Sunday 23 July 2017

Leicester rue Mahrez mis-kick as sluggish City move up to third

Manchester City 2 Leicester City 1

Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez loses his footing at the vital moment, and while his penalty ends up in the net it is ruled out for deflecting in off his standing leg. Photo: Reuters
Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez loses his footing at the vital moment, and while his penalty ends up in the net it is ruled out for deflecting in off his standing leg. Photo: Reuters

Jamie Jackson

Manchester City's top-four quest remains intact with two matches remaining after they hung on desperately for a scrappy win.

As is often the case with this Pep Guardiola side they coasted, then lost their thread, and have a Riyad Mahrez slip when addressing a 77th-minute penalty to thank for taking all three points and moving into third place.

David Silva scored the opening goal of the game just before the half-hour mark. Photo: PA Wire
David Silva scored the opening goal of the game just before the half-hour mark. Photo: PA Wire

Mahrez was brought down by Gaël Clichy for the spot-kick but then careered over, kicking the ball on to his standing leg and so taking two touches. Robert Madley, the referee, correctly ruled out the finish past Willy Caballero, giving the home team a free-kick.

In the first half Madley did award City a goal after David Silva's shot went past Kasper Schmeichel as Raheem Sterling stuck out a leg. The forward may have made contact and also have been marginally offside, standing just ahead of Christian Fuchs. Schmeichel led the complaints to the referee, who paused but allowed Silva's effort to stand.

That was 29 minutes in and two more goals were to follow before the break. First City doubled their lead as Leroy Sané and Silva cut through the visitors' defence before Yohan Benalouane scythed the young German down. Madley pointed to the spot and Gabriel Jesus sent Schmeichel the wrong way, slotting home to the goalkeeper's right.

It appeared the contest was over but Craig Shakespeare's men, who had been pinned back for most of the half, went in having pulled one back. Mahrez swept the ball left to Marc Albrighton, whose cross to Shinji Okazaki was volleyed instantly beyond Caballero.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates with goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Photo: PA Wire
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola celebrates with goalkeeper Willy Caballero. Photo: PA Wire

Guardiola made no changes from the 5-0 rout of Crystal Palace here in last Saturday's early kick-off, while Shakespeare swapped Andy King for Danny Drinkwater and Ben Chilwell for Robert Huth from the 3-0 win against Watford later that day.

Guardiola had said Leicester would again hope to hit City on the counter, as they did when beating them in December's reverse fixture. An illustration came when Schmeichel pinged a quick clearance to Jamie Vardy along the left and Clichy was forced to foul the centre-forward or he would have been clear in on Caballero.

Aside from their goal and a Wilfred Ndidi missed header this was about it for Leicester until the interval. Instead City camped around the visitors' area as Sané, Silva, Jesus and Sterling terrorised Shakespeare's men.

A Sané corner was mis-hit and came to Silva. The ball eventually returned to Sané and he skimmed in a cross that Chilwell scrambled away. Next, Sterling took a ball from Yaya Touré, skinned Leicester's defence, and played in Clichy. He refused to use his right foot to shoot, found Sané instead, who blasted over.

The lack of killer edge, which Guardiola bemoans, was present again. How costly this might be was shown when Albrighton should have equalised in the second half from a Vardy pass. The winger mistimed the shot so City could breathe again, though they were now involved in a different contest to the one that had allowed them go 2-0 up.

Their rhythm had been disrupted by a Leicester who took up the fight and caused a concerned Guardiola to prowl the technical area. The Catalan's stance is that more goals allows more comfortable defending and when Sané motored down the left a third seemed on, but there was no end product.

Next in this watchable game, Albrighton received a shiner after Fernandinho jabbed an upper arm into him. Despite the obvious evidence of the Brazilian's offence Madley gave a drop-ball, much to Leicester's chagrin. Later Albrighton piled into Fernandinho to exact retribution, and was booked just after Mahrez's costly slip denied the Foxes a leveller from the spot.

Vardy came close to an equaliser as the end neared and City had held on through seven minutes of added time. But this is the latest evidence Guardiola has work to do in the close season.

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