Leicester vs Arsenal match report: Alexis Sanchez scores first Gunners hat-trick in thrilling victory

Leicester City 2 Arsenal 5

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The Independent Football

When Jamie Vardy left Per Mertesacker trailing as if running in treacle to put Leicester ahead this looked as if it would be another difficult afternoon for Arsenal. But Alexis Sanchez finally shook off his Copa America hangover to propel Arsenal above their hosts and within three points of the Premier League summit.

Sanchez scored his first goals of the season, and his first Arsenal hat-trick, as Leicester were defeated for the first time this campaign despite a brace from Vardy, England’s most in-form striker. With Theo Walcott and Olivier Giroud also scoring Arsenal’s early-season problems in front of goal may be over.

“Alexis is back to his level,” said Wenger. “He won a big competition with Chile and it takes time mentally to come back, but we have seen in training a different player and he has shown that today.”

“I am pleased that my players never gave up but Arsenal have quality, pace, everything,” said Claudio Ranieri. “What is very important now is the reaction in the next match.”

The restorative effects on the Gunners’ confidence of winning a north London derby were evident, and with Leicester also brimming with belief after their fine start to the season the game rattled along. Within the first 20 minutes each had scored, Vardy had twice hit the woodwork, Cazorla had a shot cleared off the line and both goalkeepers made smart saves.

Jamie Vardy celebrates his opening goal

Leicester and their fans have successfully created a fervent atmosphere at the King Power, finding the right balance between American style crowd-rousing and old-fashioned English support. The vibrancy seemed to infect the players as both teams began at pace. In the seventh minute Ritchie De Laet cleared Cazorla’s shot off the line, in the tenth Petr Cech went full beam to deny Jeffrey Schlupp, in the 11th Vardy hit the post from 20 yards. Then, in the 14th, Aaron Ramsey tricked his way through a thicket of defenders and seemed poised to score only for N’Golo Kante to pinch the ball of his toes. Twelve seconds later it was in Cech’s net. Kante fed Danny Drinkwater whose long pass found Vardy peeling off Mertesacker and away from him to score.

The lead lasted four minutes, though it might easily have been doubled rather than wiped out, Vardy heading Albrighton’s cross against the bar before Arsenal broke with similar rapidity to their opponents. This time there were 16 seconds from regaining possession, winning later, after swift passes from Mesut Ozil, Sanchez and Cazorla, Walcott slid it into Leicester’s net.

After a brief pause in the action, as each side took stock, Arsenal scored the crucial third goal. With De Laet tracking Walcott to the near post Hector Bellerin cross reached an unmarked Sanchez at the back and he tapped in.

Ranieri tried to tighten the game up at the break, introducing Andy King in midfield, but Arsenal were now in control and their third was delivered onto Sanchez’s head by a wonderful chip from Ozil. Leicester have a habit of making comebacks recently but Sanchez finished them off when he received throw-in in midfield, skipped smartly around Kante, then beat Schmeichel from 25 yards.

That was game over, but the scoring continued as Arsenal went to sleep and Leicester went for broke. Cech denied Vardy and, brilliantly, Andrej Kamaric, before Vardy halved the deficit. Then Giroud, having mis-kicked in front of goal, swept in Nacho Monreal’s cross to complete a very satisfying afternoon for Arsenal. 

Next up on the domestic front are the new leaders, Manchester United, in what has suddenly become a clash of title contenders. It is almost like old times for Wenger.