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Walsall 0 – 1 Leicester City

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Walsall 0 - 1 Leicester City

Walsall 0 – 1 Leicester City. Kelechi Iheanacho’s fortuitous second-half strike broke the resistance of League Two Walsall and sent Leicester into the FA Cup fifth round.

After Youri Tielemans had missed a penalty on a testing afternoon for a strong Foxes side, Iheanacho’s effort from the edge of the box deflected off Brandon Comley and looped over Saddlers goalkeeper Owen Evans in the 68th minute.

It was the Nigeria international’s 17th goal in 23 FA Cup appearances – the most by any player since Iheanacho made his debut in the competition in 2016.

Walsall, one of the form sides in League Two, had defended admirably against the 2021 Cup winners, cheered on by a capacity crowd at a sold-out Bescot Stadium.

Evans made a series of smart saves while Tielemans struck the post with his spot-kick moments after half-time, after Patson Daka was fouled by Isaac Hutchinson.

A point-blank stop from Evans denied Iheanacho a second in the final 10 minutes and kept an entertaining tie alive until the finish, but Leicester held firm for a much-needed Cup win amid their struggles in the Premier League.

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On paper this tie had the makings of an FA Cup upset – a Premier League team without a league win in five games, visiting an in-form fourth-tier side who had won nine of their last 12 games in a charged-up atmosphere.

Walsall made the game a contest from the opening seconds by charging out of the blocks to close down the Leicester defenders. At the end their fans applauded the players from the field despite the scoreline.

Leicester, whose team included James Maddison for his first start since the World Cup and a debut off the bench for £17m signing Victor Kristiansen, had been made to work.

For more than an hour it looked as though wastefulness in the first half, from Daka in particular, and Tielemans’ miss would cost Leicester despite domination of the ball.

When needed, Walsall’s defenders had thrown themselves to block shots while Evans’ double save from Tielemans and Daka was particularly impressive.

Unfortunately for the Saddlers, it was one of those blocks which proved crucial – Comley a little too slow to close down substitute Iheanacho.

It resulted in the Foxes’ second successive 1-0 win against League Two opposition in the FA Cup this season.

Iheanacho, a man fast becoming an FA Cup specialist, has scored the winner on both occasions.

Walsall manager Michael Flynn, who led Newport to a Cup upset against Leicester in 2019, admitted he was frustrated at the manner of the winning goal.

“I am a very proud manager of the players – not just the performance but their application throughout the week,” he said.

“You almost wish they scored the penalty and not the deflected goal. It happens. I am sure we will have a bit of luck in the rest of the season.”

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said: “We could have been more comfortable with some of the chances we missed but the attitude of the players was excellent.

“There were lots of positives today as well as the result, [including] James Maddison coming back in.”

source – BBC

English Premier League

Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest

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Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest

Everton 2-0 Nottingham Forest. Everton took a vital step towards Premier League survival with victory over fellow strugglers Nottingham Forest in a scrappy affair at Goodison Park.

Idrissa Gueye and Dwight McNeil scored with long-range efforts in each half to settle the battle between the two clubs who have suffered Premier League points deductions this season – with appeals pending that could still shape their fate as the campaign reaches its climax.

Everton have now moved five points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand on Luton Town but Forest remain deep in trouble, only a point ahead of the Hatters.

Forest, however, were left fuming when referee Anthony Taylor twice ignored penalty appeals, first when Ashley Young handled in the closing moments of the opening half and then when the veteran tangled with Callum Hudson-Odoi as he raced in on goal in the second period.

Everton broke the deadlock after 29 minutes when Gueye fired low past Matz Sels, only his second goal in a century of attempts from outside the area, with McNeil settling the destiny of the points when he drilled home via the post from 25 yards with 14 minutes left.

There were worrying scenes in stoppage time when Everton striker Beto went down after an aerial challenge with Morgan Gibbs-White.

He lay motionless and the game was stopped for eight minutes while he received treatment before he was taken away on a stretcher. He did, however, appear to gesture to the Everton supporters as he was leaving the pitch.

Everton needed an instant response after the humiliation of Monday’s 6-0 loss at Chelsea and while, apart from the two goals, it was not a performance to earn points for artistic merit, it earned points of a far more significant kind as the Toffees once again find themselves embroiled in a fight against relegation.

They were thankful for an outstanding save by England keeper Jordan Pickford from Forest striker Chris Wood with the score 1-0 and those controversial moments when Young escaped conceding penalties.

Everton, however, showed the battling qualities that were absent at Stamford Bridge, took the chances they had and cashed in on the moments of good fortune afforded to them.

It was not a game of any serious quality, which was hardly to be expected between two struggling teams in a tense situation, but this is immaterial at this stage of the season.

Jarrad Branthwaite demonstrated once again why he is so highly regarded as Everton kept Forest at bay, enabling Sean Dyche’s side to make a winning start to a week that could yet define their season, with a Merseyside derby to come against Liverpool at Goodison Park on Wednesday and another home game against Brentford next Saturday evening.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

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Liverpool 2-1 Brighton

Liverpool 2-1 Brighton.Liverpool moved top of the Premier League – for a couple of hours at least – as Mohamed Salah ended Brighton’s resistance to secure a vital victory at Anfield.

With title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal meeting later on Sunday, Liverpool knew the significance of beating the resolute Seagulls in the early kick-off.

But Brighton striker Danny Welbeck stunned the hosts by thumping a strike into the top corner with only 87 seconds on the clock.

Liverpool responded strongly and began to dominate possession, with Luis Diaz poking home the equaliser from close range before the half-hour mark.

Salah, making his first league start since New Year’s Day, had missed a host of chances but eventually made one count when he coolly slotted in from Alexis Mac Allister’s pass in the 65th minute.

The hosts thought they had all but sealed the win when Diaz fired in after 73 minutes but his effort was ruled out by the video assistant referee for a tight offside.

Brighton skipper Lewis Dunk came closest to snatching a draw for the visitors, but saw two headers saved by home keeper Caoimhin Kelleher in quick succession.

Former Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana also fired wide just moments after coming on as a substitute late on.

Ultimately Salah’s strike proved the difference as relieved Reds fans greeted the final whistle with an exuberant celebration.

Liverpool move on to 67 points, three ahead of Arsenal – who have a superior goal difference – and four in front of City before their match at Etihad Stadium.

The title race has developed into a fascinating three-way battle where it feels like every dropped point could be crucial.

And, with Liverpool playing before their two rivals go head-to-head, Easter Sunday has long been circled as a potentially pivotal day in the league campaign.

All the Reds could do was focus on winning their game against a Brighton side with a good record against Jurgen Klopp’s team, and led by a manager in Roberto de Zerbi being touted as a potential successor to the German.

The hosts had to show fight, belief and patience before Salah, not for the first time, ended up being the match-winner in a game of huge magnitude.

For more than an hour it had looked like it was not going to be the Egyptian forward’s day as a host of chances went begging for the Reds talisman.

Salah had seven shots in the first half without really stretching Brighton keeper Bart Verbruggen, while he could not quite reach Diaz’s dinked cross to the far post after half-time.

Another opportunity came when Mac Allister’s slick through ball cut through his former club’s defence and this time Salah found the bottom corner with a composed finish.

Only time will tell – especially with so many twists and turns to come in the remaining nine rounds of games – exactly how important this victory will be.

source – BBC

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English Premier League

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Luton Town

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Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Luton Town

Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 Luton Town. Son Heung-min scored a late winner as Tottenham recovered from a goal down to beat Luton and move into the top four of the Premier League.

Son collected half-time substitute Brennan Johnson’s clever pass before beating Hatters goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski with a low shot, which took a deflection off Daiki Hashioka on its way in.

Tahith Chong’s well-worked goal had given the Hatters an early lead, but Spurs responded well and equalised early in the second half when Johnson’s cross was turned into his own net by Issa Kabore.

Spurs laid siege to the Luton goal after restoring parity, but a series of crucial last-ditch challenges kept Ange Postecoglou’s team at bay – and Alfie Doughty somehow prevented Johnson’s close-range effort from rolling over the line.

However, there was nothing Luton could do about Son’s 15th goal of the season, which means Tottenham have come from behind to win four of their past five home Premier League matches.

Aston Villa will reclaim fourth place with a draw at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers later on Saturday. Luton, meanwhile, drop into the relegation zone.

Tottenham’s 3-0 defeat at Fulham before the international break was described by Son as a “big wake-up call”, but it took Postecoglou’s team a while to hit their stride against Luton.

The opening goal was a sloppy one to concede, with Son dispossessed on the edge of the Luton area and Yves Bissouma beaten far too easily by Andros Townsend in the build-up to Chong’s crisp finish.

But Spurs were left cursing their luck when Son’s shot rattled the inside of the near post, rolled across the goalline, struck the other post and bounced clear – moments after Timo Werner had dragged a shot wide from an excellent position.

In the same move, Werner’s follow-up effort was blocked by Kabore before Teden Mengi blocked Pape Sarr’s goalbound shot on the line.

Tottenham have now failed to score a first-half goal in six consecutive games, but they were level early in the second half when Johnson – who replaced the ineffective Dejan Kulusevski at half-time – drilled a low ball across the face of goal and Kabore slammed it into his own net.

It seemed only a matter of time before Spurs’ relentless pressure would pay off, but when Doughty’s last-gasp intervention denied Johnson, Tottenham fans could have been forgiven for thinking it might not be their day.

When the second goal did arrive there was an element of luck about it, but it was a slice of good fortune Son and his team-mates deserved after going agonisingly close on more than one occasion.

Luton took less than three minutes to extend their club-record scoring run to 18 successive top-flight fixtures, but once again they were unable to retain their advantage.

Rob Edwards’ men are just the third side in Premier League history to lose three successive games in which they have led at half-time, after Aston Villa in May 2021 and Sunderland in April 2003.

The visitors even went close to doubling their advantage in the first half, but the retreating James Maddison produced a crucial block to deny Carlton Morris at the near post.

Luton continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack in the second half, with Ross Barkley and Jordan Clark both testing Guglielmo Vicario with low drives from the edge of the penalty area.

Kabore produced several important blocks after putting through his own net, and Kaminski and Doughty combined to keep out Johnson – but Spurs’ pressure finally told when Son’s shot crept in off the unfortunate Hashioka.

With trips to title-chasing Arsenal and Manchester City still to come before the end of the season, it appears Luton’s home form will be key to their hopes of preserving their Premier League status.

source – BBC

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