Saints slip as Leicester climb off bottom

Southampton saw their quest for Champions League football next season suffer a setback as they lost 2-1 away to Stoke on Saturday, while Leicester moved off the bottom of the Premier League table.

Defeat meant the Saints missed out on the chance to leapfrog Liverpool into fifth place and move to within two points of Manchester City, currently occupying the fourth and final Champions League spot on offer to English clubs.

Faltering defending Premier League champions City are at home to West Ham on Sunday, when Liverpool play top-flight rivals Aston Villa in an FA Cup semi-final at Wembley Stadium.

Morgan Schneiderlin scored from close range to put the Saints ahead in the 22nd minute at the Britannia Stadium after Jose Fonte headed on a corner from the right.

But the Potters were level early in the second half when Saints goalkeeper Kelvin Davis misjudged Steven N’Zonzi’s chip into the box. The ball hit the crossbar and Mame Diouf fired in the rebound.

And Stoke were ahead six minutes from time when Charlie Adam followed up to score after Jon Walters’s original shot was blocked.

– Foxes at the double –

Leicester, buoyed by their 3-2 win over West Bromwich Albion last weekend, saw off Swansea 2-0.

The Foxes needed just 15 minutes to take the lead at their King Power Stadium.

Argentinian forward Leonardo Ulloa, only drafted into the side after fellow striker David Nugent injured himself in the warm-up, latched on to a loose ball in the box after Wes Morgan had shielded it from Ashley Williams.

And King made the game safe for Leicester a minute from time when he scored after Esteban Cambiasso’s free-kick was parried by Lukasz Fabianksi.

Leicester’s third successive win took them off the bottom of the table for the first time since November and left them shy of safety on goal difference alone.

Ten-man Burnley found themselves at the foot of the standings after a 1-0 loss away to Everton.

Everton could have gone ahead in the ninth minute at Goodison Park when Aaron Lennon won a penalty after going down under a challenge from Dave Jones.

But regular penalty-taker Leighton Baines did not take the spot-kick and Ross Barkley’s effort was well-saved by diving Clarets goalkeeper Tom Heaton.

Fortunately for Everton, it was not a costly miss with Belgium winger Kevin Mirallas turning in a cross from Seamus Coleman in the 29th minute.

Burnley’s task became even harder when, on the stroke of half-time, Ashley Barnes was sent off for a second bookable offence after sliding in on Coleman.

Mirallas was fortunate to stay on the pitch after a reckless challenge on George Boyd early in the second period saw him receive a yellow card instead.

West Brom went eight points clear of the relegation zone with a 2-0 victory at home to Crystal Palace.

James Morrison scored in just the second minute at the Hawthorns when, completely unmarked, he headed in a corner from eight yards out.

The Baggies doubled their lead in the 53rd minute through Craig Gardner’s brilliant 25-yard strike.

Premier League leaders Chelsea will go 10 points clear at the top of the table if they beat injury-hit Manchester United in Saturday’s late kick-off at Stamford Bridge.

FA Cup holders Arsenal, who started the weekend in second place, face Championship club Reading in a Wembley semi-final on Saturday.

Meanwhile Tottenham Hotspur will continue their quest for a European place away to Newcastle on Sunday.

Photo Credits : AFP

Saints stun United, Arsenal cruisei

Southampton climbed above Manchester United into third place in the Premier League with a shock 1-0 win at Old Trafford, while Alexis Sanchez took centre-stage as Arsenal crushed Stoke 3-0 on Sunday.

Ronald Koeman’s side stole the points in a dour encounter as Dusan Tadic’s 69th minute strike boosted Southampton’s bid to qualify for the Champions League via a top-four finish.

It was the Saints’ first win over United since 2003 and their first at Old Trafford since 1988.

After a wobble in early December, Southampton are firmly back on track having beaten United and Arsenal, and drawn with Chelsea, in their last three league matches.

“If you play against a big side you need spirit and quality but you also need belief in yourself and your team-mates and we showed that today,” Koeman said.

“We have had good organisation all season and that is key to being successful.”

United, now two points behind Southampton, could have few complaints after a lacklustre performance which condemned them to their first home defeat since the opening weekend of the season against Swansea.

Louis van Gaal’s team are without a win in their last three league games and recent talk of a potential title challenge is likely to be silenced as they lie 12 points behind leaders Chelsea.

“We played a much better game than Southampton. They were lucky to score out of nothing. That is very disappointing,” van Gaal said.

“We have to improve. We have to make better choices with the ball.”

Koeman’s side took the lead in the 69th minute when Graziano Pelle’s shot hit a post and rebounded to Serbian midfielder Tadic, who swept his low shot past Tyler Blackett’s attempt to clear off the line.

Juan Mata missed United’s best chance, firing just wide, as the hosts pressed in vain for an equaliser.

– Majestic Sanchez –

At the Emirates Stadium, Sanchez delivered a majestic display as Arsenal kept up the pressure in the race for a top four finish with an emphatic win against Stoke.

Sanchez made Laurent Koscielny’s opener and then netted his 17th and 18th goals of the season either side of half-time to lift Arsenal above Tottenham into fifth spot.

The battle for Champions League qualification is hotting up, with Arsene Wenger’s side only one point behind fourth placed United.

“Collectively, you’re happy when you score a few goals. We had a strong start and we knew that was vital today,” Wenger said.

“Alexis Sanchez is one of the best players. He’s a fighter with a combination of talent and fighting spirit which is very difficult to find.

“He plays with passion and you want people to enjoy what they’re doing on the pitch and show it as well.”

Just five weeks after Stoke’s shock home victory over the Gunners, Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Robert Pires watched from the stands as French defender Koscielny started the revenge mission with a sixth minute header from Sanchez’s cross.

Arsenal right-back Mathieu Debuchy was forced off with a shoulder injury after tangling with Stoke’s Marko Arnautovic.

“He has to see a specialist then we see where we go from there. A dislocated shoulder can take a while,” Wenger added.

But the hosts struck again in the 33rd minute.

It was another moment of magic from Sanchez as the former Barcelona forward took Tomas Rosicky’s pass and sized up his options before cleverly beating Asmir Begovic at his near post.

Sanchez wasn’t finished yet and his deflected free-kick four minutes after the interval sealed the points.

Photo Credits : AFP