Leicester City lost to Manchester City by a score of 6-3 at the Etihad in an entertaining but ultimately frustrating Boxing Day affair. The hosts took a 4-0 lead at the half through goals by İlkay Gündoğan, Kevin De Bruyne, and penalties by Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling. The Foxes scored three goals in the first twenty minutes of the second half through James Maddison, Ademola Lookman, and Kelechi Iheanacho, reducing the lead to one goal. However, late efforts from Sterling and Aymeric Laporte provided an ultimately comfortable margin for the Citizens.
After writing an article about how manager Brendan Rodgers copes with injuries by experimenting with different tactics, he shows us a new shape just a day later (although the 4-4-1-1 will probably look familiar if the name “Shinji Okazaki” means anything to you). Kasper Schmeichel (C), Marc Albrighton, Daniel Amartey, Jannik Vestergaard, Luke Thomas, Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, Kiernan Dewsbury Hall, Ademola Lookman, James Maddison, and Kelechi Iheanacho.
It took just over four minutes for the hosts to take the lead and, to be honest, it was a little fortunate that it took that look. Kevin De Bruyne found space between Vestergaard and Thomas, inviting Fernandinho to dink the ball over the top. Vestergaard lost the flight of the ball, allowing the Belgium international to bring it down, step back, and blast it past Schmeichel.
It got worse on 13’. Dewsbury-Hall gave away a corner nipping the ball off of De Bruyne’s toes. As the ball was swung in, Tielemans attempted to block Aymeric Laporte’s run and put his arm across the defender’s chest. The commentators didn’t feel there was enough contact for a penalty, but VAR felt differently and given. It was one of those that probably is a foul but you just almost never see called so you just have to shrug. Riyad Mahrez blasted it into the roof of the net to double the lead.
The Foxes were agonizingly close to getting one back just three minutes later. Mahrez fouled Albrighton just outside the penalty area. Madders lined it up and struck it sweetly, curling it towards the near post. Ederson reacted swiftly and turned it off the inside of the crossbar and to safety.
Would we be made to pay for that spurned chance? Boy howdy we would! On 21’, Joao Cancelo was slipped in by De Bruyne and allowed to fire in a low cross. Schmeichel attempted to gather it but couldn’t hold it, spilling the ball to the feet of İlkay Gündoğan. The Turkey man had the simplest of finishes, blasting home from close range into an empty goal.
It took the hosts only four more minutes to increase their advantage. Tielemans attempted to help out Albrighton in defence, but only managed to trip Raheem Sterling in the penalty area. Instead of “you’ve seen them called,” this was more of a “you’ve never not seen them given” sort of thing. Sterling took the penalty himself and it was a beauty, giving Schmeichel no chance at all. In case you’re struggling to keep up, that made it 4-0 to Manchester City.
Schmeichel somehow prevented the scoreline from getting more farcical on 35’. Bernardo Silva did incredibly well to back into space, receive a ball over the top, and volley it into the patch of Sterling. The former Liverpool man took it first time and it was going in, but Schmeichel made a stunning reaction save and pushed it to safety.
The good-ish news is that we saw out the half without it getting worse. Believe it or not, the Foxes actually had some decent half-chances going forward, but none of them came to anything. You could argue that 4-0 was an unfair scoreline, but 4-1 wouldn’t really make that much difference, would it?
The Foxes made one change at the half, withdrawing Ayoze and replacing him with Timothy Castagne and pushing Albrighton forward to a more natural position for him. The move immediately settled the Leicester defence and gave the side more balance.
The substitute was heavily involved with the Foxes getting a goal back. Castagne broke the Man City press with a ball over the top that found Maddison. His first touch was heavy, but he managed to tap it to Iheanacho, who drew the lone defender to him and returned it to Madders. The former Norwich City man took it first time, smashing it under Ederson to make the scoreline a little more respectable.
The lead was down to two just three minutes later. Madders won the ball in his own half and skipped several challenges before finding Iheanacho in the middle of the Man City half. His through ball to Lookman split two defenders and the former Fulham man slotted home from the middle of the penalty area. Game on?
Leicester have scored two goals in 4 minutes! Can they complete the comeback?— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 26, 2021
: @peacockTV #MCILEI #MyPLMorning pic.twitter.com/FrGsS6aPjd
Behold the power of an onside Ademola Lookman!
Maybe! Here’s your reminder that I write these as the match is happening, so, at this point, I genuinely don’t know. But, the lead was only one goal by the 65th minute. Another Leicester counter saw the ball fall to Madders just outside the area. His effort was turned onto the bar by Ederson, but this time the ball fell to the feet of Iheanacho, who smashed home from close range.
IT'S ANOTHER GOAL FOR LEICESTER!— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 26, 2021
It's 4-3 now! It was 4-0 10 minutes ago!
: @peacockTV #MCILEI #MyPLMorning pic.twitter.com/T2FstUl79y
This was as good as it would get. Which, for a few minutes, was pretty good.
Or, maybe not. Just three minutes later, the deficit was two again. The Citizens won a corner that was swung into the mixer towards Laporte. The defender rose above Iheanacho and Thomas and looped a header into the far corner of the net.
The Foxes should have had another one back just two minutes later. Iheanacho won a free kick deep in the hosts’ half directly from the kickoff. Maddison shaped to shoot and then just tapped it to the Nigeria striker running behind the defence. He was one on one with the keeper but Ederson made himself big and did spectacularly well to keep the ball out of the net.
The match was settled on 86’ as the hosts punished Leicester’s set-piece defending a second time. Ruben Dias evaded his markers and rose to glance an awkward header towards goal. It fell fortuitously to the feet of Sterling, who tapped home from close range.
What the heck do you make of that? The match was over, then it wasn’t, then it most definitely was. You could say that the two penalties and two corners, plus the host of missed chances, made for a misleading scoreline, but...it really wasn’t. With Maddison ticking, Leicester’s attack is fearsome, but with a back line that is several notches beyond “makeshift,” goals aren’t going to leak so much as pour into our net.
You don’t have many 3 goal defeats where you can take some positives from it, but this was a strange one. Just to emphasize how truly odd this match was, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a team have three players rated 7.5+ on WhoScored (Iheanacho 8.5, Lookman and Madders 7.8) and also have two players rated below a 5 (Tielemans 4.9 and Schmeichel 4.4).
The defeat leaves the Foxes on 22 points from 17 matches, which places us 10th on the table. In less than 48 hours, we host Liverpool and then close out the festive programme when Norwich City visit the King Power on New Year’s Day.