Manchester City recorded an important 3-1 victory over Leicester City which has dragged themselves back in the race for a top two finish.
In what has been a Jekyll and Hyde season, Pep Guardiola’s men – who are chasing a record-equalling third consecutive Premier League crown – have often flattered to deceive: one week they’re Europe’s most irresistible side, the next a shadow of themselves.
This victory, though, leaves them a point behind the Foxes who occupy second place with runaway leaders Liverpool a further 10 points in front and with a game in hand. Nevertheless, it was a much-needed success for City, who came from a goal behind to inflict Brendan Rodgers’ team with only a third defeat this season.
The protagonists were household names. It might feel like a lifetime ago, but it’s been three years since the East Midlands club defied the odds to become English champions for the very first time in their history. Key to that historic success under Claudio Ranieri was the forward partnership between Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez.
Mahrez, alongside equally pivotal N’Golo Kanté, would leave the King Power Stadium for pastures new, both also lifting the Premier League again with their new clubs. Vardy would remain, despite heavy interest from Arsenal one summer, much to his supporters delight. It felt strange watching them on different teams whilst sharing the same pitch; that being said, they would both make an impact.
Mahrez knew joining City would limit his playing time. Since joining the Pep revolution, he’s never been guaranteed a regular starting berth: instead often utilised as an impact substitute. However, given the nature of football (injuries, suspension and players being out of form), his minutes and opportunities from kick-off are inevitable. Today’s game, for example, was his eighth start this season – a special occasion given who he was facing. That, if anything, could have been the catalyst behind his performance. To be fair, Mahrez has looked good whenever he’s turned out before this evening, but he looked particularly motivated on Saturday.
5 – Riyad Mahrez is the fifth player to have played for Leicester in the Premier League and then score against the Foxes in the competition, after Julian Joachim, Emile Heskey, Chris Wood and N’Golo Kanté. Outfoxed. pic.twitter.com/2kG7F8Cpf3
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 21, 2019
Only the imperious Kevin De Bruyne (7) created more chances than him (4), he completed three take-ons (level with former partner-in-crime Vardy as most on the pitch), whilst his five crosses were unmatched. In fact, it was City’s impressive and resilient wing-play that ultimately did for Leicester as they could not cope with the movement of Mahrez and Raheem Sterling on the other flank – the latter winning the penalty which İlkay Gündoğan converted to put City in front -and whenever De Bruyne, playing in a free role, drifted out wide. Mahrez’s goal, which saw him become only the fifth ex-Fox to score against Leicester, was a trademark – cutting in from the right and shoot – finish (with the help of a deflection).
City were made to work hard for this victory. Despite controlling early proceedings, Leicester were always threatening on the counter; besides, having such a tenacious runner like Vardy leading the line makes that possible. He produced an early warning, but City didn’t heed that alarm and were made to pay for it when he got beyond their backline and slotted a clever finish over Ederson to register his 17th of the season, six more than golden boot chasers Tammy Abraham, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Danny Ings.
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 21, 2019
More impressive is the fact that he’s now been involved in 20 goals, more than any other Premier League player this season, though De Bruyne (16) is not far behind. His assist for Gabriel Jesus, to score City’s third, was the 10th goal he’s created this season, which makes him the first player to reach double figures in this regard. Vardy’s effort was also his sixth against a team managed by Guardiola – no one has scored more against him than the former England international with Lionel Messi, Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-Min on four apiece.