Jamie Vardy produced a moment of magic as his brace gave Leicester City a 2-0 win over Liverpool to maintain their three-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
The division’s top scorer made the difference with two second-half goals at the King Power Stadium on Tuesday – the first a stunning half-volley that is a surefire contender for goal of the season – to keep Claudio Ranieri’s men clear of title rivals Manchester City and Arsenal and avenge their Boxing Day defeat to the Reds.
Vardy now has 18 league goals this season as Leicester’s shock bid for the title continues, with a crunch clash against City at the Etihad Stadium – who are now their closest rivals – next up on Saturday.
Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet had already kept the visitors in the game by making two excellent saves in the first half and Jurgen Klopp’s team have now only won one of their last five in the league – conceding 12 in the process – after a disappointing performance.
Leicester made no alterations to their team, while there were eight Liverpool changes from the side that played West Ham in the FA Cup, with captain Jordan Henderson fit to start.
The visitors had most of the first-half possession, but Leicester came so close to scoring on two occasions. First, a swift counter-attack saw Shinji Okazaki find Vardy before getting on the end of the England striker’s cross to head powerfully at goal from close-range.
Okazaki seemed certain to score, but Mignolet got down low to make a crucial reflex save, pushing the ball on to the crossbar and out to safety.
Mignolet was then at it again, this time to deny Riyad Mahrez after Vardy was tackled by Dejan Lovren.
The ball fell to Mahrez, who did not break his stride before unleashing a stunning, curling first-time effort from 25 yards that was only matched by a magnificent one-handed save from Mignolet to ensure it remained goalless at half-time.
Emre Can arrowed a shot just wide from 12 yards after a neat passing move and Kasper Schmeichel had to react quickly at his near post to keep out Alberto Moreno after the break.
It was a piece of individual brilliance that broke the deadlock on 60 minutes when a hopeful long pass from Mahrez found Vardy’s run in a seemingly unthreatening position close towards the right channel outside of the area.
Vardy, though, displayed perfect technique to send an outstanding looping half-volley over Mignolet from fully 30 yards.
Okazaki had a penalty claim denied by referee Andre Marriner after he appeared to be brought down by Mamadou Sakho in the box, but the hosts soon got over that when Vardy made it two on 72 minutes.
After Sakho failed to head clear, Okazaki’s shot deflected into the path of Vardy, who made no mistake with a convincing left-footed finish to seal another impressive victory for Ranieri’s title challengers ahead of a mouthwatering trip to Manchester this weekend.