MAN CITY 6, LEICESTER CITY 3
Manchester City moved six points clear at the top following the highest scoring Boxing Day game in the Premier League era.
It was an extraordinary match at the Etihad as City made it nine straight league victories to increase the pressure on their title rivals as they extended the record recently set as they made it 34 league wins in the calendar year with Brentford away still to come.
But it was anything but the cake walk it looked likely to be after City opened what appeared to be an unassailable four-goal lead inside the opening 25 minutes through Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Raheem Sterling.
If City thought it was job done, they were mistaken as the Foxes mounted a stirring second-half comeback to reduce the deficit to 4-3 as James Maddison, Ademola Lookman and Kelechi Iheanacho all found the net.
City regained their composure as Aymeric Laporte and Sterling scored further goals to seal victory against the injury-hit visitors who have now won only once in their last six games.Embed from Getty Images
Manager Pep Guardiola said: “It was a rollercoaster, a typical Boxing Day game with a lot of goals for everyone and an entertaining game.
“It was weird. Even at 4-0 in the first half, every time they had the ball, they arrived in the final third delivering good passes and created chances. We were not in control, something we spoke about at half time.
“We know they quality Leicester have, and they are a top, top team. They have an exceptional manager who was clever to change their formation in the second half. At 4-2 the mindset changed and 4-3 close as they looked for an equaliser. After that we had doubts.
“We were more patient, had chances as well and won the game which was important.”
Sterling said: “The manager warned us at half-time. Leicester conceded four in the first half but every time they attacked, they created chances.
“It’s disappointing. We just had to control the game. It was slick football. At 4-0 up you have to kill the game. Leicester have some really good players. They didn’t get disheartened and kept going. Credit to them.”
Foxes’ manager Brendan Rogers said: “Clearly we didn’t make a great start. You expect to be up against it. The second goal was nowhere near a penalty. It’s so frustrating.
“Paul Tierney, the VAR, has missed very physical challenges in the last few weeks but deems that a penalty. He [Laporte] has fallen over. Before you know it, we’re 4-0 down in the opening 25 minutes.
“We had eight shots in the first half. It was pretty close in terms of statistics.
“At half-time we said to the players can we win the second half, can we get closer to them? The biggest factor was it was so important not to unravel physically and mentally. They’ve never done that. At 4-0 away, with everyone going against us, it could have been easy for the players to do that. “They didn’t. At 4-3 we’re disappointed with set-pieces. We had two big chances at 5-3. The second half was so encouraging. We’re not overly pleased at losing the game.”
City made two changes from the side that beat Newcastle 4-0 last weekend.
Gundogan and Fernandinho were called up with Gabriel Jesus dropping to the bench and Rodri not in the squad.
Phil Foden and Jack Grealish, relegated to the bench for the Newcastle game for disciplinary reasons, were again among the substitutes, which included two goalkeepers and Brazilian forward Kayky, 18, who was included for the first time in a senior City squad and is very much a player to watch as the £9million signing from Fluminese has been labelled the new Neymar.
John Stones, Ferran Torres and Kyle Walker were all ruled out through injury.
Leicester made six changes from the side that lost to Liverpool in the Carabao Cup on Wednesday.
Jannik Vestergaard, Marc Albrighton, Kelechi Iheanacho, Ayoze Perez, Daniel Amartey and Ademola Lookman came in for the Foxes.
Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu, who were injured against the Reds, miss out along with Patson Daka, while Boubakary Soumare dropped to the bench which also contained fitness doubts Jamie Vardy and Wilfred Ndidi.
Vardy picked up a hamstring problem late in the game against Liverpool, but it is at the back where they have been hit hardest by injury.
There was a poignant moment before kick-off when members of the City family lost in the last year were remembered. They included former players Colin Bell, Freddie Hill and Johnny Williamson and honorary president Ian Niven.
Leicester endured a torrid start and lived dangerously defensively before falling behind in the sixth minute through De Bruyne.
Fernandinho’s lofted pass over City’s defence was superbly brought down by the Belgian who created an opening seemingly out of nothing before firing how past Kasper Schmeichel, his sixth goal of the season and third in the last three matches.
And it soon got better when they doubled the lead through a 14th minute penalty from Mahrez.
Referee Chris Cavanagh did not spot Ruben Dias being wrestled to the ground by Youri Tielemans, despite City protests.
It was picked up by VAR Paul Tierney who sent Kavanagh to the pitchside monitor and, after viewing the incident, he pointed to the spot and Mahrez blazed home from the spot against his former club. It was his 12th goal of the season and fourth consecutive one in which he had found the net.
Leicester would have halved the deficit but for a wonder save from Ederson to miraculously turn Maddison’s free kick on to the bar and moments later the Brazilian keeper saved well from Ayoze Perez.
It was a momentary blip as City were soon 3-0 ahead through Gundogan.
Schmeichel could only parry a low cross from Joao Cancelo into the path of the German who had the easiest of finishes for his fourth goal of the season.
City then added a fourth goal inside the opening 25 minutes when the hapless Tielemans tripped Sterling and Kavanagh immediately pointed to the spot. This time Sterling stepped forward to score from 12 yards, his eighth of the season and fourth in the last five games and in his fourth straight league game, something he has not done since 2017.
City fans were in dreamland as they recreated the famous Poznan goal celebration, and it could soon have been five but for a brilliant reflex save by Schmeichel to deny Sterling.
And Schmeichel did well again in stoppage time to prevent Gundogan from adding a fifth goal wit another smart stop low to his left.
City made a sluggish start to the second half as opposed to the blistering opening to the match and they were punished as Maddison reduced the deficit to three goals in the 55th minute.
The midfielder exchanged passes with Iheanacho to carve open the home defence before slotting home a low shot from 12 yards, his seventh goal of the season.
And two minutes later, the deficit was reduced to 4-2 through Lookman.
Maddison and Iheanacho linked to release Lookman wo scored with a low shot, the fourth goal of his loan spell from RB Leipzig.
City came close to a fifth goal when Fernandinho’s header was deflected by Daniel Amartey on to his own crossbar.
City became twitchy when Leicester made it 4-3 in the 65th minute through former City player Iheanacho.
Maddison’s shot was parried on to the crossbar by Ederson and Iheanacho, following up, had the easiest of tap-ins for his fourth goal of the season.
The nerves eased four minutes later when Laporte restored a two-goal advantage with a looping header from seven yards following Mahrez’s corner, his second goal of the season.
City made their first change in the 71st minute when De Bruyne was replaced by Foden.
Leicester ought to have scored a fourth goal when Marc Albrighton headed wide from six yards when he looked certain to convert a cross from Luke Thomas.
City added a sixth goal in the 87th minute to make certain of victory. Dias headed Mahrez’s corner towards goal, and it was diverted home by Sterling from inside the six-yard box.