- Daniel Gallagher-Parker
Review and Player Ratings from Kevin De Bruyne mastery – Leicester City 0-1 Manchester City
Manchester City picked up a hard-fought three points away at Leicester City's King Power Stadium after a delightful Kevin De Bruyne free-kick broke the deadlock in the second half. The Premier League champions move top of the table for now, with Arsenal to play Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
The news no City fan, nor Fantasy Premier League player wanted to hear – Erling Haaland wasn't in the matchday squad. The Premier League's top goalscorer (17) has had problems with his ankles throughout this week, and after being assessed in Friday's afternoon training session, was deemed 'not fully fit' alongside Cole Palmer.
So in Haaland's absence, City needed to find their goals from elsewhere. Phil Foden is their second-highest goalscorer (6), so it's only normal that Pep Guardiola left him on the bench.
The City boss penned in a lineup with a total of 11 goals between them all this season, combined with an eighth different centre-half partnership. It's worth noting that heading into this game City have failed to score in their last three away games (FC Copenhagen, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund).
So it was a very controlled, yet somewhat irregular City side set to face Leicester at the King Power, with a front three of Bernardo Silva, Julian Alvarez, and Jack Grealish at the start of proceedings. Ederson also returned to the starting lineup after Stefan Ortega made his debut against Dortmund in midweek.
The first chance of the game was a nice looping header by Ilkay Gundogan. City's captain was found intelligently by Joao Cancelo, but the German's header didn't quite have the power to beat Danny Ward.
A very well-worked corner kick routine provided Ward with more of a test this time. Grealish played it out to Kevin De Bruyne on the edge of the box, who worked a yard of space to deliver a left-footed cross which Rodri glanced on at the near post, but Ward tipped it over for another corner that didn't cause any issues.
It was a positive opening 15 minutes or so from the visitors as De Bruyne latched onto a slightly overhit ball and managed to redirect it in the way of an oncoming Silva, whose half-volley caused problems for the Leicester goalkeeper – but they still couldn't find the breakthrough.
The hosts had their first chance of the game 23 minutes in after some patient build-up play led to Harvey Barnes firing a low shot, which Ederson had to be on his toes to deal with.
De Bruyne was the next City man to attempt to break the deadlock as he tried to replicate his goal at the King Power a few years back. City's #17 received the ball just outside the box as he connected incredibly well with a left-footed, powerful strike – unfortunately, it was straight at Ward.
Grealish was tasked with chasing Cancelo's clever pass that nutmegged Timothy Castagne, and in doing so, believed he was brought down for a penalty, but the referee and VAR disagreed.
The first half concluded the same way it started; goalless. Guardiola will have been happy that his side had controlled the game, created good chances, and restricted the opposition to minimal openings, but he will still be frustrated that his side had nothing to show for their first-half dominance.
Guardiola's side came flying out of the blocks in the second half, with Silva cutting a ball back to the edge of the box for Rodri to run onto, but his effort on goal was just wide of the mark.
City finally found the back of the net with an absolutely astonishing strike from De Bruyne. Grealish won his side a free kick roughly 25-yards away from the goal, and there was no doubt who would take this set piece as the Belgian was the only man standing over the ball.
From a similar position on the pitch, and at the same end as where he scored his screamer in the 17/18 season, De Bruyne, with plenty of power, placed the ball perfectly over the wall and into the top left corner via the inside of the post to give his side their first away goal in over 315 minutes.
Leicester's captain, Youri Tielemans nearly scored a goal just as impressive as his Belgian teammate. The ball was floated out to the edge of the box from a corner and the midfielder's first-time volley was struck perfectly and took a fine save from Ederson to deny an instant response from the home side.
Nothing of note really happened after that Tielemans strike; City kept probing but they were still struggling to break down Leicester's deep block. The Foxes did, however, bring Patson Daka on for Caglar Soyuncu, switching to a back four for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Ruben Dias also entered the action in place of Manuel Akanji, who had played another solid 70 minutes. The Swiss international did seem slightly uncomfortable physically before being replaced, which could be a fitness concern to keep an eye on.
Former City man, and Leicester substitute, Kelechi Iheanacho was trying to get his side back on level terms, but his attempt at goal didn't test Ederson, as the clock ticked over the 75-minute mark.
Whilst City were trying to see the game out and keep control of the ball, Cancelo took matters into his own hands and took a wayward effort from over 30-yards out that went well wide of Ward's goal.
Inside the final five minutes of the game and Aymeric Laporte was caught slacking and Maddison took advantage, the attack resulted in Ederson getting down low and keeping a hold of a fairly tame effort.
A very weird sequence of events followed as Stones attempted to clear his lines, but the ball ricocheted off of Dias' head and very nearly went into their own goal, but thankfully the damage was limited to just a corner.
City walked away with a hard-fought three points with a few positives to take from the 90 minutes. Despite all of the constant defensive changes, Guardiola's side can still keep clean sheets, no matter who is tasked with being amongst the back four.
Even when a team defends with "11 men behind the ball" as De Bruyne said post-match, they can still find a way to collect all three points, even if it isn't in their typical high-scoring fashion; all they need is one moment of brilliance, which tends to come from that man.
However, Guardiola will surely be asking the question, without Haaland, where are the open-play goals going to come from? Alvarez didn't provide the performance he would have hoped for before the game, but it's incredibly harsh to critique him too much when his abilities are limited coming up against a very defensive low block.
Man of the Match
Kevin De Bruyne is our Man of the Match. On a day where yes, City were the dominant side, De Bruyne still had to take things into his own hands and claim all three points himself. After sealing the win with an outstanding goal last time out in the Premier League against Brighton and Hove Albion, he's done it once again this week.
It was the Belgian's 25th goal from outside the penalty area.
Despite Guardiola's comments last week about De Bruyne not being at his best, the midfielder is proving every week why he is cementing himself as one of the very best players to grace the Premier League.
Ederson - 8
Stones - 7.5
Akanji - 7
Laporte - 7
Cancelo - 7.5
Rodri - 8.5
De Bruyne - 9
Gundogan - 6.5
Bernardo Silva - 7
Alvarez - 6
Grealish - 7.5
Subs: Dias - 6.5 Foden - 6.5
What's up next for Manchester City?
The Blues host Sevilla in their final Champions League group stage game, in which Guardiola has confirmed it will be a rotated starting XI. The game is live on BT Sports at 20:00 GMT, Wednesday 2nd November.
Written by: @DanGP17_
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