By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) – Leicester City went top with a win over Stoke City, title rivals Manchester City lost ground and Liverpool edged a nine-goal epic at Norwich City on Saturday as a weird and wonderful Premier League season churned on.
As 20-times English champions Manchester United were losing at home to Southampton, pre-season relegation favourites Leicester moved three points clear of Arsenal with 15 games remaining. Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy and Leonardo Ulloa struck to secure a 3-0 win for Claudio Ranieri’s unlikely lads.
Leicester’s day then got better as Manchester City were held 2-2 in a lively late kickoff at West Ham United — Sergio Aguero earning his side a point after City twice trailed.
What epitomised the appeal of the world’s richest soccer league, however, was Liverpool’s 5-4 win at relegation-threatened Norwich City.
Liverpool took the lead at Carrow Road through Roberto Firmino but with 35 minutes remaining trailed 3-1 as Dieumerci Mbokani, debutant Steven Naismith and a Wes Hoolahan penalty put the hosts in control.
Jordan Henderson, Firmino’s second and James Milner then swung the game Liverpool’s way only for Norwich defender Sebastian Bassong to score a stoppage-time leveller.
There was still time though for Adam Lallana to decide a rollercoaster of a match, sparking crazy Liverpool celebrations in which manager Juergen Klopp broke his glasses.
Eight players were on the scoresheet in only the fourth Premier League match to finish 5-4.
“It was spectacular, wild, good football, and both teams had good moments,” Klopp told reporters.
Leicester have 47 points, City and Arsenal, who play Chelsea on Sunday, 44 with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur in the hunt after a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace moved put them on 42.
Harry Kane cancelled out Jan Vertonghen’s own goal but he was upstaged by England team mate Dele Alli, whose 25-yard volley after flicking the ball up and over his own head to put Tottenham ahead is a candidate for goal of the season.
Nacer Chadli scored Tottenham’s third.
“It was a fantastic goal,” Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino, whose side have 42 points, said. “I think it will be shown around the world on the TV.”
Manchester United stayed in fifth place, one point above West Ham, but it was another depressingly dull day at Old Trafford where United were booed off after losing 1-0 to Southampton.
Saints’ Charlie Austin scored in the 87th-minute on his debut, heaping more pressure on United manager Louis van Gaal.
Lacklustre United managed only one shot on target and have now gone eight hours 26 minutes without scoring in the opening half of a game at Old Trafford.
“You can’t say the fans are not right,” Van Gaal told Sky Sports. “They are disappointed and have a right to boo.”
Ranieri praised his Leicester side’s passion and heart as they gained a timely fillip ahead of fixtures against Liverpool and title rivals Arsenal and Manchester City.
“The fans are dreaming and I want them to continue to dream,” the Italian, whose side had won only one of their last four league games, said.
Drinkwater broke the deadlock just before halftime with powerful shot from outside the area, England striker Vardy netted his first goal in six league games after the break before some sublime skill from Leicester’s other key man, Riyad Mahrez, teed up Ulloa to complete the scoring.
“Everything is an extra motivation because what they are doing is something extraordinary and nobody can believe what Leicester are doing,” Ranieri said.
Manchester City’s league away form continues to be a worry.
They have won only one of their last seven on the road and were fortunate to escape Upton Park with a point after the hosts twice led through Enner Valencia.
“It (a draw) was not what we wanted before the game,” City boss Manuel Pellegrini told Sky Sports, although he was at least heartened by Aguero now operating at 100 percent.
None of the sides at the bottom helped their causes.
Bottom club Aston Villa remain six points adrift of the rest after a 0-0 draw at West Bromwich Albion, 19th-placed Sunderland drew 1-1 at home to Bournemouth while third-bottom Newcastle United went down 2-1 at Watford.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris and Pritha Sarkar)