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‘Gareth will have to open the door’ — James Maddison continues hot streak to enhance World Cup chances

By Ben Green

‘Gareth will have to open the door’ — James Maddison continues hot streak to enhance World Cup chances

Published: 17:01, 20 August 2022

James Maddison has enhanced his chances of making the England squad for this year’s winter World Cup after scoring yet again for Leicester City.

The mercurial playmaker has been riding the crest of a wave since the backend of last season, and he has since carried that form over to the new campaign, dispelling suggestions that he was merely enjoying a late 2021/22 purple patch.

The 25-year-old has once again been the subject of transfer speculation this summer, with Saudi-backed Newcastle ostensibly the most active pursuers of his signature — and those links are only likely to intensify after his most recent showing.

The still one-capped England international entered Saturday’s 3pm against Southampton having provided a goal or an assist in each of his previous six Premier League games; he extended that to seven with a quite outrageous free-kick against the Saints this afternoon.

With the match delicately-poised in the second half, Maddison curled a Beckham-esque free-kick around the wall to breach Gavin Bazunu’s net. It was a sweetly-executed strike straight out of the top drawer and worthy of breaking the deadlock in any game, let alone a Premier League fixture.

This curling effort follows on from his finish in last week’s 4-2 defeat to Arsenal, and an assist in the opening weekend against Brentford, and there is now even more clamour for Gareth Southgate to call up the playmaker wizard as the winter World Cup fast approaches.

“Fabulous freekick from Maddison. Keep knocking on Gareth’s door and he’ll have to open it at some point,” Leicester and England legend Gary Lineker tweeted.

Maddison has cultivated quite the reputation as a deadball specialist since bursting onto the scene, and given England’s strong reputation from set-pieces under Southgate, his inclusion in Qatar feels almost non-negotiable from a strictly footballing perspective.

Of course, despite Maddison enjoying individual success on the day, Leicester were left to pick over the bones from a disappointing 2-1 loss, squandering their one-goal advantage after Che Adams bagged a timely 15-minute brace to hand the South Coast club three points.

In the day’s other 3pm fixtures, following on from Tottenham’s 1-0 win over Wolves at lunchtime, Crystal Palace battled from a goal behind to beat Aston Villa 3-1, with Wilfried Zaha striking twice to cancel out Ollie Watkins’ opener, before Jean-Philippe Mateta confirmed the win.

At Goodison Park, Everton and Nottingham Forest traded leather in a tight contest. Brennan Johnson thought he snatched the newly-promoted club three points with less than 10 minutes from time, but Demarai Gray had other ideas, restoring parity in the dying embers after getting on the end of a Jordan Pickford hoof.

And over in the capital, west Londoners were treated to a five-goal thriller. Not the most intense or reputable of London derbies, Fulham and Brentford nevertheless put on a show, with the Cottagers running out 3-2 victors thanks to Aleksandar Mitrovic’s last-minute winner. The perennial yo-yoers really do look the part in these embryonic stages of the campaign.