Riyad Mahrez's hat-trick sinks Swansea
Published 05/12/2015 | 17:06
Leicester returned to the top of the Barclays Premier League with a handsome 3-0 victory at Swansea - and this time they did not even need a Jamie Vardy goal to do it.
Riyad Mahrez was the Foxes' hero with his first hat-trick in English football and the manner of Swansea's defeat will raise further questions about manager Garry Monk's position, whose side have now taken only six points from the last 33 on offer.
Having set a Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive matches, Vardy was out to match the best top-flight mark of 12 successive games set nearly 84 years ago.
Irishman Joe Dunne scored in 12 in a row for Sheffield United between October 1931 and January 1932 and Vardy's best chance to equal that mark came when he bore down on goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski after 15 minutes.
But Fabianski saved smartly and Vardy took a backseat for once as Mahrez took his tally for Premier League goals this season into double figures.
It was a hugely impressive performance from Leicester, who made the most of Manchester City's earlier defeat at Stoke to reclaim top spot, and on this evidence they can stay there for a good while yet.
Claudio Ranieri's side were so disciplined at the back that Swansea failed to muster a single shot on target until the final 15 minutes, Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante were supreme in midfield and the pace of Mahrez and Vardy proved unstoppable.
Leicester were ahead after five minutes when Kyle Bartley needlessly conceded a corner and Swansea failed to deal with Marc Albrighton's delivery.
Leonardo Ulloa made a nuisance of himself at the near-post and the ball appeared to strike Mahrez on the arm before squeezing past Lukasz Fabianski - Leicester scoring for the 16th consecutive Premier League game.
The early lead was perfect for Leicester to utilise their pace on the counter-attack, even if Swansea failed to help themselves with some questionable defending and their failure to retain possession.
Bartley was at fault again when his careless kick gave Vardy the opportunity to match Dunne's record but, for once, the England man was unable to accept a one-on-opportunity as Fabianski stood firm.
But Leicester's second arrived after 22 minutes with Mahrez again benefiting from a decision in his favour.
The Algerian appeared a yard offside when he raced onto N'Golo Kante's pass but he made no mistake to stroke the ball past Fabianski.
Mahrez should have completed his hat-trick moments later but Fabianski saved well this time and the Poland goalkeeper was relieved to see Ulloa flash an effort inches wide before the break after an Ashley Williams error.
Swansea needed to respond quickly after the interval and Ki Sung-yueng met Gylfi Sigurdsson's free-kick within two minutes of the re-start to strike the crossbar with a header.
But the game was settled after 68 minutes when Kante strode 40 yards unchallenged to find Vardy, who unselfishly laid the ball off for Mahrez to finish in style.
Vardy had late chances to equal Dunne's record before Bafetimbi Gomis finally brought a save out of Kasper Schmeichel and Sigurdsson struck a post.
But Swansea are very much in a relegation battle as Leicester march on.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
"Mahrez hat-trick....or did I just nod off and dream it?" - Former Leicester City striker Gary Lineker's reaction to Riyad Mahrez's hat-trick.
Lukasz Fabianski: 6 (out of 10)
Kyle Naughton: 4
Ashley Williams: 5
Kyle Bartley: 4
Neil Taylor: 5
Leon Britton: 6
Ki Sung-yueng: 4
Wayne Routledge: 5
Andre Ayew: 5
Gylfi Sigurdsson: 6
Bafetimbi Gomis: 4
Jefferson Montero (on for Routledge 46mins): 5
Modou Barrow (on for Britton 63mins): 5
Jack Cork (on for Ki 78mins): 5
Kasper Schmeichel: 7
Danny Simpson: 7
Wes Morgan: 7
Robert Huth: 7
Christian Fuchs: 7
Danny Drinkwater: 8
N'Golo Kante: 8
Marc Albrighton: 7
Riyad Mahrez: 9
Leonard Ulloa: 7
Jamie Vardy: 8
Andy King (on for Ulloa 87mins): 6
Jeffrey Schlupp (on for Mahrez 90mins): 6
RIYAD MAHREZ: Stepped out of Jamie Vardy's goal-scoring shadow to claim his first hat-trick in English football. Easy to forget how good he has been this season due to Vardy's record-equalling exploits, but the Algerian now has 10 Premier League goals this season and his pace and movement frightens the best defenders.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Mahrez's third goal was Leicester at their best - scorching pace on the break and a ruthless finish to match. N'Golo Kante showed great power as he strode 40 yards through the Swansea midfield. Kante laid the ball off to Vardy who showed an unselfish side to his game to find Mahrez, and the finish low past Fabianski put the cherry on Leicester's cake.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Swansea manager Garry Monk cut a forlorn figure as his employment prospects took another turn for the worse. Monk said last weekend's improved performance in defeat at Liverpool had helped them turn a corner, but Swansea were rudderless as Leicester cut them apart time and again in the first half. Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, however, must feel everything is right in the world as his Foxes returned to the top of the table - even without Vardy finding the target for once.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Just what has happened to Swansea's style and panache which took them to a best eighth place in the Premier League last season with a record points total? Manager Monk was touted as a future England boss a few short months ago, but Swansea have completely lost their way and his chances of staying in the job now appear to be very much hanging in the balance.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Man City v Swansea (Premier League, December 12)
Leicester v Chelsea (Premier League, December 14)