Premier League round-up: Champions Leicester go 5 points clear of relegation zone

Premier League round-up: Champions Leicester go 5 points clear of relegation zone
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez (left)celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with teammates Danny Drinkwater and Wilfred Ndidi. Picture: PA

Here’s your round-up of today’s action so far (Liverpool v Arsenal kick off at 5.30pm).

LEICESTER 3 HULL 1

Leicester continued to breathe new life into their Premier League survival bid under the guidance of Craig Shakespeare as he strengthened his claims for the manager's job with victory against relegation rivals Hull.

Shakespeare, assistant to previous boss Claudio Ranieri, has won both matches in interim charge 3-1 after his side followed up Monday's home victory over Liverpool with another three points.

Goals from Christian Fuchs and Riyad Mahrez and a Tom Huddlestone own goal overturned the lead given to Hull by Sam Clucas and gave the defending champions back-to-back league wins for the first time this season.

Leicester are still sounding out potential replacements for Ranieri, with former England manager Roy Hodgson reported to be among the names being explored, yet it could now be difficult to look beyond Shakespeare following the marked improvement under his stewardship.

The 53-year-old, who would like the job, appears to have the backing of the majority of the Leicester fans - as well as the players. He is also highly regarded by Jon Rudkin, the club's director of football.

Leicester are now set to fly off to Dubai for a four-day warm weather training camp and Shakespeare will meet with the club's owners on their return later next week to discuss his prospects.

Leicester began the game with the same renewed vigour they showed in defeating Liverpool - the first match since Ranieri was sacked - and created a host of early chances.

Wes Morgan headed wide from a Mahrez free-kick before two dangerous low crosses from Jamie Vardy into the six-yard box were expertly turned behind under considerable pressure by Harry Maguire and then Andrew Robertson.

Maguire then bravely threw himself in front of a goal bound shot from Robert Huth and Hull survived once more.

It was against the run of play when Hull took the lead after 14 minutes.

Clucas led a swift break through the middle before Oumar Niasse and Kamil Grosicki combined down the left side of the penalty area and Clucas, released by Leicester as a schoolboy, slid in to poke home Grosicki's cross from six yards out.

Not for the first time since Ranieri's sacking, the Leicester players were under the spotlight and asked to respond - and as against Liverpool they did so.

Left-back Fuchs linked up brilliantly with Vardy down the flank, playing a couple of one-twos before continuing his run into the area where he was on hand to finish off Vardy's cut back from 10 yards out. However, goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic will be disappointed the ball crept beneath him.

Having frustrated Leicester at one end during the first half, Maguire made a nuisance of himself in attack at the start of the second.

The defender saw a header clip a post following a corner and shortly afterwards worked Kasper Schmeichel with another header from a Grosicki delivery.

Jakupovic kept out a tame effort from Mahrez just before the hour, but the Algeria international was merely finding his range.

Next time the ball was at his feet, Mahrez turned Robertson one way then the other trying to create an opening for a shot and, after cutting back for the third time, he found the bottom corner with a shot from the edge of the area.

It was a rare glimpse of the magic that earned him the PFA Players' Player of the Year award last season, but once more Jakupovic should probably have done better.

Hull tried to respond immediately and Schmeichel had to punch clear a free-kick whipped in by Grosicki before blocking an effort from Niasse at his near post with six minutes remaining.

After Jakupovic saved to deny Demarai Gray, Leicester sealed victory in the final minute when Onyinye Ndidi's header from a corner struck Huddlestone and flew into the net.

It was a huge win for the champions, who are now five points clear of the relegation zone.

Hull, meanwhile, remain second bottom of the table and are four points from safety after Crystal Palace won at West Brom.

STOKE 2 MIDDLESBROUGH 0

Middlesbrough dropped into the Premier League relegation zone as Marko Arnautovic's first-half brace condemned them to a 2-0 defeat at Stoke.

Stoke City's Peter Crouch (right) and Middlesbrough's Bernardo Espinosa battle for the ball. Picture: PA
Stoke City's Peter Crouch (right) and Middlesbrough's Bernardo Espinosa battle for the ball. Picture: PA

Boro fell behind in the 29th minute via a fine strike from Arnautovic, who then added a close-range finish three minutes before half-time.

The Teesside outfit, who are winless in 10 league matches and have failed to score in their last four, are down a place to 18th in the table, with Crystal Palace moving up to 17th and three points clear of them with a 2-0 win at West Brom.

Boro's major problem is hitting the back of the net - they are the lowest scorers in the division, with a tally of just 19 for the season so far.

And while there was a disallowed goal for Ben Gibson in the second half here, Aitor Karanka's side rarely looked like scoring at the Bet365 Stadium - and they might have lost by more, with Ramadan Sobhi hitting the bar early on and having a late header well saved by Victor Valdes.

It was hardly a surprise to hear some booing at the final whistle from the travelling fans, who will be seriously fearful about their team's predicament.

In a bid to aid Boro's problems in attack, Karanka replaced Alvaro Negredo with January signing Rudy Gestede among five changes to the starting XI.

Karanka was then forced to make an early adjustment at the back after the game got under way as Daniel Ayala limped off in the eighth minute, with Bernardo Espinosa coming on.

Stoke almost grabbed the lead six minutes later when a great passing move ended with Sobhi meeting Arnautovic's cross with a shot that came back off the bar.

There was an opportunity for Karanka's men in the 25th minute when Marten de Roon burst into the Stoke box, but his shot was well blocked by Geoff Cameron - and soon after, Boro were a goal down.

Glenn Whelan sent a long ball forward and Arnautovic did excellently to control it, get away from George Friend and past Valdes and fire into the net.

As Boro attempted to make a positive response, captain Grant Leadbitter's strike from outside the area flew narrowly off-target after taking a big deflection.

But three minutes later, they conceded once more, with their defending again questionable. Peter Crouch rose above Bernardo as a corner came in and directed a header towards goal that was hooked in by Arnautovic.

Boro were booed off at the interval, and they began the second half with forward Cristhian Stuani having been introduced for Gaston Ramirez.

They had the ball in the net around the hour mark when Gibson tapped in, but with the flag raised for offside - much to Karanka's dismay - the effort was ruled out.

Arnautovic's impressive display came to an end in the 65th minute as he was forced off by injury, Mame Diouf being sent on in his place.

But Stoke continued to look the more likely side to score for the remainder of the contest, particularly in the 84th minute when Sobhi headed towards the corner and Valdes just managed to get there.

WATFORD 3 SOUTHAMPTON 4

Nathan Redmond scored twice and Manolo Gabbiadini struck a sixth goal in four games as Southampton moved on from their Wembley woe with a 4-3 win at Watford.

Southampton's Maya Yoshida (left) and Watford's Troy Deeney battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford. Picture: PA
Southampton's Maya Yoshida (left) and Watford's Troy Deeney battle for the ball during the Premier League match at Vicarage Road, Watford. Picture: PA

EFL Cup finalists Southampton, beaten by Manchester United last Sunday, were trailing after four minutes as Troy Deeney volleyed in for his 100th league goal for Watford.

Dusan Tadic equalised and Redmond gave the visitors a deserved half-time lead, only for Stefano Okaka to level 11 minutes from time.

Gabbiadini pounced to punish Heurelho Gomes' error and Redmond struck a fine fourth to give the visitors a win that their pace and movement warranted.

There was a nervy conclusion, though, as Watford substitute Abdoulaye Doucoure netted in stoppage time.

Saints' previous Premier League game was the 4-0 win at Sunderland on February 11 and their next is at Tottenham on March 19, so Claude Puel was keen for a victory and got it as his side climbed to 10th place.

It was a Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal three minutes from time which defeated Saints at Wembley.

And little more than three minutes into their only Premier League game in 36 days two Younes Kaboul long throw-ins caused chaos.

From the second, Okaka controlled the ball with his back to goal and laid it off for Deeney to leap and execute a side-footed finish across goal.

It was the Watford skipper's ninth goal of the season and brought up a century of league goals for the club.

Saints responded. James Ward-Prowse and Gabbiadini were denied by Gomes as the visitors stretched Watford's newly-deployed back three.

Next Tadic ran at them and lost the ball, but Kaboul and Miguel Britos got in a muddle as they attempted to clear. The ball broke for Tadic, who fired low across goal into the bottom corner.

Redmond started the move which finished with his first Premier League goal since October.

He ran down the middle, fed Ward-Prowse who played it for Tadic on the right. Tadic pulled the ball back and Redmond finished well across goal.

Watford were also troubled at set-pieces. Gomes tipped over a Tadic volley after Watford cleared a corner only to the edge of the area.

And Gomes saved well to deny Maya Yoshida as the defender stretched to attempt to turn in a Tadic free-kick from wide on the left.

Fraser Forster saved with his feet to deny Okaka and Deeney fired wide soon afterwards.

And Watford levelled when substitute Isaac Success ran at Cedric Soares and crossed to the near post where Okaka tucked in.

Parity was short lived. Saints substitute Sofiane Boufal's shot from 25 yards bounced in front of Gomes, who did not claim it and Gabbiadini reacted first to score.

Saints had a two-goal cushion moments later.

Redmond cut in from the left and ran at a back-pedalling Prodl. The winger unleashed a vicious shot which beat Gomes.

Boufal shot narrowly wide after putting the ball through Kaboul's legs before Doucoure tapped in from a yard out, but time ran out for Watford as Saints celebrated.

SWANSEA 3 BURNLEY 2

Fernando Llorente proved Swansea's match-winner again in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Burnley after referee Anthony Taylor had taken centre stage by awarding one of the most controversial penalties of the season.

Spain striker Llorente - who has scored precious goals this season against Liverpool and Crystal Palace - headed home a 90th-minute winner to ease Swansea's relegation fears.

Earlier, Andre Gray's double, either side of goals from Llorente and Martin Olsson, looked like handing Burnley some rare away-day joy.

Swansea City manager Paul Clement during the match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Picture: PA
Swansea City manager Paul Clement during the match at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea. Picture: PA

But the contest will unfortunately be remembered for the 20th-minute penalty Burnley were awarded when George Boyd's corner escaped everyone before striking the arm of Clarets striker Sam Vokes.

Television replays showed Swansea's Gylfi Sigurdsson appealing for handball against Vokes, and there did not appear to be any other offence in a congested six-yard box.

But Taylor incensed Swansea players by pointing to the spot and Gray's straight-down-the-middle kick cancelled out Llorente's 12th-minute header.

Gray put Burnley ahead just after the hour mark with his eighth league goal of the season before full-back Olsson scored for the second successive home game to get Swansea back in the game and set up a grandstand finish which allowed Llorente to grab the late winner.

Swansea's fast start was almost rewarded when they struck the woodwork twice in the same 11th minute attack.

Alfie Mawson headed Sigurdsson's free-kick against the crossbar and, following some pinball in the Burnley ball, the centre-back was denied for a second time when his shot cannoned back off a post.

Burnley were only granted a short reprieve as Llorente met Leroy Fer's cross at the far post a minute later to head home his 10th goal of the season.

Burnley responded well to that setback as Jeff Hendrick fired into Lukasz Fabianski's midriff before their controversial leveller from the spot.

The sense of injustice that decision created seemed to drive on a Swansea side who should have been ahead before the break.

Paul Robinson, deputising for the Clarets' regular goalkeeper Tom Heaton, who was missing through illness, batted away Martin Olsson's drive before Sigurdsson flashed a drive inches wide.

Swansea then struck the woodwork for the third time when Llorente's header bounced back off the crossbar and the half closed with Robinson pushing aside Sigurdsson's free-kick.

Burnley's goal was leading a charmed life and Ben Mee made a goal-line intervention from Sigurdsson at the start of the second half.

Llorente then went close again, not quite managing to get enough purchase on a Tom Carroll centre, but Swansea were stunned after 61 minutes when Vokes beat Federico Fernandez in the air.

The ball dropped to the unmarked Gray and he had time to turn and deliver a shot past Fabianski and gave Burnley real hope of a first Premier League away win since May 2015.

But Swansea were level within six minutes as Sigurdsson slipped in Olsson and his powerful angled finish into the roof of the net gave Robinson no chance.

Carroll almost won it when his goalbound shot was turned off the line by Mee, but the midfielder soon swung over a cross, with two minutes of injury time on the clock, and there was Llorente to rise superbly and spark wild Swansea celebrations which included a touch-line dash from boss Paul Clement.

WEST BROM 0 CRYSTAL PALACE 2

Second-half goals from Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend fired relegation-threatened Crystal Palace to a vital 2-0 win over in-form West Brom.

Zaha lit up a poor Premier League encounter at The Hawthorns when he opened the scoring after a neat piece of skill after 55 minutes.

Townsend wrapped up victory, Palace's second in successive games, with a superb solo effort six minutes from time.

The result lifted Palace out of the bottom three and indicated Sam Allardyce's work is now starting to bear fruit after a frustrating start with the Eagles.

Crystal Palace's Sam Allardyce during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich. Picture: PA
Crystal Palace's Sam Allardyce during the Premier League match at The Hawthorns, West Bromwich. Picture: PA

The first half was a disjointed affair with little by way of goalmouth action.

The rainbow which formed over the stadium amid the showers and sunshine was prettier than the game itself, which saw Jonny Evans bandaged around the head after a collision with Jason Puncheon.

Fifteen minutes had gone before either side created an opening and that came and went as a dipping cross from Allan Nyom intended for Salomon Rondon was headed behind by Mamadou Sakho.

The only effort on target of the first half came when Christian Benteke rose to meet a corner but his header was blocked on the line by Chris Brunt.

Brunt had an opportunity himself at the other end but volleyed well over from 20 yards from James Morrison's cross.

As a drab first half drew to a close, Rondon appealed for a penalty and then a free-kick just outside the area after collisions with Yohan Cabaye and Joel Ward but was awarded neither.

After such dull fare, Zaha's strike came out of the blue.

The former Manchester United winger controlled a long crossfield pass from Cabaye on his chest and then lashed home a left-foot shot from a tight angle.

Finally the game began to come to life with Zaha charging into the box again but he lost possession and Puncheon's follow-up attempt was deflected wide.

Nacer Chadli registered West Brom's first effort on target but Wayne Hennessey comfortably saved.

Palace threatened again when Luka Milivojevic played in Townsend but Ben Foster was quick off his line to block his shot.

The game did revert to its earlier scrappy state for a spell and one of the crowd's biggest cheers of the afternoon came when referee Mike Jones fell over after colliding with Jake Livermore.

The hosts could not find a way back into the game and, as they pushed up in the latter stages, they were caught by Townsend.

The former Tottenham winger seized possession deep inside his own half and was allowed to run all the way to the West Brom area. He turned Craig Dawson inside out and then beat the slide of Evans to fire home from the left and secure three important points.

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