Leicester loses again with fairytale turning into nightmare

Leicester loses again with fairytale turning into nightmare

MANCHESTER, England — Soccer’s greatest fairytale is proving to have the gloomiest of sequels.

Leicester, the unfashionable English club which enchanted the sporting world by winning the Premier League as a 5,000-1 outsider last season, plunged closer to the relegation zone in its woeful title defence after losing 2-0 at Swansea on Sunday.

It was a fifth straight league defeat for the stuttering champions and a 14th loss in 25 games this campaign. They haven’t scored in more than 10 hours of league play, stretching back to the final day of 2016.

With 13 games remaining, Leicester is one place and one point above the bottom three as it looks to avoid becoming the first defending champion to be relegated from England’s top division in 79 years. On current form, Claudio Ranieri’s team is heading only one way, especially with other relegation rivals like Swansea and Hull starting to hit form after a change in manager.

Ranieri’s job appears safe for now — Leicester’s Thai owner, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabh, issued a public show of support for the Italian coach in a statement this week — but something needs to change, and quickly.

“We have two problems; we concede goals and don’t score,” Ranieri said. “We have to stick together and find a solution. It’s not possible to continue this way.”

It could get even worse, though, with two of Leicester’s next three games being against Liverpool and Arsenal. The team also resumes its Champions League campaign in 10 days with a trip to Sevilla for the first leg of their last-16 match.

Leicester’s league title looks to be heading to Chelsea, although the runaway leader had an uncomfortable time in a 1-1 draw at Burnley earlier Sunday.

Chelsea moved 10 points clear of Tottenham and Arsenal, who are in second and third place respectively. Manchester City would trim Chelsea’s lead to eight points by beating Bournemouth on Monday in the final game of the 25th round of fixtures.

Here’s a closer look at Sunday’s games, which affected both ends of the standings:

___

SWANSEA 2, LEICESTER 0

Watched by Srivaddhanaprabh at Liberty Stadium in south Wales, Leicester was undone by two well-taken goals by defenders in the first half.

Alfie Mawson executed his like a striker, the centre back meeting a header back across the area by Federico Fernandez with a sweet first-time strike from 10 metres that flew past Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. It was Mawson’s third goal in his last six games.

Martin 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.

Leicester improved in the second half but couldn’t end its goal drought in 2017.

“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.”

Swansea moved above Leicester and four points clear of the relegation zone.

___

BURNLEY 1, CHELSEA 1

This turned into a tough test for Chelsea in snowy, bitingly cold conditions against a team that had won nine of its last 10 games at its Turf Moor stadium.

Pedro Rodriguez finished off a rapid counterattack to put Chelsea ahead in the seventh minute, but Burnley equalized through Robbie Brady’s curling, 25-meter free-kick in the 24th and created the better chances after that.

It was only the third time that Chelsea has dropped points since late September, after a loss to Tottenham and draw at Liverpool last month.

Chelsea remains a huge title favourite, with its next five league games against opponents in 10th place or lower — Swansea, West Ham, Watford, Stoke and Crystal Palace.

Steve Douglas, The Associated Press

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