Monday 19 November 2018

Blond ambition drives on Leicester as Riyad Mahrez turns on the style

Leicester star Riyah Mahrez
Leicester star Riyah Mahrez

Leicester boss Claude Puel was pleased to see Riyad Mahrez catch the eye for more than one reason in the 1-0 win against Burnley.

The Algerian has largely been below par so far this season but he suggested an upturn in form might be around the corner with a superb goal in the midweek win against Tottenham.

On Saturday, sporting bright blond hair - a move away from his usual jet black colour - Mahrez produced a performance of the calibre so often witnessed during Leicester's Premier League title-winning campaign of 2015/16.

It was his delicious cross that caused Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope to push the ball into the path of Demarai Gray, who tucked away the only goal of the game at the King Power Stadium.

Mahrez also had a couple of opportunities to score, most notably at the end when his low shot brought a good save from Pope, and Puel was delighted with the 26-year-old's contribution.

"I am happy about the game of Riyad today because it was good without the ball and he did hard work for the team," said the Frenchman. "He was good also with the ball. It was consistent and interesting for him and the team today, especially given the colour of his hair!"

Asked what he made of Mahrez's new look, Puel said: "It is not a problem for me, just for him. If he shines even more like that then so be it, it will be a good thing."

Gray's inclusion ahead of Shinji Okazaki was the only change made by Puel following the 2-1 midweek win against Tottenham, and the Leicester boss said: " It is normal to see different players.

"I wanted to see Demarai in this place because I felt he can give opportunities different to Okazaki. I was pleased with Okazaki against Tottenham but I think it was interesting and encouraging to see Gray.

"Also we cannot play all the time with the same players, we need all the squad to play all these games."

Burnley were dealt an injury blow after half an hour of the defeat at the King Power Stadium when Robbie Brady had to be carried from the pitch on a stretcher.

The midfielder worked a shooting opportunity 18 yards out but Harry Maguire nicked the ball away as he pulled the trigger, resulting in a nasty-looking collision of shins. Both players lay on the ground in some pain and after receiving treatment Brady had to leave the action.

Clarets boss Sean Dyche feared the worst, saying: " We are waiting on actual factual news but it looks like it's more serious than not serious to me, so we will have to wait and see.

"He's at the hospital now so I don't want to give too much information as I don't know the actual facts, but it is a knee problem."

It was only a second loss in 13 Premier League matches for Burnley and Dyche felt his team were unlucky to return to Lancashire with nothing to show for their efforts.

"Overall it was tight," Dyche said. "It was a really soft goal to concede, a really soft goal. That was unlike us, we usually smell danger much quicker than that.

"I'm certainly not going to over-question the players because they usually defend much better than that. I think the performance warranted something but the margins are very tight.

"It's hard to doubt the players who had their third game in a week and who were outstanding physically again, and who right at the end were still trying to score. It was a fantastic mentality once again."

Press Association

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