Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League after Kevin de Bruyne’s world-class free-kick broke down Leicester City’s stubborn resistance at the King Power Stadium.
Foxes’ manager Brendan Rodgers had clearly set up his team to do a containing job on the reigning champions. It worked effectively until De Bruyne curled a magnificent strike into the top corner from 25 yards four minutes after half-time.
De Bruyne’s goal was a reward for City’s dominance, even though they missed the killer touch of the absent Erling Haaland, who suffered from a fever and a foot injury.
Leicester almost broke out of their defensive shell when Youri Tielemans struck a volley from a corner that was turned on to the bar by Manchester City keeper Ederson. Ultimately, they did not have enough attacking intent or quality to test Pep Guardiola’s side.
Arsenal can return to the top of the table with a victory against Nottingham Forest at Emirates Stadium on Sunday but for now, Manchester City is back in the position that has become such familiar territory in recent years.
The goals of Haaland have been the big storyline surrounding Manchester City’s season so far but the brilliant Norwegian was missing here having suffered from illness and injury that forced his departure at half-time against former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek.
It was a chance to see how Manchester City compensated for his absence and in the first half, when Leicester City simply sat back and let the champions attack with the occasional counter-attacking threat of their own, the sheer physical presence and air of menace presented by Haaland would have been a welcome addition to their attacking efforts.
And yet, even without Haaland, Manchester City demonstrated why they were the Premier League’s biggest force years before his spectacular entry on to the scene by conjuring up a spectacular moment from another area to win this difficult fixture.
It was De Bruyne, a rich seam of match-winning brilliance over the years, who delivered with a right-foot free-kick from 25 yards that was simply unstoppable, glancing off the frame of the goal, tantalisingly out of the reach of Leicester keeper Danny Ward.
Manchester City then held firm, despite the main anxious moment of Tielemans hitting the bar, with the celebrations at the final whistle demonstrating their delight at overcoming a Leicester team who had been showing improved form.
Leicester was never going to come out blazing against this potent Manchester City side but after the disappointing narrow loss, there must be the sense they were risk-averse for too long.
The Foxes were content to sit back in the opening half, giving every impression that if they were offered a draw at any point they would have shaken on it instantly.
It was always going to be a problem to implement such a major change of gameplan once Manchester City scored – as they were always likely to do – and so it proved when De Bruyne turned on his magic just after half-time.
The frustration for Leicester manager Rodgers was that when his side adopted an enforced positive approach they actually caused the visitors problems and unsettled their defence, as shown by the thunderous Tielemans strike touched on to the bar by Ederson and an incident in the dying seconds when John Stones directed a nervous header straight at Ruben Dias, the rebound flying narrowly wide of his own goal.
Leicester’s fans understood the approach, as proved by warm applause when they reached half-time goalless, but the cheers when Rodgers made positive changes and introduced strikers Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka showed they also craved a more proactive approach.
In the end, their attempts to unsettle Manchester City came too late and the champions prevailed.
source – BBC