Timothy Castagne

Champions Man City Overcome Leicester

Manchester City were 3-1 winners over Leicester City at Etihad Stadium in the Premier League on Saturday in Dean Smith's first match in charge of the Foxes.
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A fifth-minute John Stones stunner and Erling Haaland's brace – one from the penalty spot and another on the counter – saw Man City race ahead in the North West. The visitors, though, dug in to prevent an onslaught and got one back late on through Kelechi Iheanacho, who went on to strike the post for the Foxes late on too. 

New Manager Smith’s 599th match as a coach was his first as the 49th man to lead Leicester full-time following his appointment on Easter Monday. Formerly of Brentford and Aston Villa, among others, Smith has joined until the end of the season – tasked with preventing City’s nine-year Premier League stay from coming to an end. He’s been accompanied in the East Midlands by two familiar faces, albeit for different reasons. Craig Shakespeare, who held Smith’s new post in 2017, has worked for the Club in a variety of roles over three spells and 397 appearances in an LCFC dugout. Fellow First Team Coach, the ex-England captain John Terry, won the lot as Chelsea’s skipper, making over 800 outings in club and international football. When added to a workforce which already includes Mike Stowell and Adam Sadler – who stepped in to lead the team for two matches this month – it’s an experienced backroom line-up.

That know-how will be essential for the Foxes, who find themselves in a precarious position. An alarming campaign left them inside the bottom three before this clash in Manchester, two points adrift with eight games to spare. That may equate to a possible 24 points, but with City taking just one of the 24 available to them beforehand, as Smith pointed out in the week, time is not their friend. Their fate will be decided in the weeks to come by fixtures with several of their fellow relegation battlers. Anything gained from the home of Pep Guardiola’s imperious Man City side would always have been classed as an unexpected bonus. The Catalan manager whipped his players up in the build-up to this match too, saying a defeat would end their hunt for a fifth Premier League title in six seasons under his management.

They may currently trail Arsenal in the title race, but Tuesday’s scintillating 3-0 triumph over Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League offered an insight into the scale of Leicester’s task. The engines are roaring at Etihad Stadium, as they often do at this time of a season under Guardiola’s management. Smith’s plan seemed to involve soaking up pressure, but breaking out on the counter as quickly as possible. Çağlar Söyüncü returned to the XI for the Foxes – the Turk making only his second league start of the season. His first was the home match against Man City, a 1-0 reverse back in October. Youri Tielemans was also back from an ankle injury, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall and Harry Souttar returning also. Backed by over 3,000 fans in the away end, Leicester started out in a 3-5-1-1 formation, with Jamie Vardy marking 300 top-flight appearances. He's also now seventh in the Club's all-time charts, overtaking Arthur Chandler, with 420 all-competition outings to his name.

As expected, the home side started on the offensive. When luck's against you, it's against you, and Leicester couldn't have mitigated for Stones volleying the ball into the top corner, with his left foot, from outside the area. Smith's side survived one penalty claim, when Wout Faes challenged Jack Grealish on the edge of the box, but conceded a spot-kick seconds later. Wilfred Ndidi was adjudged by referee Darren England – after a lengthy check of the pitchside VAR display – to have handled Grealish's cross. Up stepped Haaland to hit it into Daniel Iversen's bottom left corner for the Norwegian's 46th goal of the season. Two down with 13 minutes played. Leicester did have openings, though. James Maddison's sight of goal was blocked inside the area, while Vardy smashed the ball into Ederson's side netting, but was offside. 

They struggled to keep the ball, however. When Kevin De Bruyne robbed Ndidi in the centre, Guardiola's champions broke away at speed. Man City's Belgian wizard cut through, passing it to Haaland, who dinked the ball over Iversen for goal no.47. In a heartbeat, it was three. Leicester were able, at least, to quell that attacking intent and stop them running riot any further until the break. Luke Thomas and Iheanacho, the latter a former Citizens player, were introduced at half-time. Victor Kristiansen and Vardy were the ones to make way. Man City followed suit, with Haaland being denied a seventh hat-trick of the season, replaced by Julián Álvarez. Manuel Akanji was also on, taking Stones' place. An away leg at Bayern Munich was possibly on their manager's mind. Rodri's legs would be rested less than 10 minutes into the new half too, with Kalvin Phillips on in the middle.

A sterling stop from Iversen, diving across his goal, stopped Mahrez from getting in on the act. The Dane did extremely well to tip the Algerian's curler over his bar. Guardiola continued to shuffle his pack, swapping De Bruyne with Cole Palmer on the hour. Tielemans and Dewsbury-Hall were also taken off by Smith, with Papy Mendy and Dennis Praet coming on. The match's flow had been somewhat broken. Man City believed they had done what they needed to do, but Leicester had their goal difference to protect. It's the joint-second best from 12th downward in the league and could prove decisive if teams can't be separated by points on the final day. They may have added to their 'goals scored' column as well on 71 minutes. Praet's shot from around 10 yards out, however, was tame and straight at Ederson after enterprising wing play from Timothy Castagne.

Moments after Grealish, another of the home side's big hitters, had been taken off for young Sergio Gómez, Leicester did get a goal. Maddison's corner cannoned off Souttar's head and, although Ederson saved it, Iheanacho was there to convert a simple finish against his former employers. The Nigerian was making his mark. With 11 minutes to play, he skipped past Rúben Dias and launched the ball over the bar. The finish lacked precision, but the intent pleased the traveling Blue Army. Maddison was also desperately unfortunate not to beat Ederson after robbing Dias of the ball. Söyüncü's header then hit Gómez's hand in the area, but no penalty was awarded. Iheanacho fired into the base of Ederson's post as well. The comeback the Foxes fans wanted didn't arrive, but there was reasons for optimism in this showing against one of the world's best.

Major moment – Stones sets the tone

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James Maddison

The Foxes could do little to prevent Man City from opening up a three-goal early lead.

A bolt from the blue, just five minutes in, saw John Stones belt the ball through the Manchester air into Daniel Iversen's net from 20 yards out. Such quality is not an unusual sight at Etihad Stadium, but for a centre-back to showcase such attacking prowess, it set the tone for a tough day for the Foxes. 

Where does it leave us? – 19th in the table

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Dean Smith

Manager Dean Smith watches on from the sidelines in Manchester.

City remain on 25 points and sit 19th in the Premier League, still two points adrift of 17th-placed Everton, who were beaten at home by Fulham earlier in the day. Leeds United, meanwhile, are in 16th on 29 points and entertain Liverpool on Monday.

Coming up – Wolves, Leeds & Everton

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Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall carries the ball out of midfield for the Foxes.

The stakes will continue to rise over the coming weeks. Wolverhampton Wanderers are the visitors to King Power Stadium next Saturday (3pm kick-off), before the Foxes travel to Elland Road to take on Leeds United the following Tuesday evening (8pm kick-off). Everton are then due on Filbert Way on Monday 1 May (8pm kick-off). All times BST.

The details

Leicester City Crest





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