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Match Report: Manchester City 3 - 1 Leicester City

It wasn’t as close as it looked, but in the end, it kind of was?

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Leicester City fell to Manchester City by a score of 3-1 at the Etihad in the late Saturday match. The match was done and dusted after 25’ after goals by John Stones and an Erling Haaland brace. Nothing at all happened until the last 20 minutes when substitute Kelechi Iheanacho got a goal back and suddenly Leicester had a flurry of chances, but couldn’t find the back of the net again.

New interim manager Dean Smith made a fistful o’ changes to the starting lineup, with two long-term absentees getting the surprise nods: Youri Tielemans made his return from a supposedly season-ending injury, and Çağlar Söyüncü came in from the cold to make just his second Premier League start of the campaign: Daniel Iversen, Timothy Castagne, Söyüncü, Harry Souttar, Wout Faes, Victor Kristiansen, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Tielemans (C), Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Jamie Vardy.

It took all of five minutes for the hosts to take the lead. It was attack against defence from the opening whistle, with the Leicester defence keeping it tight and denying their opponents obvious goalscoring opportunities. It seems unfair, then, that the goal came from out of the blue. The Foxes failed to clear a corner and it fell to John Stones at the edge of the area. The former Everton defender volleyed an unstoppable effort from distance to put Leicester in an early hole.

It took all of five more minutes for the hosts to double the lead. Jack Grealish, the mirror-universe version of Madders, was making a menace of himself on the Leicester left with his dribbling and getting-fouleditude and yelling-profanties-at-the-refereeness. He got past Castagne and tried to chip the ball into the centre, but Ndidi’s raised arm made the block. Somehow, the referee missed it but VAR didn’t. Iversen guessed the correctly, but Erling Haaland hit the penalty perfectly to make it 2-0.

The Foxes probably should have had one back with their first legitimately dangerous foray into the Man City half. Söyüncü sprinted forward across the halfway line before finding Kristiansen on the left. The defender’s cross found Vardy, who squared for Madders just behind the penalty spot in acres of space. He dawdled on the ball and Aymeric LaPorte was able to dive in and make the block.

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League
This is unrelated to the attempt on goal, I just really like the image. Also, Haaland is really big, huh?
Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

It was three on 25’ when KDH’s pass sold Ndidi short. Kevin De Bruyne won the 50/50 and tore forward. Under pressure, the Belgium man found Haaland’s run down the centre. The big Norwegian held off Souttar’s challenge and clipped the ball over Iversen who had been given no hope of saving any of the three goals.

A Tale In Two BBC Texts

The halftime whistle went with the hosts in cruise control having shifted down a gear or two as Leicester struggled to get and keep the ball (see above). Madders was the only real attacking threat with Youri well off the pace and KDH working hard but struggling to have an impact. There was nothing to suggest that the Foxes were going to get back into the match, but this has been a strange fixture in the past so who knows?

The Dean Smith brain trust made two changes at the half, both of the like-for-like variety: Kelechi Iheanacho and Luke Thomas came on for Vardy and Kristiansen. The move very nearly paid immediate dividends when Madders found the Seniorman with a glorious through ball. The former Man City striker’s first touch was unfortunate and the defence was able to recover. The flag went up for offside, but replays suggested that it might not have been the right call.

Iversen was called into action on the hour, and he proved that if he can get a hand to it, he’ll keep it out of the net. The hosts worked a wonky corner routine that worked the ball to Riyad Mahrez on the edge of the area. The former Fox’s curling shot was bound for the far corner, but the big Dane timed his leap perfectly and clawed it over the bar.

Smith made two more changes, taking Tielemans and KDH off in favour of Nampalys Mendy and Dennis Praet. The match had an exhibition feel to it at this point which quite obviously favoured Man City. At 70’, I realised that I hadn’t yet checked to see who was in goal for City as he hadn’t been involved at all. Courtney informed me it was Ederson. Almost immediately afterwards, Castagne got loose on the right and cut the ball back for Praet who only had to sweep the ball into the goal, but instead he just sort of poked it at Ederson. That was our first shot of the half and our first shot on goal of the match.

On 74’, we won our first corner of the match and we got a tiny lifeline from it. Madders found Souttar, whose header was well saved by Ederson, but he only parried it to Iheanacho a foot from goal. Even I could have scored this one, but there’s a skill to being in the right place at the right time and the Seniorman most certainly was. Would a highly unlikely be in the cards?

Manchester City v Leicester City - Premier League
I mean, really, from that range, I think I’d fancy my chances. I am terrible, but I think I could bury that one.
Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

The Foxes should have made it a one-goal match on 85’. Madders nicked the ball from Ruben Dias in midfield and was 2-on-1 with Ederson alongside Iheanacho. The former Norwich City man went for goal and saw it well saved when the better option would have been to square it. From the following corner, Cags’ header struck the elbow of Sergio Gomez, but VAR correctly ruled that his arm was against his side and the penalty wasn’t given.

Smith finally introduced Patson Daka for Ndidi, a move that would have been more dramatic had Madders scored earlier. Three minutes of time were added on for the Foxes to find two goals. They once again should have had one as Madders curled a literally perfect ball to meet Iheanacho’s run. With Ederson beaten, the Seniorman’s shot came off the far post with the goalmouth gaping.

That proved the last action of the match as the Foxes drooped to defeat in spite of a late flurry that would almost have warranted getting something from the match.

This is a really difficult match to analyze. Leicester City were buried in the first half-hour of the match. The next forty minutes were played at a saunter, with neither side doing much of anything. After the hosts had made five substitutions, they lost all fluidity and the Foxes had a real chance to get something from the match. Two crucial late misses ensured we lost, but we actually had as many shots on target at Man City and created the better chances after creating nothing for most of the match.

One thing that was abundantly clear today was that the decision to freeze Çağlar Söyüncü out of the lineup for most of the season has contributed heavily to our being the position we’re in. When your squad is shipping goals at a historic rate, it beggars belief that you wouldn’t find a way to use a player being recruited by the second-best defensive side in Spain.

“Hey Brendan, who still has a job?”

The defeat, expected though it was, still hurts. Leicester are on 25 points from 31 matches which leaves us 19th on the table and 2 points from safety. The big news from the weekend is that Bournemouth beat Spurs and Wolves beat Brentford, giving those two sides a little distance from the scrum at the bottom of the table. Speaking of Wolves, we face them one week from today at the King Power in a crucial fixture for the Foxes.