MAN CITY 3, LEICESTER CITY 1
Manchester City were back to their imperious best as they beat Leicester City at the Etihad.
In this eagerly-awaited clash between the second and third-placed teams, there was a gulf in class as City moved within one point of the Foxes.
And it begged the question where has this City side been before as it had already lost four times.
They even had to do it the hard way after falling behind to a goal from Jamie Vardy, his sixth goal in eight games against Pep Guardiola – the best record any player has in the Premier League against City’s manager.
But they hit back with goals from Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan’s penalty and a rare home strike from Gabriel Jesus.
And had it not been for the heroics of Foxes’ goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, City would triumphed by an even more comprehensive margin.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola described it as “an incredible performance with and without the ball”.
And he agreed it was possibly their best performance of the season alongside the Tottenham game which they played superbly but drew 2-2.
City’s manager was pleased with playing at a “high level” and the way they pressed.
“I have convinced my players this is the way I want them to play with one, two touches and keeping it simple,” he said.
“I was pleased as a spectator like you. I like to see my players playing like that, and that is why we have had success.
“The only regret is that we have to create a lot of chances to score.”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers described City’s display as “outstanding”.
He said: “When they made it 2-1 and 3-1, they had top players to manage the game.
“We have a young group and they will learn from that and improve from playing against an exceptional team.
“As we approach the halfway point of the season, we have been brilliant.
“If you had said to me at the start of the season we would be second in the league and in the semi finals of the Carabao Cup, I would have taken it, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.”
City made two changes from the side that won 3-0 at Arsenal.
Bernardo Silva and Mahrez came in for Rodrigo and Phil Foden.
City enjoyed vast territorial advantage in the early stages without hurting the Foxes.
It wasn’t until the 14th minute that City created their first clear-cut chance when former Leicester player Mahrez cut the ball back for Kevon De Bruyne to strike the upright with a low drive from the edge of the penalty area, his seventh goal of the season.
City went close again when Mahrez cut in from the right and set up Gabriel Jesus whose shot was partially saved by Schmeichel with Caglar Soyuncu clearing the danger as the ball rolled towards the goal.
But it was the Foxes who stole ahead midway through the opening half through Vardy.
Harvey Barnes released Vardy who outpaced Fernandinho before coolly lifting the ball over the advancing Ederson, his 17th goal of the season.
Six minutes later and Vady broke away down the left and breezed past Nicolas Otamendi only to blaze over this time from a tight angle.
It was Mahrez who drew City level on the half hour.
Benjamin Mendy’s raking Crossfield ball released Mahrez on the right. He cut in and saw his shot take a wicked deflection off Soyuncu to wrong-foot Schmeichel.
De Bruyne had a chance to put City ahead but Schmeichel pulled off a decent save.
City eventually took the lead for the first time in the 43rd minute through a Gundogan penalty after Sterling had been tripped by Ricardo Pereira, a decision verified by VAR. it was also his seventh goal of the season.
Leicester remained a threat and in stoppage time James Maddison forced a decent save from Ederson as the visitors almost made it 2-2.
City had chance to establish a two-goal lead early in the second half, notably twice from Mahrez and also from De Bruyne.
Mahrez’s second effort forced a terrific save from Schmeichel diving low to his right.
City eventually scored a third goal with 21 minutes left as Jesus scored his 11th goal of the season, but his first at the Etihad since March.
De Bruyne broke on the right and his low cross was converted at the far post by Jesus, who slid in to convert from a couple of yards. It was City’s 50th Premier League goal of the season.
It was De Bruyne’s 10th assist of the season, the most by any player in the Premier League.
It was so nearly four when De Bruyne’s shot was athletically turned over the bar by Schmeichel.
City’s first change in the 79th minute was enforced after Gundogan picked up a knock and he was replaced by Rodrigo.
The second, with one minute left, saw Sterling replaced by Foden. Then in stoppage time De Bruyne came off with what appeared to be cramp as the fit-again Sergio Aguero was introduced as City ran down the clock.