Gardner stunner clips Leicester's wings

Claudio Ranieri's Leicester moved three points ahead of Tottenham, which will move to the summit on goal difference if it wins at West Ham on Wednesday.

craiggardner - Cropped

West Brom midfielder Craig Gardner celebrates his goal against Leicester.

West Brom checked Leicester City's Premier League title bid as Craig Gardner's superb second-half free-kick earned a 2-2 draw at the King Power Stadium.

Claudio Ranieri's Leicester moved three points ahead of Tottenham, which will move to the summit on goal difference if it wins at West Ham on Wednesday.

Leicester was dominant for much of the first half, but fell behind in the 11th minute when Salomon Rondon breached its defence for the first time in a Premier League home match since Loic Remy's consolation goal for Chelsea on December 14.

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Danny Drinkwater's deflected effort meant City became the first top-flight side to bring up 50 league goals this season and the superb Riyad Mahrez set up Andy King – in for the injured and influential N'Golo Kante in midfield – with an exquisite touch to score on the stroke of the interval.

Mahrez erred with a handball that Gardner emphatically punished and Leicester could not replicate the last-gasp weekend winner Leonardo Ulloa netted against Norwich City despite a flurry of late pressure.

King fired over when West Brom failed to clear a 10th-minute set-piece, but the visitor broke the deadlock less than 60 seconds later.

Rondon scampered beyond Robert Huth to latch on to Darren Fletcher's pass and slid a shot through Kasper Schmeichel's legs in composed fashion.

The two attacking stars of Leicester's title bid both strived to find an equaliser - Mahrez dancing through a succession of challenges until West Brom's massed ranks scrambled back to block, before he centred for Jamie Vardy to head into Ben Foster's arms.

Leicester's response arrived from a more unlikely source in the 30th minute when Drinkwater speculatively took aim from 30 yards and his strike spun off Jonas Olsson and into the top corner.

Following his second goal of the campaign, Drinkwater turned provider and Vardy headed his chipped left-wing cross against the crossbar.

The second goal Leicester's first-half dominance deserved came in stoppage time when Mahrez had the presence of mind to direct a stunning backheel flick from Marc Albrighton's cross-field ball into King's path for a clinical first-time finish.

Five minutes into the second period, West Brom were level through a goal of comparable quality – Gardner launching a curling and dipping 25-yard free-kick over the Leicester wall that left Schmeichel with no chance.

In the 56th minute, Albrighton tormented Albion right-back Craig Dawson to clip in wonderful cross that Shinji Okazaki crashed on to the crossbar.

The irrepressible Vardy harried Gareth McAuley out of possession on the left touchline and drove in field to force Foster to save with his boot at his near post.

The visitor retreated to its own area as time ticked down - Wes Morgan thudded a shot into Foster from close range and, on the last attack, Ulloa missed his kick and the chance to be Leicester's saviour all over again.

West Brom are 13th, 12 points better off than third-bottom Norwich, and remaining trips to Arsenal, Manchester City and Tottenham might allow Tony Pulis to have a further say in the title race.

 

Key Opta stats: 

- Two of Leicester's three top-flight goals from outside the area this season have been scored by Danny Drinkwater.
- Leicester became the final Premier League side to concede at home in 2016.
- Riyad Mahrez has had a hand in a league-high 25 Premier League goals this season (14 goals, 11 assists), more than any other player.
- Salomon Rondon has scored in three of his last five Premier League games, having failed to score in his previous nine in the competition.
 

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