Harry Maguire scored a 94th-minute equaliser as 10-man Leicester snatched a draw in an entertaining encounter against Manchester United, who are now 13 points behind leaders Manchester City.
Marc Albrighton whipped a cross over the United defence to the arriving Maguire, who side-footed the ball past David de Gea from close range.
United had looked set to take all three points after Juan Mata’s double had seen them recover from Jamie Vardy’s opener, while substitute Daniel Amartey was sent off for the home side 16 minutes and nine seconds after coming after two bookings in four minutes.
City, who earlier beat Bournemouth 4-0, now have the biggest points gap between first and second place at Christmas in English top-flight history.
Wasteful United’s missed opportunity
This result was a huge blow to any hope United had of catching City and comes after they were knocked out of the EFL Cup by Championship side Bristol City on Wednesday.
Jose Mourinho made eight changes, with Paul Pogba returning from suspension to captain the team, while Victor Lindelof, making his fifth Premier League start, went to right-back in place of the injured Antonio Valencia.
The Swede and centre-back Phil Jones were badly exposed by Leicester’s counter-attack for the Foxes’ opener,
Wilfred Ndidi sprayed a 60-yard pass to Riyad Mahrez, who only had Chris Smalling and David de Gea for company.
The Algerian held up the ball before sliding a clever pass to the arriving Jamie Vardy, who placed a low finish into the bottom corner for his 50th Premier League goal.
Mata equalised on 40 minutes with a precise finish, rolling the ball into the far corner from the middle of the box.
Lindelof blocked Christian Fuchs’ goalbound effort after the break, while Martial missed a one-on-one with Kasper Schmeichel, blasting over from 12 yards.
Spanish midfielder Mata got his second on the hour mark, beating Schmeichel with curling a free-kick after Martial had been fouled on the edge of the box.
United dominated in the second half and the result should never have been in question with 19 attempts on goal in the match.
Jesse Lingard should have made it three when he hit the post after rounding Schmeichel, while the Dane also got his fingertips to the ball to stop substitute Marcus Rashford when also through on goal.
United failed to capitalise on Amartey’s 73rd-minute sending off and Mourinho looked to shore up the lead instead of extending it, bringing on Ander Herrera for Jesse Lingard with 15 minutes left in the match.
“I don’t get United,” said Ex-England winger Chris Waddle on Radio 5 live. “They’ve had so many chances to really put this game beyond Leicester but they’ve messed about and missed chances.”
‘Good result for the future’
Leicester had also suffered EFL Cup defeat in midweek, losing on penalties to Manchester City.
Claude Puel made seven changes, with Mahrez and Vardy restored to the starting line-up.
The pair were crucial to the Foxes’ gameplan and, after soaking up United’s pressure, they counter-attacked at will.
After United took the lead they were fortunate not to fall further behind, but showed character to come back and equalise.
“It was difficult but with our positive attitude we stayed in the game and believed in ourselves,” Puel told Match of the Day.
“It’s a good result for all of us because the belief keeps going. It’s fantastic for the future. Now we know if that situation happen again we can score with 10 men against 11, so that’s a good feeling for the future.”
Their revival under Puel leaves them in eighth at Christmas, but with only two defeats in his 10 league games in charge.
Man of the match – Juan Mata
Stats – Vardy’s milestone
- Vardy scored his 50th Premier League goal in this match – the first player to score 50 in the competition for Leicester City.
- 42% (21) of Jamie Vardy’s 50 Premier League goals have come against ‘big six opposition’.
- Since August 2014, only Sergio Aguero (21 in 30 appearances) has scored as many goals in the Premier League against fellow ‘big six’ opposition as Vardy (21 goals in 40 appearances).
- Mata has been involved in five goals in his last four Premier League appearances against Leicester City (four goals, one assist).
- Three of the nine Premier League goals scored from direct free-kicks this season have been netted against Kasper Schmeichel.
- Amartey’s dismissal was the quickest a substitute has been sent off in the Premier League since Ben Watson for Watford at Southampton in August 2016 (12 minutes, eight seconds).
Manchester United host Burnley at 15:00 GMT on 26 December, while Leicester play at Watford at the same time.