By Nik Brumsack at King Power Stadium
Alexis Sanchez's first Premier League goal proved not enough to give Arsenal all three points at King Power Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Chilean gave Arsenal the lead when he was on hand to sweep home from close range after 20 minutes, but the hosts rallied and equalised just two minutes later through Leonardo Ulloa's powerful header.
Both sides created chances to win it after the break - with Ulloa and Yaya Sanogo efforts the closest either team came - but in the end, a point apiece was fair in what was a match high on energy and entertainment.
This was, as expected, a tough task against a side that had deservedly held Everton here on the opening day and produced an encouraging performance when losing 2-0 at Stamford Bridge a week ago. Leicester won the Championship at a canter last season and, roared on by a full house here, were good value for the draw.
Arsène Wenger may have left disappointed not to seal all three points but, in general, Arsenal can be content with their season so far. Unbeaten in the Premier League and through to the group stage of the Champions League, the team have shown some encouraging signs during the first weeks of the campaign and will hopefully return re-energised when the action gets underway again against champions Manchester City at Emirates Stadium in a fortnight.
SETTING THE SCENE
The sides had experienced mixed fortunes in the lead-up to this game. Twenty-four hours after Leicester were knocked out of the Capital One Cup by League Two side Shrewsbury Town, Arsenal secured a place in the Champions League group stages for the 17th successive season with a tense, at times nerve-shredding victory over Besiktas at Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night.
Wenger pinpointed the chances created by his side in midweek as a particular positive and made only two changes to his team, with Aaron Ramsey fresh and available after missing out through suspension in midweek, in for Jack Wilshere. Elsewhere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made way for Sanogo to spearhead the Arsenal attack.
Alexis, praised by Wenger pre-match after picking a vital moment to score his first Arsenal goal against Besiktas in midweek, lined up on the right flank, with Mesut Ozil again deployed on the opposite side.
The last time the sides met marked one of the most memorable days in Arsenal's history - on that afternoon, the last match of the 2003/04 season, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira scored after the break to seal a 2-1 win and ensure that the club finished the season as "Invincibles".
Wenger had described Leicester as a "team with a lot of threats" in his pre-match press conference and, while the initial stages were short on clear opportunities, the hosts' direct and physical approach always made them a threat on the counter.
Riyad Mahrez, lively in the early stages, forced the game's first real effort at goal, shooting just wide from the edge of the box after cutting in from the right.
But Arsenal were growing into the game and took the lead after 20 minutes. A sustained spell of possession in the Leicester half finished with Santi Cazorla's delicious lofted through ball sending Sanogo clear. The Frenchman diverted the ball into the path of Alexis, who swept home.
The lead would last just two minutes. With Leicester's next attack, Jeff Schlupp escaped down the left and crossed for Ulloa to climb above Laurent Koscielny and head powerfully beyond Szczesny from six yards.
Wenger was forced into his first substitution soon after. Koscielny had suffered a nasty-looking head injury after a clash with Schlupp in the early stages, and, while initially able to carry on, he was replaced by Calum Chambers after 26 minutes.
In a compelling opening period, Ulloa continued to pose questions at one end while Arsenal's neat interplay around the edge of the Leicester area remained a threat at the other.
Alexis, enjoying perhaps his most fruitful 45 minutes since signing for Arsenal, was a constant danger down the left. After he had earned a corner following a mazy run, Sanogo's goalbound effort was blocked behind by Wes Morgan.
To their credit, Leicester came back fighting whenever Arsenal looked to build up a head of steam and forced the final chance of the first half, with Szczesny having to parry Mahrez's well-hit drive from the edge of the box.
The second period began as the first had ended - at a frantic pace. Cazorla had already shot wide when well-positioned and had a half-hearted appeal for a penalty waved away before Ulloa spurned a clear chance for the hosts. Having turned Chambers inside-out, the forward could only find the side-netting with just Szczesny to beat.
Arsenal retaliated. Fine link-up play between Nacho Monreal and Alexis resulted with the former's inch-perfect pass freeing Sanogo. The striker advanced at goal but Schmeichel made himself big to block the eventual effort.
The chances kept coming - at both ends. Ramsey's header from Cazorla's flick lacked the power to beat Schmeichel while Nugent saw a shot blocked from inside the Arsenal box.
Wenger introduced Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski in the final stages but, after Mathieu Debuchy had come close to connecting with Per Mertesacker's flick, it was Leicester that nearly won it in the closing stages. A swift counter ended with sub Jamie Vardy's drive requiring Szczesny to save at full stretch.
That would have been unfair on Arsenal who had merited their share of the spoils on what was ultimately a frustrating afternoon.
- Szczesny Yellow Card
- Koscielny 27
- Mertesacker (C)
- Sanchez Goal!
- Cazorla 77
- Sanogo 77
- Podolski 77
- Oxlade-Chamberlain 77
- Chambers 27
- Morgan (C)
- Moore Yellow Card
- Mahrez 64
- Schlupp 70
- Hammond Yellow Card
- Ulloa 76 Goal!
- Vardy 70
- Drinkwater 76
- Albrighton 64