a great stop and Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud adding extra impetus to Arsenal’s attack late on but neither team could find a way through as contentious calls stole the show instead.

Here’s what we learned from a tight, cagey encounter at the KP.


CONTENTIOUS CALLS

Referee Mark Clattenburg took center stage on Saturday surrounding multiple missed PK calls, red card controversy and more. It was not an easy afternoon for one of the top refs in the game who officiated the UEFA Champions League and EURO 2016 final this summer.

He did get the big decision in the first half correct as Danny Drinkwater looked to have been fouled in the box by Laurent Koscielny with Cech off his line. However, given the luxury of seeing several replays, Clattenburg got it spot on. You can clearly see from Koscielny’s tackle that he got a toe on the ball and the fact that the direction of the ball moved away from where Drinkwater was running says it all. Great call from Clattenburg.

What wasn’t great was that first he allowed Francis Coquelin to stay on the pitch and then somehow he didn’t award Leicester a penalty in the 90th minute.

When it comes to Coquelin, he had been shown a yellow card in the first half and then at the start of the second half the Frenchman clattered into Mahrez but somehow survived not getting a second yellow. The more contentious and perhaps pivotal call was Clattenburg not awarding a PK to Leicester after substitute Ahmed Musa raced into the box and clearly — I mean, clearly — had his heels clipped by Hector Bellerin.

Clattenburg had a great view of the incident and there’s no way that wasn’t a penalty kick. Those are the kind of decisions which seemed to go Leicester’s way so much on their march to the PL trophy last season. Luck was not with them on Saturday.


KOSCIELNY KEY

Koscielny was a monster at the heart of Arsenal’s defense. The French national team center back returned for the Gunners after his extended break following EURO 2016 and he skippered the team and led by example.

In the first half a point of contention arose surrounding his last-ditch tackle on Drinkwater in the box and on first viewing it looked like Koscielny had got it wrong. However, he didn’t put a foot wrong all game long and on a second and third viewing it was clear he got a toe on the ball just before Drinkwater. Sublime defending.

In the 69th minute Jamie Vardy raced clear and Koscielny cut off the angle expertly and even if he knew he couldn’t get to Vardy he made sure he wasn’t going to get a clear shot on goal. Youngster Rob Holding looked more assured to have Koscielny’s experience alongside him and Arsenal’s entire back line seemed to be back at ease after their horror show against Liverpool last weekend. Koscielny’s stock has risen considerably over the last few weeks and after Saturday’s display it underlines just how important he is to the Gunners.

Two other players returned to action for Arsenal following their EURO 20016 exertions as Mesut Ozil slotted back in seamlessly and Olivier Giroud made good runs but wasn’t found by his teammates. For all the doom and gloom which surrounded Arsenal following their opening weekend defeat against Liverpool, you have to remind yourself that when everyone is fit and available, they have a heck of a squad… even if they need to buy one more center back and a central striker.


SOLID LEICESTER RETURNS

With Robert Huth back at the heart of Leicester’s defense the reigning champs looked more solid defensively than they had been in his absence away at Hull City while he served the remaining game of his three-match ban.

Overall there was a better organization about the Foxes with Nampalys Mendy and Drinkwater providing a solid screen in front of the back four and the only time Leicester really looked like being unlocked was when Mendy hobbled off in the second half and Ozil arrived with his weaving runs.

At the heart of Leicester’s defense, Huth and Wes Morgan just understand each other and they always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. In the first half Alexis Sanchez slotted in Bellerin and as he raced into the box Huth fell down. But, who was there to block Bellerin’s cross and clear the danger? Yep, you guessed it. Morgan.

Claudio Ranieri lamented his Leicester side in their shock defeat at Hull on the opening day for not playing with togetherness. In front of a fired up home crowd, who still seemed to be in a celebratory mood from last season’s incredible title run, Ranieri couldn’t accuse his team of lacking togetherness against Arsenal. This was more like the old Leicester from last season in that on their way to winning the title, even when they didn’t win games they didn’t look like beating themselves either.

If they can stay solid at the back then Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Co. will still score plenty this season to keep this journey going.

FA Cup roundup: West Ham bounced; Sheff Utd, Norwich advance (video)

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round (early) action…

[ MORE: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

West Ham United 0-1 West Bromwich Albion

West Ham were the lone Premier League side to be knocked out by a lower-division side on Saturday, as David Moyes‘ side failed to find the back of the net and were beaten 1-0 by EFL Championship leaders West Brom.

Conor Townsend scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and though the Hammers controlled possession the rest of the way, they created very little in terms of scoring chances and finished the game with just three shots on target. West Brom finished the game with 10 men, but West Ham could do nothing with their 18-minute advantage following Semi Ajayi‘s second yellow card in the 72nd minute.

Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United

Sheffield United’s dream season continued with a comfortable 2-0 victory away to Championship side Millwall. Both goals came inside the final half-hour, but the Blades were unquestionably the better side even before breaking the deadlock.

That came in the 62nd minute, when Muhamed Besic placed a stunning curler inside the far post for 1-0. Not long before full-time, in the 84th, Oliver Norwood drove his effort hard and low and into the corner to make it 2-0.

Burnley 1-2 Norwich City

Norwich and Burnley were largely inseparable for the majority of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor, save for a four-minute period early in the second half in which Norwich scored twice and booked their place in the fifth round.

Grant Hanley made it 1-0 in the 53rd and Josip Drmic added to the advantage in the 57th minute. Erik Pieters pulled Burnley back to within a goal in the 73rd, but that’s as close as the Clarets would get.

FA Cup fourth-round scoreboard

Southampton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur — FULL RECAP
Newcastle United 0-0 Oxford United
Portsmouth 4-2 Barnsley
Coventry City 0-0 Birmingham City
Reading 1-1 Cardiff City

RB Leipzig beaten, Bundesliga title race thrown wide open

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BERLIN (AP) Eintracht Frankfurt defeated Bundesliga leader RB Leipzig 2-0 to throw the title race wide open on Saturday.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Frankfurt defender Almamy Toure scored a brilliant goal just after the break and Filip Kostic sealed the win in injury time to deal Leipzig its first defeat since a 2-1 loss at home to Freiburg in October.

Borussia Monchengladbach cut the gap at the top to two points with a 3-1 win at home over Mainz, thanks largely to goals in each half from French striker Alassane Plea.

Bayern Munich has the chance to cut the gap to one point with a win at home over Schalke in the late game.

[ FA CUP: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay ]

Borussia Dortmund is just four points off the top after its 5-1 win over Cologne on Friday.

Also Saturday, Union Berlin defeated Augsburg 2-0 at home, Hertha Berlin came from behind to win 2-1 at Wolfsburg, and Paderborn moved off the bottom with a 2-0 win at Freiburg.

FA Cup: Saints hit Spurs late to force 4th-round replay

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Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur played to a virtual stand-still for nearly 60 minutes before Jose Mourinho’s side broke through with a moment of true quality from Son Heung-min and Giovani Lo Celso, but finished right back where they started after Saints hit back late to force a replay in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

[ MORE: Report: Spurs, Inter close to deal for Christian Eriksen ]

Prior to that, Lo Celso put the ball in the back of the net and briefly thought it was he who had put Spurs ahead, but the Argentine was denied his third Spurs goal on the basis that the ball hit Son on its way through traffic, and the South Korean was in an offside position.

Spurs’ best chance of the first half chance came and went just minutes later, with Lucas Moura in disbelief and Angus Gunn the hero of the moment. Dele Alli played Lucas into open space inside the penalty area and, with the goal gaping to Gunn’s left and right, Lucas looked to place his right-footed shot inside the far post. Gunn was up to the challenge, though, and pulled off a sensational left-footed save from close range.

Seconds later, Saints had a surefire scoring chance and were denied in equally spectacular fashion. Danny Ings used his chest to control a free kick into the box and looped it goal-bound over the head of Hugo Lloris, only for Japhet Tanganga to make the last-second headed clearance in front of an open net.

[ MORE: Mourinho in favor of PL’s winter break, but says timing all wrong ]

Saints were the first to go ever so close to a goal in the second half. Michael Obafemi crossed from the right side and found Ings inside the six-yard box, where he redirected the ball ever so slightly, but not enough, to send it inches wide of Lloris’ right-hand post.

Following a spell that was all Saints to start the second half, Spurs broke the deadlock through Son in the 58th minute. Lo Celso drove through the heart of Southampton’s midfield before playing the ball to Son near the top of the 18-yard box. He took a touch to set up the shot and fired a left-footed arrow inside the far post.

The lead lasted just shy of 30 minutes, close but not quite over the finish line. With 87 minutes on the clock and a full head of steam over the preceding quarter-hour, Southampton got their hugely deserved equalizer. Sofiane Boufal arrived near the top of the box as Ings’ cut-back ball arrived and the Moroccan international hammered it home.

The two sides will meet again for their fourth-round replay in two weeks at the Tottenham Hotspur. The draw for the fifth round will be held on Monday at 2:20 p.m. ET, prior to kickoff of Bournemouth v. Arsenal.

LIVE, FA Cup 4th round: Spurs visit Southampton in all-PL tie

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The fourth round of the FA Cup is set to get into full swing at 10 a.m. ET, with eight ties kicking off simultaneously, including a pair of all-Premier League clashes.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Southampton host Tottenham Hotspur in the premier matchup of the time slot, with Jose Mourinho desperate for Cup success amid a difficult run of results at Tottenham. Elsewhere, Burnley will host Norwich City at Turf Moor. Fellow PL sides West Ham United, Newcastle United and Sheffield United are also in action.

Check the schedule of fixtures below, and hit the link above to follow along with the scores and results. As always, check back on PST for recaps and a roundup of all the action.

Saturday’s FA Cup schedule (all games at 10 a.m. ET, unless otherwise noted)

Southampton v. Tottenham Hotspur
Burnley v. Norwich City
West Ham United
v. West Bromwich Albion
Newcastle United v. Oxford United
Millwall v. Sheffield United
Portsmouth v. Barnsley
Coventry City v. Birmingham City
Reading v. Cardiff City
Hull City v. Chelsea — 12:30 p.m. ET