February 13, 2017 4:49:27 am
Leicester’s title defense in the Premier League sunk to a new low on Sunday when the slumping champions lost 2-0 to Swansea for a fifth straight defeat. Two first-half goals by defenders did the damage for Swansea, with center back Alfie Mawson volleying home in the 36th minute and left back Martin Olsson adding a second with a low drive in stoppage time. Leicester dropped to 17th place in the 20-team league, one place and one point above the relegation zone. Just nine months ago, the unfashionable club from central England enchanted the sporting world by becoming the most unlikely champion at preseason odds of 5,000-1.
Leicester is still to score a league goal in 2017 — it’s more than 10 hours of play since Islam Slimani’s winner against West Ham on Dec. 31 — and the defense can’t keep them out at the other end. “It’s the same. It’s unbelievable,” Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said. “We have two problems; we concede goals and don’t score. We have to stick together and find a solution. It’s not possible to continue this way.”
Both of Swansea’s goals were excellently taken. Mawson executed his like a striker, meeting a header back across the area by fellow center back Federico Fernandez with a sweet first-time strike from 10 meters that flew past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. It was Mawson’s third goal in his last six games. Olsson’s goal came from more of a team move, with Fernando Llorente and Gylfi Sigurdsson combining to send the Sweden international through down the left. He closed in on Schmeichel and buried a low shot inside the goalkeeper’s near post.
Watched by its Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabh, Leicester dominated the second half but couldn’t end its goal drought as substitute Slimani was denied by Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and Jamie Vardy blazed high and wide from the edge of the area. “It’s hard to put it into words,” Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater said. “We need to get out of this, we need to keep on fighting.
“We haven’t changed much. It seems that we’re not having the rub of the green or something, but we believe in ourselves as a bunch of lads.” Up next for Leicester is an FA Cup fifth-round match at second-tier Millwall before a trip to Sevilla for the first leg of their Champions League last-16 match. Then the fight for Premier League survival resumes with a home game against Liverpool on Feb. 27, with relegation now a serious prospect.
This latest loss came despite Ranieri resting most of his key players for the win against Derby in an FA Cup replay on Wednesday. “The machine is not broken,” Ranieri said, “but of course, when you don’t play at the maximum level and others play at the top, it’s difficult.” Swansea moved above Leicester and four points clear of the bottom three.
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