Man City prove Pep Guardiola’s pre-match assessment correct in a wild, wacky Boxing Day clash – Stuart Brennan


At halftime we were witnessing a Premier League massacre, with Manchester City fans bouncing back and journalists scrolling through the Blues’ biggest wins, just in case.

In the end it was a comfortable victory, thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan, two-time Raheem Sterling and Aymeric Laporte, but not before a superb retaliation from Leicester transformed the jubilation of the Boxing Day in silent nervousness.

And once that was over, it was one for the wild and unpredictable festive montage compilation tapes, a wonderful treat, even for those weird individuals who find City “boring”.

It was also a justification for Pep Guardiola’s pre-match words, which his midfielder and full-backs cannot defend other than by keeping the ball out of opposition for long stretches.

It was hammered home in spectacular fashion as the top six Blues, ably backed by Joao Cancelo and Aleks Zinchenko, dug a gaping hole in the Foxes, building up a 4-0 lead at halftime, but were then seemed vulnerable and defensively unfit as they fell. an outfit and gave visitors a flair for a memorable return.

That was hushed up when City added more goals from Aymeric Laporte and Raheem Sterling, but it all translated into a wonderful festive one-match treat.

Guardiola had shyly spoken of his team’s “weaknesses” just before Christmas, pointing out that his midfielders and full-backs are “not good defenders” and the Blues cannot hit teams with a quick attack like they do. Liverpool.

Defense was irrelevant as City simply held the ball for long stretches of time, but Stering may have been stung by the idea that the Blues cannot match Jurgen Klopp’s side for the pace of their attack.

He was particularly excited from the start, flying over Kieran Dewsbury-Hall and repeatedly exposing the Foxes’ right flank.

Revenge is rarely cited as a motive in football, but everyone knows it exists, and players who suffer from embarrassment tend to sharpen their claws even more.

Last season, without fans at the Etihad, Leicester clinched a shock 5-2 victory that cast early doubts over City’s title credentials – doubts that were stamped out on their stormy comeback.

Only five of the squad who played that day were on the pitch at the start of it, but City looked like a team determined to repay the Foxes for the blush they caused that day.

That result was certainly avenged, but not in the overwhelming way it seemed at halftime.

Out of the blocks like an Olympic sprinter, regardless of whether the influential Rodri was missing – Raheem Sterling was in turbo mode on the bottom left and with Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez weaving intricate patterns on the bottom right, the Foxes felt like the The Boxing Day hunt was back.

It was no shock that the Blues were ahead in the fifth minute, and just like at Newcastle, it was a gift, in some ways.

Another powerful and confusing raid from City seemed to have run out of steam, but Fernandinho gently lifted a pass over the defensive line and De Bruyne was there.

Kevin De Bruyne celebrates after scoring against Leicester City.

With three defenders beside him he looked like he had little, but they stood up and allowed him to knock him down, move him to his left foot and run over him at home.

Leicester were bold in their response, but it made them more vulnerable, and they got into trouble again as they defended a corner.

Ruben Dias was in conflict with former Blue Kelechi Iheanacho, but Youri Tielemans went too far by wrapping an arm around Aymeric Laporte.

The Spain international tumbled into the box and VAR invited referee Chris Kavanagh to take a look at the field screen. He felt the contact was strong enough to warrant a shot on goal, and Riyad Mahrez crushed him high in the net.

Still, the Foxes showed ambition, and when James Maddison curved a free kick to the top corner, Ederson jumped in to spin it on the crossbar and be mobbed by teammates who recognized the importance of the moment.

Riyad Mahrez scores from the penalty spot against Leicester City.

Carried by this, City rushed forward again, playing some confusing and spellbinding football that was a bit too heady and pointy for hangover heads in the stands, not to mention the Foxes shocked by the shells.

It was soon 3-0 as Bernardo juggled and juggled the flank and exchanged passes with De Bruyne until Joao Cancelo ran wide to open up the space.

He shot a cross that was close enough to keeper Kasper Schmeichel to tease him out of his line, but he could only hand it straight to Gundogan, and he happily placed it in the unguarded net.

There was no mercy, no Christmas benevolence from the Blues, and it was 4-0 in the 25th minute.

Sterling, who was in a voracious mood, rushed into the box and rushed past Tielemans, still holding a grudge for conceding the first penalty.

Ilkay Gundogan celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal against Leicester.

This time there was no argument, as he stretched out a lazy leg to trip Sterling. Mahrez headed for the ball but Sterling was even too quick for him, rushing to grab it and place it in place.

Schmeichel tried a little sense of the game, chatting something with the ref as Sterling listened, an image of calm disinterest, then kicked his kick into the top corner.

It was a real eye-catcher, and Sterling was denied another when Aleks Zinchenko threw up a pass for Bernardo who, with prescience and a glorious touch, threw it in Sterling’s path. He touched him for the first time on the fly and Schmeichel jumped acrobatically towards the sky to return him over the bar,

That first half had people looking for the record books – the Blues were in that kind of mood.

But they stepped up a gear after the break, and their subdued approach encouraged a pitted Leicester side.

They hit back when Laporte slipped halfway to dismiss Kelechi Iheanacho – he delayed his pass until the perfect moment and Maddison had a single finish.

Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling scores his team’s fourth goal from a penalty spot.

β€œWe scored a goal” on the visitor support, followed by β€œWe will win 5-4”.

It was ironic, but when they pocketed another with 14 minutes of the second half, suddenly there was danger for the Blues.

Iheanacho did damage again, striding forward and feeding Ademola Lookman, who slid his shot past Ederson for 4-2.

Despite all their confidence and dominance in the first half, City suddenly looked vulnerable, and Guardiola’s ‘we can’t defend the words’ became relevant – and the Foxes sensed a famous comeback.

It was after 65 minutes when Maddison curled a shot off the bar and Iheanacho hid the rebound.

The mood on the pitch had gone from cheerful confidence and halftime celebration to tense unease, and it took a decisive goal to calm nerves again.

Mahrez swung a corner from the right and Laporte atoned for his previous mistake by infallibly directing him to the top corner, a perfect placement to bring the score to 5-3.

Leicester were still hammering out a fourth goal, but City have gradually reasserted their dominance.

So City marches to the top, and Jack Grealish has continued to kick the bench, punishment for his indiscretion by having a misguided evening last week.

Phil Foden saw some forgiveness for his role in this jaunt, playing the final 20 minutes as a substitute, but with Sterling, Mahrez and the others in this mood, the two stray players might wonder when to go into exile from the roster. start will end.



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