By Joe Behan
Sunderland 0, Leicester City 0
Leicester City went top of the premier after a nil-all tie away to Sunderland. City’s goalkeeper, Tim Flowers, had a good game and secured the valuable point with a fantastic save from Sunderland’s Julio Arca.
It has taken 37 years for the Foxes to be top of the league and Flowers knows what it takes to win a premiership title. He won one in 1995 with Blackburn. His performance and heroics without doubt pushed City ahead of Manchester United in the table but it was Arsenal and Thierry Henry’s world-class winner that really toppled Utd.
The ball was played to Henry with his back to the goal and a good distance outside of the box. He guided the ball of the ground with a soft touch that allowed him to turn. Catching the ball on the volley he struck with poise that gave his French teammate, Fabien Barthez, no chance. That strikers should know where the goal is anyway and shouldn’t have to look up, well, this was textbook stuff by the French striker. Ferguson claimed that it was going to take something special to beat Utd., while Arsene Wenger emphasized that his solid defense won the game. At the moment, though, Leicester are giving Martin Keown, Tony Adams and David Seaman a run for their money.
Leicester City lineup
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Flowers, the backbone of Leicester, has only conceded one goal in open play so far this season. In front of Flowers is Matt Elliot. City’s manager, Peter Taylor, named club Captain Elliot man of the match. The 6-foot-3 central defender is surprisingly skillful for such a big man and he has no problem playing center forward. Now that Elliot is back in Scotland’s World Cup plan his confidence will grow at the heart of the Leicester rearguard.
If there is any manhandling to be done when the going gets touch for the Foxes, Belfast-born Gerry Taggart is available. He shaped up to 6-4 Niall Quinn during some heated moments at Sunderland. Taggart, like Elliot, can score goals and makes Leicester’s central defense a formidable duo. Taggart, a hard-hitting defender with the old-fashioned approach, is a big favorite at Filbert Street. With 50 caps for Northern Ireland, he brings a wealth of experience to City. In the mid-1990s he won a Div. 1 championship with Bolton.
We better take a look at the Leicester lineup in case we have to get to know them. (3-5-2): Flowers; Rowett, Elliott, Taggart; Impey, Savage, Lennon, Eadie, Davidson; Akin-biyi (Benjamin, 75), Cresswell (Oakes, 79). Booked: Taggart.
Not ready for Europe
During last week, Yugoslav champions Crvena Zveda polished off Leicester, 4-2 on aggregate, in the UEFA cup. It was a hard-fought game for Leicester and the opponent’s attacks were to cunning for the Foxes. As the game had to be switched from Belgrade to a neutral ground, Rapid Vienna Stadium, it became a matter of national pride for Crvena Zveda to win. It was a draining experience for the Leicester team, as the hostile environment never ceased throughout.
Fireworks were launched into the City fans for all to see, and insulting chants were reverberated at the stadium as City black players Akinbiyi and Impey played the game. The Foxes returned to the Midlands torn and tattered with little time to prepare and recover for their game against Sunderland. The nil-all tie was a good enough result to take them top of the premier. Perhaps Sunderland deserved more out of the game, but if you are going to stay on top and win championships, you must get results against the run of play, and Leicester did at the Stadium of Light.
Perhaps a surprise to see Leicester up there, but Peter Taylor has obviously challenged the club to prove they can do it without Martin O’Neill. Indeed, there is an extra pass or two that can be seen around Filbert Street.
Underdog never goes away
In the biggest game of the season so far, Manchester United were beaten 1-nil by Arsenal. The Gunners join Utd. with 15 points apiece, only one behind Leicester. Probably a game just as big was Chelsea 3, Liverpool 0. Not a real surprise, the Reds have not won at Stamford Bridge in eight years. Chelsea moves into 12th place, while Liverpool was surpassed by Charlton, who drew 2-all with Coventry.
In fourth place is Newcastle, who beat Manchester City 1- nil at Main Road. After two successive defeats in the premier, Newcastle refuse to drop from the top and somehow they remain in top flight. Results have fallen in their favor as they stay in contention. More important for the Toon Army is Alan Shearer getting on the scoresheet in open play after a barren run of no goals. A meeting with manager Bobby Robson has sorted out the drought, and if Shearer continues to meet with the legend, more goals may come Newcastle’s way. Robson told the striker to improve his movement to get in behind defenders.
Shearer has been concentrating on the 18-yard area and if the veteran can exploit a bigger field Utd. will improve. Shay Given secured a shut out and had a good game. Bet Bobby Robson will be shopping real soon to boost European status, something that he is all too familiar with, and the shrewd manager rarely buys a bad bargain. Newcastle is an ambitious club and Robson will enjoy the underdog bets to win the title.
What is becoming interesting about the Premier is that smaller clubs in top flight are not under pressure to win the league itself. Their motivation is to qualify for European football and believe it or not in Charlton’s case it is survival.
Alan Curbishley is full of care for his side to stay up and will not get carried away with sixth place this early on. Nonetheless, Jonatan Johansson’s spectacular equalizer has Curbishley looking to the future. "We need somebody who can score 15 or 18 goals for us this season if we are to do well and J.J. is looking sharper with every game," Curbishley said.
Aston Villa, after a shaky start, have put a few things together around the in form Paul Merson and climb into fifth place. Villa thrashed Derby County 4-1 and Merson scored his 100th career goal. Julian Joachim hit a brace for Villa.
Leeds beat Spurs 4-3, while Boro beat Southampton 3-1. At the moment Derby and Bradford are struggling at the bottom of the table.