Champions elect Manchester City hosted high-flying Leicester at the Etihad for the late game on an eventful Saturday of Premier League football. The Cityzens headed into this game with a 13-point lead over rivals Manchester United, and knew that a win would pile even more pressure on Jose Mourinho’s side. The Foxes meanwhile were eighth before this game, and a win would have seen them leapfrog Burnley, while a loss would have left them with just a one-point lead over vastly improved Everton.
Sterling converts where he couldn’t last week
It became apparent from the off that Leicester were lining up with a back three in an attempt to counter the Manchester City steamroller attack, but it took just two and a half minutes for Pep Guardiola’s side to find an opener. A sensational curling cross from Kevin De Bruyne found Raheem Sterling at the back post, and this time the winger tapped home into the empty net, finishing off the eerily similar chance to last weekend’s horror miss against Burnley. It was a classic City goal, and gave them an immediate advantage to build on as Leicester began to seek an equaliser, allowing space for the home side to break into.
The tempo of the game was frantic from the very beginning, but City managed to control the possession well with their slick passing moves and intelligent off the ball running. For all their domination however the home side struggled to create much penetration inside the first 20 minutes, and Jamie Vardy looked dangerous on the counter. The Foxes looked for the striker with long through balls, attempting to take advantage of City’s high defensive line. Aside from that tactic the visitors actually struggled to get any sort of foothold in the game, and indeed struggled to even get a touch of the ball for long spells.
Vardy strikes again against City
Typically the Foxes managed to grab an unlikely equaliser, very much against the run of play, and it came from their remarkable marksman Jamie Vardy. The striker managed to pick the ball up just past the half way line after a failed City counter attack, and he ran straight at new signing Aymeric Laporte. At the last moment the England international dragged the ball into the right hand side of the box, before burying his shot into the bottom left corner of the net, leaving Ederson no chance. The goal instantly opened up the game, and both sides began to throw bodies forward, using pace in the attacking areas to wreak havoc amongst the defenders.
Manchester City looked particularly dangerous down the right flank, and both Bernardo Silva and Kyle Walker had a lot of success against Christian Fuchs. De Bruyne was also a constant thorn in the side of the Leicester defenders, popping up in various areas of midfield to play a neat pass or deliver a threatening cross. In the end it was Sterling who went closest before the break, going round Kasper Schmeichel in the box but seeing his subsequent shot blocked brilliantly by Aleksandar Dragovic. That was to be the final chance of the half, and the two sides went into the break level.
Aguero’s quick brace hands City control
The second half started in much the same fashion to the first, with a lightning quick Manchester City goal. This time it was Sergio Aguero who got a tap in from another wonderful Kevin De Bruyne cross, finding a tiny gap between the Leicester centre halves to find the feet of the Argentinian. The goal restored City’s lead, and once again meant that they had something to defend, allowing them to play at their own tempo. Contrary to the first half the Cityzens looked keen to grab a two-goal cushion, and it didn’t take long for them to find a third. Aguero again was the beneficiary of Kevin De Bruyne’s mastery, this time finding the striker with a neat through ball, before Aguero cannoned his shot past Schmeichel and into the net.
With City thus in complete and utter control of the game it became difficult for Leicester to muster any sort of comeback, mainly due to the home side’s remarkable ability to keep the ball. The likes of De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan were still given huge amounts of time on the ball by the Foxes, and that allowed them to pick simple passes to run the visitors ragged. Even the introduction of Riyad Mahrez did little initially to end the dominance of Guardiola’s men, and it looked as if City could grab as many supplementary goals as they desired.
Aguero bags his hat-trick to seal the game
The tempo of the game slowed massively following Aguero’s second goal, but Manchester City still retained possession on the edge of the Leicester box, using their surgeon-like approach to wear the visitors out. While Sterling, Aguero and Bernardo Silva all made darting runs between the defenders, the attacking impetus of Guardiola’s side had certainly decreased, but Leicester’s was almost non-existent. The pace of Vardy was being utilised less in the second half, perhaps due to a change in the nature of City’s defending, but even on the counter they didn’t look quite as threatening as they had done.
After 25 minutes of patience and control, Aguero finally managed to bag his hat-trick, thanks mostly to a shocking piece of play by Kasper Schmeichel. The shot stopper passed the ball straight out to the veteran striker, perhaps in an attempt to emulate the cool distribution of Ederson at the other end, and Aguero had the presence of mind to chip a looping shot back over the keeper’s head. It was a brilliant way to grab his third goal, and finished off Leicester completely in emphatic style. The Argentinian was not done there however, and he converted his fourth in devastating fashion, unleashing a stunner from the edge of the box, cannoning the ball in off the bottom of the bar. That was to be the final moment of action in the game as City ran out as deserved winners once again, thanks to the supreme efforts of Sergio Aguero and Kevin De Bruyne.
In the end this was another routine victory for Manchester City, and another big step towards the league title. At half time the 1-1 score line was perhaps slightly unfair on Pep Guardiola’s men, but they managed to turn on the style in the second period and kill the game in emphatic style. It looks all but guaranteed that the Cityzens will go on to be crowned champions, and they have undoubtedly been one of the best sides in Premier League history.
Leicester did incredibly well to head into the half-time break level with the champions elect, and they caused City a lot of problems in the first half, especially through the pace of Jamie Vardy. They collapsed in the second period however, and in the end they were outclassed. Claude Puel’s men will now have to keep an eye on Everton, who are just one point behind them, while also looking to overtake Burnley, who are directly above them.
Manchester City: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi (Stones, 81’), Laporte, Zinchenko (Danilo, 65’); De Bruyne, Fernandinho (Foden, 80’), Gundogan; B Silva, Aguero, Sterling
Leicester: Schmeichel; Dragovic, Maguire, Fuchs, Chilwell (Iheanacho, 63’); Albrighton, James, Ndidi, A. Silva (Simpson, 45’), Diabate (Mahrez, 62’); Vardy
Goals: Sterling (1-0, 3’), Vardy (1-1, 24’), Aguero (2-1, 48’), Aguero (3-1, 53’), Aguero (4-1, 77’), Aguero (5-1, 90′)
Referee: Mike Jones
Yellow Cards: Ndidi (71’), Gundogan (73’), Laporte (83’), Vardy (83’), Maguire (89′)
Red Cards: None
Manchester City: Ederson 7; Walker 7, Otamendi 7 (Stones n/a), Laporte 6, Zinchenko 6 (Danilo 6); De Bruyne 9.5, Fernandinho 7 (Foden n/a), Gundogan 7; B Silva 8, Aguero 9.5, Sterling 8.5
Leicester: Schmeichel 5; Dragovic 7, Maguire 6, Fuchs 6, Chilwell 6 (Iheanacho 5); Albrighton 6, James 6, Ndidi 6, A. Silva 6 (Simpson), Diabate 6 (Mahrez 5); Vardy 8
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