Forgotten man Welbeck revives Arsenal's title hopes
Welbeck revives Arsenal's title hopes; Simpson's red card costs Foxes
(Theo Walcott 70, Danny Welbeck 90+5)
LEICESTER CITY 1
(Jamie Vardy 45-pen)
The Emirates witnessed a fairy tale, but it was the wrong one, a new one.
This was an unexpected storyline beyond the most fantastical writers.
An underdog rose to the occasion to settle the clash of title-chasing titans, but he wore a red jersey.
No one saw this coming. Even in a season smothered in insanity, nothing topped the surreal moments of the game's final seconds.
In the fifth minute of injury time, Danny Welbeck found magic beans to climb above Leicester's defensive beanstalks to write a tall tale of his own.
The Arsenal striker hadn't kicked a ball since his previous substitute's appearance last April. He hadn't scored since December 2014.
For a while, he thought his season was over. For 94 minutes of last night's pulsating encounter, Arsenal's season looked to be over.
Another erratic performance was getting exactly what it deserved. Nothing.
Or, to be specific, the Gunners were getting a solitary point, which was all they had warranted after struggling to overcome Leicester's warriors, who had battled heroically for almost 40 minutes with 10 men, after Danny Simpson's second yellow.
But one Danny's nightmare was another Danny's dream.
Welbeck wanted in on the season's madness, determined to prove that Leicester didn't hold a monopoly on sporting romance.
Substitute Marcin Wasilewski gave away a clumsy free-kick just outside the box, but Leicester had repelled everything so far and there was little to suggest they wouldn't defy the hosts once more.
But Mesut Oezil's floated free-kick drifted towards the six-yard box. Welbeck stretched above exhausted defenders and steered a dagger through every Leicester heart.
The Emirates Stadium erupted. The goal may not be remembered as a title winner but, at this stage, it's certainly a title saver.
Had Leicester held on for a draw and the gap between the two clubs remained at five points, then Arsenal's race was almost certainly run.
WEL, HE'S BACK
In freezing conditions, the forgotten man came in from the cold to warm red hearts. Welbeck is back from the dead. So are the Gunners.
They know they were just seconds away from flat-lining.
Until Welbeck's minor miracle, much of the game encapsulated the respective campaigns of both clubs.
To make an observation that might be construed as ridiculous in normal circumstances, the more Arsenal attacked, the less likely they looked to score.
And, to follow that assessment through to its illogical conclusion, the more possession Leicester conceded to their opponents, the more likely they looked to go ahead.
That's the Foxes. That's the Gunners. That's the fabulous farce of this season.
Arsenal probed along their right flank, but they prodded Leicester's back four with blunt needles. Olivier Giroud's beard continues to look more menacing than his presence in the box and Arsenal failed to muster a shot on target in the first half.
In midfield, Francis Coquelin was rushed back from injury in a bid to stop Leicester's counter-attacking, but the Frenchman would have needed a barricade to stop his compatriot.
N'Golo Kante was signed for £6 million ($12.2m). Consider that figure for a moment. Think about the central midfield options available to Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United. The Frenchman's reason enough to sack myopic scouts and coaches elsewhere.
Not surprisingly, Kante's persistence allowed Leicester to go ahead, against the run of play, but certainly not against Leicester's style of play.
They sit. They soak. They savage.
On the stroke of half-time, Kante left Laurent Koscielny behind, so the Arsenal defender practically cut the midfielder in two.
The ball fell kindly to Jamie Vardy, who fell rather timidly over Nacho Monreal's standing leg. The penalty decision was as soft as Vardy's spot-kick was decisive.
The English striker has earned himself six penalties in the Premier League this season, twice as many as any other player. He's a prince among his teammates and a pest among opponents.
The Emirates turned toxic and referee Martin Atkinson appeared to wobble as the boos rang out. Simpson deserved his first yellow for a late tackle, but the second moments later for a push on Giroud was debatable.
Theo Walcott was unleashed moments later, replacing Coquelin, as Wenger went for broke.
The gamble paid off handsomely. In the 70th minute, Hector Bellerin whipped a high ball into the box, which Giroud nodded exquisitely onto a silver platter for the galloping Walcott to smash home.
The momentum and the man advantage were both with Arsenal.
Per Mertesacker was the width of his eyebrows away from scoring a winner, but his glancing header flashed past the post and then Kasper Schmeichel twice denied Giroud.
Arsenal looked just about done, until Welbeck popped up to write a happy ending of his own.
Wenger lauds Gunners' mental desire
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger hailed match-winner Danny Welbeck, who returned from injury ahead of schedule to score a vital goal in their title bid.
A loss to table-topping Leicester would have meant a massive eight-point gap, which would have made their task much tougher.
However, Welbeck's winner in the fifth minute of injury time means the gap is now reduced to just two points.
Said Wenger: "We would not have given up, but eight points is three games to come back. We would need to win three , they would need to lose three."
Wenger had planned to play Welbeck only this week, but the Englishman, who had been out for 10 months, put himself into contention in the last two training sessions.
Said Wenger: "In the last two training sessions, he was very strong and I decided just in the end to include him in the squad... We are very happy for him."
Wenger also believes that this comeback victory will spur them in their title challenge.
He added: "It will strengthen our belief that we are in the fight. We had a bit of a dodgy spell, Liverpool 3-3, Stoke 0-0, lost to Chelsea, 0-0 at home with Southampton.
"Now, after that, we won two games and we are still mathematically in the fight, that will strengthen our belief, of course."
So, what made the difference? Their mental desire, according to Wenger.
The Frenchman said: "We knew a draw was not good enough. In the end, it paid off, down to the mental desire of the team to give absolutely everything to win it."
- Wire Services.
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