City top Leicester in highest-scoring Boxing Day match of PL era – Man City 6-3 Leicester Review
Once again Manchester City are beginning to find their groove in the month of December.
With a congested fixture list up ahead Pep Guardiola named a strong but slightly rotated started XI. Ederson started in goal with Aleks Zinchenko, Aymeric Laporte, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo protecting him. Fernandinho returned into the starting lineup with Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne occupying the space ahead of him. The front three consisted of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez.
The bench consisted of Phil Foden, Jack Grealish, Nathan Ake, Cole Palmer, Scott Carson, Luke Mbete, Gabriel Jesus, Zack Steffen and a surprise Kayky appearance. Kyle Walker and Rodri declared not fully fit to feature, with John Stones said to be injured.
Leicester were in a bit of an injury crisis, with Jamie Vardy forced to the sidelines and only one fit centre back in the starting lineup. Ryan Bertrand also picked up a knock in the warm-up, which forced Brendan Rodgers to give a Premier League debut to Luke Thomas at left-back.
City once again started the game at a breakneck pace, in what has become one of their trademarks during the Guardiola era. Leicester struggled to grab any sort of control of the game in the opening minutes, and with Marc Albrighton being forced to play right-back, Sterling terrorized the left side of the Leicester defence in the opening five minutes.
After a few near chances created by Sterling, Fernandinho dinked a ball over the Leicester defence in the fifth minute and found De Bruyne at the top of the box. The Leicester defence gave De Bruyne a yard of space, and he turned to his left and buried a shot in the bottom right corner to take a 1-0 lead.
In the fourteenth minute, City found themselves an opportunity to double their lead after Youri Tielemans took down Laporte in the box following a corner kick. Both Dias and Laporte had been wrestling with Kelechi Iheancho and Tielemans before the corner was taken, so much so that referee Chris Kavanagh had to give multiple warnings to stop.
At first, no penalty was given, but after the ball went out of play, Kavanagh was asked to review the potential foul and awarded a penalty. Mahrez stepped up to take the penalty and despite Kasper Schmeichel’s best efforts to get into the Algerian’s head, he rifled his penalty into the top right corner.
In the 21st minute, City had another chance to score when De Bruyne found Cancelo running free down the right side of the pitch. Cancelo attempted to cross the ball to Sterling who was crashing down the left side but Schmeichel got a glove on it and knocked it right to the feet of Gundogan, who was able to knock it into the net to take a 3-0 lead.
Leicester’s nightmare half wasn’t over though. Four minutes later, Sterling was taken down by a mistimed tackle from Tielemans. Kavanagh immediately awarded a penalty, Sterling kept the ball and also beat a diving Schmeichel top right.
City had a major opportunity to extend their lead even further in the closing minutes of the first half. Schmeichel had an impressive reaction save to block Sterling from grabbing a second. The chance was set up by a Zinchenko ball followed by a deft touch from Bernardo Silva.
Leicester City responded strongly in the second half, it looked as though Rodgers switched to 5 at the back which gave their defence more cover and hoped to find chances on the counter. Which they did.
Leicester found their first opportunity in the 54th minute when Laporte slipped when attempting to make a tackle on the halfway line. Dias was then forced to cover his lost space and over-committed which left Cancelo to defend a 3 on 1.
Leicester officially took hold of the momentum of the match in the 58th minute. Maddison beat Zinchenko and Gundogan off the dribble to start a counterattack that Ademola Lookman finished with a tidy finish in the bottom left corner.
Their comeback was solidified just six minutes later when they scored off yet another counterattack. It was a clumsy goal scored off of an incredibly favourable bounce of the crossbar from an Ederson save. In the space of 10 minutes, Leicester had gone from 4-0 down, to 4-3.
However, the comeback stopped there. City nabbed two goals off of corners. One from Laporte in the 68th minute, helping retake control of the game. And the nail in the coffin came from Sterling who secured his brace after tapping in a close-range finish off of Dias’ scuffed header.
The game ended with Manchester City now six points above Liverpool, who have a game in hand.
Manchester City will travel to Brentford on Wednesday for an 8:15 pm (GMT) kick-off.
MAN OF THE MATCH
This was arguably the best Raheem Sterling has looked in a City shirt in the past 18 months. He both won and scored a penalty, and grabbed his brace in the closing minutes. The 27-year-old was a constant threat in the first half and with 8 goals in his last 10 appearances, It is beginning to look like the Raheem Sterling of old.
EDERSON - 7
ZINCHENKO - 8
DIAS - 6
LAPORTE - 7
CANCELO - 6
FERNANDINHO - 6
GUNDOGAN - 7
BERNARDO - 7
MAHREZ - 7
De BRUYNE - 8
STERLING - 9
Subs: FODEN - 5
Written by: @IVIeehan
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.