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Everton 2 Leicester City 3: Foxes top at Christmas thanks to Mahrez double

Riyad Mahrez scored two penalties as Leicester City won 3-2 at Everton on Saturday to ensure they will be top of the Premier League at Christmas.

The in-form winger scored a spot-kick in each half, either side of Romelu Lukaku netting in his seventh consecutive league game for the hosts.

Shinji Okazaki appeared to have wrapped up the points, before a late strike from substitute Kevin Mirallas set up a dramatic finish as Claudio Ranieri’s men held on.

Leicester’s eighth victory from 10 games means they are guaranteed to be top of the league at Christmas and the omens look good for a shock title bid as five of the last six teams to have held that status went on to be crowned champions.

The visitors now sit five points clear of Arsenal – who face Manchester City on Monday – at the top of the table, although they will hope Jamie Vardy has not suffered a serious injury after he came off holding his hamstring in the closing stages.

Everton, meanwhile, lost for the first time in seven league games.

Ranieri made three changes to his team, with Andy King, Okazaki and Marcin Wasilewski coming in, while Everton were unchanged.

It was Okazaki who had the only attempt of the early stages when he prodded Marc Albrighton’s cross narrowly wide.

For the hosts, Ross Barkley sliced a volley badly off target after Lukaku had created a decent opening before Leicester took the lead from the spot on 27 minutes.

Okazaki was bundled over by Ramiro Funes Mori after driving into the box and Mahrez took the penalty, converting with a calm low effort to beat Tim Howard’s dive.

But Everton levelled five minutes later. Tom Cleverley slipped a pass through to Barkley and the England midfielder had an attempt saved by the legs of Kasper Schmeichel. 

Barkley shot again from the rebound and was denied by King’s headed clearance on the goal-line, but the ball then broke to Lukaku, who made no mistake with a powerful finish to end a dramatic scramble.

Early in the second half, John Stones had a half-hearted penalty claim turned down after heading onto the arm of Christian Fuchs from close range, while Vardy curled a shot just past the post at the other end.

Leicester got back in front with 25 minutes remaining and did not look back. Mahrez found Vardy with an impressive throughball and the England striker was taken out by Howard as he attempted to round the keeper.

Mahrez stepped up to take his second penalty of the match and sent Howard the wrong way for his 13th Premier League goal of the season.

The victory was sealed four minutes later when Seamus Coleman’s clearance was blocked by Albrighton – with Everton claiming the winger had used an arm – and Vardy seized possession to slip a square pass to Okazaki, who finished impressively with his left foot.

Hopes of a comeback were raised when an excellent flick from Barkley set up substitute Mirallas and the Belgium international smashed a shot home at the near post with one minute remaining.

In an end-to-end finish, Barkley had an effort saved by Schmeichel and Leonardo Ulloa almost scored a fourth on the counter as Leicester held on to continue their dream season.

Sat 19 Dec, 2015
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