Leicester City’s fear was to miss the golden opportunity to consolidate their lead at the premier league, but the air was clear when their closest rivals Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Manchester City remarkably lost on Wednesday.
Just when everyone expected Manchester City to kick on in the title race, following their League Cup victory on Sunday, they were back to their old stumbling selves in the Premier League.
Manchester United are now level on points with City in fifth place, having played a game more, after Juan Mata’s 83rd-minute free-kick secured a 1-0 home win over Watford.
Leicester had dropped points in a 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, but they remain in pole position after Spurs lost 1-0 at West Ham United, Arsenal crashed 2-1 at home to Swansea City and Liverpool claimed revenge for their League Cup final defeat by crushing City 3-0.
The results kept Leicester three points clear of second-place Tottenham, with Arsenal, booed off at the Emirates Stadium, three points further back and City now 10 points off the pace, albeit with a game in hand.
West Ham’s win over Tottenham, courtesy of Michail Antonio’s seventh-minute header, left them a point off the Champions League places in sixth place.
Spurs, for whom Dele Alli started on the bench due to a foot injury, would have gone top on goal difference if they had won at Upton Park.
But Mauricio Pochettino’s side never recovered from going behind early on, Antonio meeting Dimitri Payet’s corner with a header that visiting goalkeeper Hugo Lloris could not keep out.
Spurs’ best chance of an equalizer fell to Harry Kane in the second half, but the England striker could not find the target after Toby Alderweireld’s shot was parried by Adrian.
Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal completed a night to forget for the north London clubs by blowing a 1-0 lead in a home defeat at the hands of relegation-threatened Swansea.
It was Arsenal’s third defeat in succession in all competitions and their seventh of the league campaign, prompting a wave of angry boos to roll around the ground at the final whistle.
After earlier hitting the post, Alexis Sanchez neatly teed up Joel Campbell to put Arsenal ahead with a scooped finish in the 15th minute.
But Wayne Routledge equalized from Jack Cork’s pass just after the half hour and although Olivier Giroud and Sanchez both hit the bar for Arsenal, Swansea won it when captain Ashley Williams headed in Gylfi Sigurdsson’s 74th-minute free-kick.
Victory took Swansea, whose head coach Francesco Guidolin was absent with a chest infection, six points clear of the relegation zone.
Manchester City’s title hopes were left in a sorry state after they slumped to defeat at Anfield, three days on from their 3-1 win on penalties over Liverpool in the League Cup final at Wembley.
Two goals in seven first-half minutes put Liverpool in control, Adam Lallana beating England colleague Joe Hart from 25 yards with a tame left-footer before James Milner stabbed in from Roberto Firmino’s pass.
Firmino completed victory for Liverpool in the 57th minute, curling home from Lallana’s pass, as Jurgen Klopp’s men climbed to eighth.
Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United seized their opportunity to make ground on the top four as Mata’s late strike gave them a fourth successive win in all competitions.
Van Gaal paired fit-again Anthony Martial with teenage sensation Marcus Rashford up front, but Watford created the better chances before Mata curled in the winner.
The day’s other game saw Stoke City beat Newcastle United 1-0 at the Britannia Stadium courtesy of a late 25-yard screamer by Xherdan Shaqiri, which kept Steve McClaren’s men rooted in the bottom three.
AUTHOR: COLLETA JUMA