Relegation a genuine prospect for stumbling Leicester
ABS-CBN Sports on Feb 06, 2017 08:19 AM
Manchester United's Juan Mata celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Leicester City and Manchester United at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, England, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
STEVE DOUGLAS, AP Sports Writer
MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Relegation is looming as a genuine prospect for stuttering Premier League champion Leicester.
It's 79 years since a defending champion was relegated from England's top division — the fate befell Manchester City in 1938 — but Leicester is heading that way after a 3-0 home loss to Manchester United on Sunday.
That left Claudio Ranieri's team in 16th place in the 20-team league, one point above the relegation zone with 14 matches left. This time last season, the Foxes were atop the standings and on their way to the most remarkable title triumph in Premier League history.
"Let's not talk about last season. It's gone," Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said. "It is not a comfortable situation. It has been terrible, embarrassing. It is time for each one of us — from the top to the bottom of this club — to be counted. If we don't, we will be relegated."
Leicester hasn't scored in five league games in 2017 and is still without a win away from home all season, hardly encouraging statistics ahead of an important game next weekend at 17th-placed Swansea.
Unconfirmed reports of dressing-room unrest have surfaced in the British media in recent weeks, adding to Leicester's problems. The team clearly misses the influence of central midfielder N'Golo Kante, who left for Chelsea in the offseason, while other star players from last season — notably Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy — have lost their form altogether. Motivation also seems an issue, with progress in the Champions League having been the priority in the first half of the season.
Ranieri, who is starting to come under criticism, has tried different formations and different players but to no avail. In 24 games of the title defense, Leicester has lost 13 of them.
For United, it's 15 matches unbeaten in the league and the top four — and therefore the Champions League qualifications positions — are in sight for Jose Mourinho's men. United is sixth, two points behind fourth-placed Liverpool.
It was also a good day for Man City, which beat Swansea 2-1 thanks to Gabriel Jesus' injury-time goal to climb above Arsenal and Liverpool into third place.
A look at Sunday's games:
LEICESTER 0, MAN UNITED 3
United scored three goals in an eight-minute period either side of halftime at King Power Stadium.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan's brilliant run and finish broke the deadlock in the 42nd and Zlatan Ibrahimovic added a second with a first-time strike 88 seconds later , his 15th league goal of the season.
Juan Mata was perhaps fortunate not to receive a first-half red card for a robust tackle on Vardy in the first half, so it was even more galling for Leicester fans to see the Spain playmaker make it 3-0 in the 49th from Mkhitaryan's pass.
"We are still in the same position," Mourinho said, "but we are closer to the others so we keep fighting."
MAN CITY 2, SWANSEA 1
Gabriel Jesus against started ahead of Sergio Aguero and justified the selection by scoring twice, including the winner two minutes into second-half stoppage time.
That's three goals in his first two starts in the league for the 19-year-old Brazil striker, who has adjusted quickly to the English game and delighted City coach Pep Guardiola with his work rate and desire as well as his goals.
"Everybody is a bit surprised by his level," said Guardiola.
Gabriel Jesus put City ahead in the 11th minute, before Swansea equalized in the 82nd through Gylfi Sigurdsson.
A clash between rival managers sparked a free-for-all between players and coaching staff of Huddersfield and Leeds at the end of a Yorkshire derby in the second-tier League Championship.
Huddersfield coach David Wagner raced down the touchline and joined in the celebrations of his players after an 89th-minute goal by Michael Hefele, which proved to be the winner in a 2-1 victory for the hosts.
As Wagner returned to his bench, he was blocked off by Leeds manager Garry Monk, leading to a confrontation. Players from both sides then got involved in the melee, leading to three players getting booked and both Wagner and Monk getting sent to the stands.
Wagner said he was not being disrespectful with his celebration, with Monk replying: "I hold myself in a certain way and I have humility and respect."