Leicester City 0-1 Manchester City
It was a night of milestones.
This was the 100th league match between the sides.
It was also Brendan Rodgers’ 300th top-flight match as a manager (including 103 with Celtic in the Scottish Premiership).
And perhaps most interesting of all, this result meant champions Manchester City kept successive clean sheets in the Premier League for only the second time this season.
It’s no surprise that this has coincided with Aymeric Laporte being eased back into the team as City have a fine defensive base again to build upon.
Too late for the league this season but something which could be invaluable in Europe.
Highlights of the game
Ah yes, Europe. Never mind the Premier League 2020 news, City’s potential European ban is overshadowing all else currently, but Leicester boss Rodgers was keen to warn his players it would only galvanise Pep Guardiola’s team, keen to silence the doubters, as well as the Foxes.
Leicester were short of defensive midfielders, with Nampalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi both injured and Hamza Choudhury serving a one-match ban.
Meanwhile, City could only name captain David Silva on the bench after he was forced off against West Ham in midweek with a minor knee problem.
There was no shortage of talent in both starting line-ups, of course, and this third versus second clash was always going to be played at a frenetic pace.
Leicester, remember, won this fixture last season and there was a buoyant atmosphere again inside the King Power Stadium. Guardiola’s side had lost two of their last three top-flight matches at Leicester, although they knocked the Foxes out of the League Cup here in 2017 and 2018 (both matches went to penalty shoot-outs).
It was the hosts who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half, however. Jamie Vardy – who has scored five goals in his last eight league appearances against City – struck the post just eight minutes in after running onto a Youri Tielemans through-ball (the chance ironically came about because of a Laporte mistake).
The visitors dominated possession but, other than an Ilkay Gündogan opportunity which he scuffed at Kasper Schmeichel–who had produced a man of the match showing when these sides met two months ago–City’s attacking threat was limited before the break.
The hosts thought they should have been awarded at least one penalty during the opening half as a James Maddison free-kick hit Kevin de Bruyne’s arm. Meanwhile, goalkeeper Ederson appeared to foul former team-mate Kelechi Iheanacho when he misread the ball.
Those decisions angered the hosts further when, just after the hour, City were awarded a penalty by VAR after Dennis Praet blocked Gündogan’s drive with a raised elbow.
Yet again, though, there was Schmeichel to beat away Sergio Agüero’s spot-kick just a short time after one superb save denied De Bruyne. It was the fifth penalty City have missed in their last seven.
After recent events, that could have deflated the champions, but they showed real character to grab a winner 10 minutes from time.
Riyad Mahrez, booed throughout by the home fans, embarked on a surging run against his former team and found Gabriel Jesus who slotted the ball home just two minutes after he had replaced Aguero.
That settled the 100th league meeting of the two “Citys” and increased the SBOTOP Premier League 2020 betting odds on City claiming a runners-up spot ahead of the Foxes.
Who knows, with Guardiola committed to the project regardless of potential repercussions over the next few months, perhaps matters are not as bleak for City as forecast.
This win will certainly have lifted morale.
Jesus has scored in all three of his Premier League starts against Leicester and now one as a substitute, including three match-winning goals.
Leicester have lost six of the past seven league meetings against City.
They have also won just one of their previous six league games and three of the last 11.
Schmeichel’s save from Aguero’s penalty was his fourth Premier League penalty save – one more than his father Peter made in his entire Premier League career.
City have failed to score from each of their last four Premier League penalties, with each being missed by a different player (Aguero, Gundogan, Jesus, Raheem Sterling).
Rodgers is winless in all five of his matches against sides managed by Guardiola (drawn two, lost three).
The reigning champions have lost four of their 13 away league games this season, equalling their combined tally from the previous two seasons.
City attempted 18 shots in this match, the most Leicester have faced in a single league game at King Power Stadium since Manchester United had 19 in December 2017.
Leicester travel to basement battlers Norwich at Carrow Road next Friday night (February 28). They then entertain Birmingham City in the fifth round of the FA Cup on March 4.
City have a more hectic schedule. Next stop is the Bernabeu and Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday night.
That is followed by the League Cup final at Wembley on March 1 where Aston Villa await and a quick turnaround with a visit to Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup just three days later.
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