City took another step towards Champions League qualification with a 2-1 win over last season's Premier League champions Leicester. Though the Blues deserved the three points, the Foxes battled back into the game that had looked beyond them after goals from David Silva and Gabriel Jesus had given the hosts a two-goal advantage. Leicester also had a bizarre penalty disallowed late in the second-half in a game that was rarely dull.
What happened? City started brightly, looking for an early goal to use as a platform for another sparkling home performance on the back of last week’s Crystal Palace demolition. With just three minutes played, the Blues should have gone ahead when Leroy Sane’s corner found the head of Fernandinho but the Brazilian headed wide from six yards. With no Robert Huth or Wes Morgan in the Foxes’ defence, it seemed City planned on testing the makeshift central pairing of Yohan Benalouane and Christian Fuchs whenever possible. Sane came close on 19 minutes when Silva found him on the edge of the six-yard box but the young German miscued his shot and drove well wide. Sane’s out swinging corners continued to cause problems for the visitors with the pace and accuracy resulting in several near-misses from Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany – sooner or later, it seemed, the Blues would profit. Raheem Sterling wriggled into the box just before the half-hour mark but his cross was scrambled clear to Gael Clichy who opted to pass instead of shoot as the home crowd were demanding and the opportunity fizzled out. In City’s next attack, however, the deadlock was finally broken. Sane’s clever low cross into the middle found Silva who swept the ball past an unsighted Kasper Schmeichel, though the Foxes protested long and hard that Sterling had been in an offside position in front of the Danish goalkeeper. Whether Leicester had a case or not mattered little because referee Robert Madley had already decided the goal should stand. It was no more than City deserved, either after a half of almost total dominance – further emphasised five minutes later when the Blues doubled the lead from the penalty spot. Sane slalomed towards goal only to be felled by Yohan Benalouane and Gabriel Jesus stepped up to send Schmeichel the wrong way. The former Premier League champions had offered little or nothing of threat throughout the opening period so when they halved the deficit five minutes before the break, it was literally a bolt from the blue as Shinji Okazaki spectacularly volleyed home Marc Albrighton’s cross from 12 yards out. The visitors went in at half-time punch drunk, but still in the game at 2-1. The second-half was a far scrappier affair, littered with niggling fouls and stoppages but little goalmouth action. City found it hard to get back into the rhythm that they’d had in the first-half and Leicester were doggedly hanging in the contest. Then, a remarkable couple of minutes that you couldn’t have made up. With 76 minutes played, Riyad Mahrez approached the City box and jinked around Clichy who left a foot out that the Algerian tumbled over. The referee pointed to the spot and Mahrez seemed to have put the Foxes level with a high shot past Willy Caballero – but not so – Mahrez had slipped as he took the spot-kick and effectively touched it twice as he struck the ball. It was an amazing spot by referee Madley and not one you see very often! Either way it was a let off for the Blues who then brought on Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta – both to amazing standing ovations.
Key moment… Silva’s opening goal was obviously crucial, but TV replays suggested that it wouldn’t have been a total surprise if Sterling had been given offside. The Blues fully merited being in front, but the decision to award the goal was the breakthrough City had needed and, let’s not forget there’s been contentious decisions that haven’t gone the Blues’ way this season so marginal or not, it was a welcome goal. However, it was the decision to disallow Mahrez's penalty that ultimately meant City took another huge step towards Champions League qualification.
What it means… Another three points and City are now third - at least until Liverpool play West Ham on Sunday. The gap to Arsenal who play Stoke on Saturday early evening, is up to six points for the time being.
What’s next? City host West Bromwich Albion next Tuesday for the final home game of the campaign. Then the Blues round off the campaign with a trip to Watford next Sunday.
Manchester City (2): Caballero, Fernandinho, Clichy, Kompany, Otamendi, Yaya Touré, Sterling, Sané, De Bruyne, Silva, G Jesus
Leicester City (1): Schmeichel, Chilwell, Fuchs, Benalouane, Simpson, Ndidi, King (Amartey 68), Albrighton, Okazaki (Slimani 73), Vardy, Mahrez
Goals: Silva 29, Jesus (pen) 36, Okazaki 42
Referee: Robert Madley. Bookings: Kompany; Benalouane