Manchester City tightened their grip on second place in the Premier League with a 1-0 over Leicester at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. Gabriel Jesus scored the game’s only goal shortly after coming on as substitute after top scorer Sergio Aguero had missed an earlier penalty.
The blues were made to work hard for their win despite dominating possession against the Foxes, who tried to play a defensive game and hit the blues on the counter attack, although the match wasn’t without its controversies as VAR made a dramatic return to City’s Premier League life after not being required during the win over West Ham on Wednesday.
The blues were fortunate in the first half as Jamie Vardy outstripped Fernandinho as the last defender and his shot beat Ederson, but not the post and the game remained 0-0. But the speed at which the England striker passed the makeshift centre back will be worrisome for Pep Guardiola, who still seems to prefer the ageing Brazilian over both John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi at the heart of City’s defence, with both settling for a place on the bench behind Ferna and the returning Aymeric Laporte.
At the other end, City were using the flanks well but lacked that killer touch in front of goal. With a shortage of height in the City attack, the blues route to goal in generally to feet, which sometimes looks like they’re trying to walk the ball into the goal. But sadly, even if the blues had a tall striker, the crosses rarely beat the Leicester defence or were too close to the keeper to pose any real threat.
The biggest chance for City in the first half fell to Ilkay Gundogan, who was played in by a clever pass from Aguero. It looked like the German wasn’t expecting to receive the ball and had to adjust slightly to get the shot away, and his tame effort was deflected wide for a corner.
Leicester had two shouts for penalties denied, both of which could easily have been given. The first came from a Leicester free kick just outside the area which hit the hands of Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian talisman was protecting his face as the ball flew towards him, but it is likely that it would have been classed as accidental handball, given the way penalties across the league have gone this season.
In fairness, it maybe should have been a penalty, given that de Bruyne’s hands should not have been there in the first place, but the second appeal was less clear cut. Former blue Kelechi Iheanacho was taken out by Ederson and looked certain to be a spot-kick. But despite what the pundits and opposing fans say, it certainly looked like the Brazilian keeper touched ball, maybe even hit it into the striker before catching the man. If anything, looking at the replays, a penalty may have been a bit harsh.
Aguero had a goal disallowed before half time for offside, a decision that didn’t need VAR’s assessment. It was a sweeping move from City after breaking down a Leicester attack, the ball finding its way to de Bruyne who charged forward and released Aguero, but the Argentine went that little bit too early, but it was still a decent finish in the wind-blown stadium.
City went in at half time knowing they could have been in the lead, but also with the knowledge they could also be a goal or two behind. Sloppy passes in the first half were a major contribution to City’s problems, but the defence is once again starting to look solid by the return of Laporte. The French defender was making only his seventh appearance of the season, but looked composed and solid throughout until he was substituted on 58 minutes for Otamendi as he continues his comeback from that injury.
The blues had a golden opportunity to take the lead moment later after VAR adjudged Dennis Praet to have handled in the box. It was a decision that angered the home fans and Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers after the two early appeals were turned down. City had missed their last three penalties from Raheem Sterling, Gundogan and Jesus, and Aguero became the fourth as his powerful striker was saved by former City keeper Kasper Schmeichel.
The Dane saved again from Aguero moments later as the Argentine found space in the Leicester box, but Schmeichel stuck out a leg and deflected it wide. The striker was replaced by Jesus on 77 minutes and just three minutes later, his replacement scored the winner. Riyad Mahrez, who had been booed relentlessly by his former club, was the architect, weaving his way into the box and passing for Jesus to hit home with ten minutes remaining.
Manager Pep Guardiola called the win an ‘incredible test’ against the team most likely to stop the blues from finishing second in the league, and the blues have now won both their matches since UEFA announced the two year European ban on the blues.
City now head to Madrid for the Champions League last 16 tie, and will need to tighten up if they are to progress.
Throughout the match in Leicester, the blues misplaced numerous passes, one of which lead to Vardy’s chance which hit the post. They may not escape so easily on Wednesday should that happen.
Final Score: Leicester City 0-1 Manchester City