Youri Tielemans

The Season So Far: City Secure Club Record For Top Flight Wins In December

There was last-gasp VAR drama, a top-flight Club record for consecutive wins and more Carabao Cup progress in store for Leicester City in December.
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The Foxes continued into the last month of the decade in the same winning form in which they ended November during the visit of Everton to King Power Stadium on 1 December.

However, Marco Silva's Toffees would end up providing perhaps the sternest challenge to City's perfect run of five successive victories on a dramatic night on Filbert Way.

Leicester's visitors on the night had dropped alarmingly close to the Premier League's relegation zone leading into the fixture, but took the lead through Richarlison's first-half header.

A challenge from Mason Holgate, meanwhile, was initially punished with the awarding of a penalty to the home side, but VAR would step in to frustrate City and overturn the decision.

Still behind at the break, Brendan Rodgers' men, sitting second in the league, emerged from the tunnel with a renewed ambition not to let Everton curtail their excellent form.

Their true spark, though, arrived in the 62nd minute with the introduction of Kelechi Iheanacho from the bench who, six minutes later, found Jamie Vardy unmarked to level the scores.

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Leicester City
Leicester City

The Foxes rush to one another on the sidelines after Kelechi Iheanacho's late goal is given by VAR.

Leicester remained unable to break the Toffees down until, into added time, Ricardo Pereira threaded a pass to Iheanacho, who despite a raised offside flag, finished well past Jordan Pickford.

The celebrations were muted, as many in the crowd had spotted the flag, but as the length of time taken to review the decision increased, optimism grew inside King Power Stadium.

When referee Graham Scott signalled that the decision had in fact been overruled - sending the Foxes to a sixth win in a row - it led to euphoric celebrations, with Iheanacho running to the bench.

Rodgers and his coaching team were mobbed by their players, all of whom toasted a victory which kept them within eight points of Liverpool, who had only dropped two points all season long.

The winning run went on yet further four days later as managerless Watford were dispatched with a 2-0 victory at King Power Stadium, courtesy of Vardy's penalty and a late James Maddison finish.

It was also a victory which equaled a record that was set as long ago as March 1963 and surpassing any sequence of results they were able to put together in their title-winning season in 2015/16.

"It was a real team effort tonight and to get seven wins on the spin in the Premier League is a great achievement," Rodgers told the national media shortly afterwards.

"The team is developing and are proving they have a winning mentality and mindset. We will do our best (to stay in top two), we fight and work and see where it takes us."

A double from City's No.9 against Aston Villa, meanwhile, was his eighth consecutive goalscoring outing in the Premier League, also sealing an eighth victory on the spin for Rodgers' men.

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Leicester City
Leicester City

City's win at Aston Villa was the Club's eighth in a row in the Premier League.

The Foxes were in explosive form at Villa Park, racing into a two-goal lead, first through Vardy and then Iheanacho, playing alongside the Club's all-time top Premier League scorer in a new system.

Jack Grealish got one back before the break, but it didn't slow Leicester down, as Jonny Evans' header and a breakaway goal on the counter sealed a 4-1 triumph for City in Birmingham.

It also meant that the Foxes had won their last four away games with an aggregate score of 17-1 while Vardy's 25 goals since Rodgers' appointment in February was eight more than any other player.

For Norwich City's visit to Leicester on 14 December, an army of Foxes supporters came together in Miami, Florida, joined by Foxes legend Gerry Taggart, for the NBC Mornings Live festival stateside.

However, the match itself was frustrating at moments, with the Canaries taking the lead after Teemu Pukki broke free of his marker and confidently finished past Kasper Schmeichel.

Leicester did hit back, though, with Vardy initially thinking his run of goalscoring appearances had continues, although it was later awarded as an own goal for Tim Krul.

Elsewhere, a hectic December also involved City parking their league campaign to continue their exploits in the Carabao Cup, for a quarter-final tie against Everton at Goodison Park.

The Toffees were now under the temporary management of former striker Duncan Ferguson, ahead of the appointment of Italian Carlo Ancelotti a few days later.

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Ben Chilwell and Kasper Schmeichel
Ben Chilwell and Kasper Schmeichel

Leicester reached a League Cup semi-final for the first time since 2000 by beating Everton.

City raced into a two-goal lead on Merseyside, with a refined finish from Maddison and Evans' close-range effort putting them 2-0 in front before the break, but Everton duly hit back later on.

Tom Davies got them back into it with a volley before a stunning strike from Leighton Baines from outside the area meant a shootout was needed to separate the two sides.

Maddison was first denied, before Schmeichel saved from Cenk Tosun and Baines either side of Ben Chilwell’s converted penalty.

Ricardo, Mason Holgate, Demarai Gray and Dominic Calvert-Lewin were all on target in the following four spot-kicks, leaving Vardy the task of winning for the Foxes. 

Back in the league, the gap to Liverpool remained at 10 points as the Foxes travelled to Etihad Stadium to contest an enthralling encounter with Manchester City four days before Christmas Day.

An excellent counter-attacking strike from Vardy put the visitors ahead, lobbing Ederson in the process, but it was Pep Guardiola's champions who emerged with the points.

Former Fox Riyad Mahrez hit back eight minutes after his ex-team-mate's opener before efforts from İlkay Gündoğan and Gabriel Jesus, either side of the interval, made sure for Man City.

"We are learning," Rodgers said in assessment. "If you had asked me in August when we started 'would you take second in the league and the semi-final of the first cup competition?', we would have taken it and there is still so much for us to improve on."

Another tough challenge lay on the horizon as Liverpool delivered an excellent performance on Filbert Way on Boxing Day to return to Merseyside with a 4-0 victory.

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Demarai Gray
Demarai Gray

A match at West Ham was won by Demarai Gray in the second half at London Stadium.

The league leaders, European champions and newly-crowned FIFA Cup World Cup winners sealed the feat through a brace from Roberto Firmino, James Milner's penalty and a fine Trent Alexander-Arnold effort.

A recovery was needed and Leicester duly delivered on their final outing of 2019 as Rodgers made nine changes to his starting XI for a visit to West Ham United, their eighth match in December.

James Justin came in to make his maiden top-flight start for the Foxes, alongside captain Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, Papy Mendy, Hamza Choudhury, Marc Albrighton and Ayoze Pérez.

The visitors in London, meanwhile, secured their 13th win in 20 so far into the 2019/20 campaign, courtesy of goals from Iheanacho and Gray, who also came into the starting XI.

A quick-thinking header from Iheanacho came first, before Pablo Fornals levelled the clash, but a rapid breakaway just before the hour-mark led to Gray's match winner in the capital.

Later that evening, following a defeat which put the Hammers within a point of the relegation zone, manager Manuel Pellegrini left the east London club.

Gray, who also missed an early penalty in the fixture, was delighted to hit back with a goal, telling LCFC TV: "You’ve got to keep going and I was confident throughout the game.

"I’ve said before I feel like I’ve matured as a player and you understand different scenarios and situations happen in the game, but that’s a good one for me today."

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