Manchester City extended their advantage at the top of the Premier League to six points after an entertaining 6-3 victory over Leicester City on Boxing Day.
Manchester City kicked off the game in a fiery fashion, firing on all cylinders. The Citizens were rampant going forward while exposing themselves to counter-attacks, but Leicester proved wasteful in front of goal in the first half. An emphatic start saw the hosts score four goals inside the opening 25 minutes. Kevin De Bruyne opened the scoring within five minutes with a fine curling strike into the bottom corner.
The hosts were awarded a penalty after Youri Tielemans brought down Aymeric Laporte inside the area, with Riyad Mahrez making no mistakes from 12 yards. llkay Gundogan finished off a free-flowing move for the third while Raheem Sterling converted another penalty kick after being tripped inside the box.
However, the Citizens taking their foot off the gas backfired at them as Leicester mounted a dramatic second-half comeback, with James Maddison, Ademola Lookman, and Kelechi Iheanacho scoring inside ten minutes to make it 4-3. Laporte eventually settled the nerves for City when he headed home from Mahrez’s corner to make it 5-3 before Sterling bagged his second to put an end to a thrilling encounter when he swooped in a Ruben Dias knockdown from a corner.
The game showcased Manchester City at their unstoppable best, but it also revealed some cracks and, maybe, a ray of hope for their title rivals. In contrast, Leicester will rue their underperforming defence for their mid-table position. The Hard Tackle will now assess the performances of both sets of players.
At 2-0, Ederson made a spectacular save from Maddison’s free-kick but had little chance of stopping any of the Foxes’ comeback goals from going into the back of the net. Nonetheless, conceding three goals does not reflect well on a keeper as he did not command the box well in the second half.
Joao Cancelo: 6/10
Cancelo looked to be out of sorts after the break; Leicester created a large number of attacks down his flank. He was also off-colour offensively and created nothing in the second period. To his credit, he was bright and proactive in the opening period and picked his chances to overlap Mahrez on the wing, delivering with consistent quality into the danger zone.
Ruben Dias: 6/10
Quite contrasting displays in either half. After being rarely troubled in the opening half, Dias was steamrolled in the second and was part of a defence that conceded three goals within 10 minutes.
Aymeric Laporte: 7/10
— Aymeric Laporte (@Laporte) December 26, 2021
The Spanish defender headed in a vital goal, which gave Citizens the breathing space making it 5-3. Overall, he was fairly solid, barring an unfortunate slip for Maddison’s goal. Tidy with his distribution, Laporte was particularly effective at stepping out of the back and had his moment in attack when Tielemans hauled him down for Mahrez’s converted first-half penalty.
Oleksandr Zinchenko: 6/10
Zinchenko was average at best. While the left-back won his aerial battles effectively, he did not do anything to break the chain of sustained pressure from the Foxes in the second half. He also left Albrighton unmarked inside the area for a free header, but the Englishman’s glancing header went just wide to his delight. Not to mention, he could not register any assists or key passes to justify his 100 touches taken.
Kevin De Bruyne: 7.5/10
Fits in perfectly as the false nine. De Bruyne was on fire in the first half, scoring a beauty to set the tone for a thriller goal-fest. He was involved in many passing interplays that kept the Foxes on their toes. He could not cope with the second half’s intensity and was hauled off.
— City Xtra (@City_Xtra) December 26, 2021
Fernandinho was at his vintage best in the first half when the Sky Blues were cruising, but he showed his age is catching up with him in the second half when the Foxes rallied back. He lacked the legs as Leicester drove past him easily and picked up a reckless yellow card out of frustration late in the game.
Ilkay Gundogan: 7.5/10
As usual, Gundogan was at the right place at the right time to tap in City’s third goal after some good work from Cancelo’s move and was unfortunate not to double his tally from a chance created by a corner routine. Overall, a very decent game for the German international who would have liked to have more possession in the first half. As levels began to drop in the second half, City missed Rodri’s calming presence at the centre of the park.
Riyad Mahrez: 8/10
The Algerian magician was on top in his game against his former side and was a constant threat throughout the game. Got his name on the scoresheet with a near-perfect penalty dispatched to the roof of the net while he swung in a teasing corner for Laporte’s headed goal to seal the deal for the Citizens.
Bernardo Silva: 7/10
Bernardo Silva was impressive throughout the 90 minutes. His zig-zag runs were on full show, albeit he did not threaten the penalty box much as he has done in recent games. He started in the midfield but shifted seamlessly into the false nine role when De Bruyne was subbed, showcasing his tremendous versatility.
Raheem Sterling: 9/10
Raheem Sterling has now scored more Premier League goals (5) than any other player so far this December.
Tucking in. 🍽 pic.twitter.com/ki3QaLGZOm
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 26, 2021
Back to his old self, Sterling had his finest game by far in a long time. The 27-year-old posed a serious threat down the left wing while there was an air of confidence in his dribbling and trickery. He ran Albrighton ragged in the first half forcing Brendon Rodgers to bring Timothy Castagne to deal with the England star. He won and smashed home the penalty in the first half, and he added another late goal to seal the game from Dias’ knockdown header that dropped kindly for him.
Phil Foden: 5.5/10
Handed his first appearance after being banished from the squad last weekend on the back of disciplinary issues. He sped about with little impact and will have to work hard to reclaim his spot in the starting XI.
Kasper Schmeichel: 4/10
Made a couple of decent stops but made a big error for the third goal when he failed to deal with a low Joao Cancelo cross, only palming it into the six-yard box where Gundogan was lurking to pounce. Schmeichel was considerably better after that, making stunning reflex saves to deny Sterling’s volley and Gundogan’s drive from the outside of the box following a well-worked free-kick.
Marc Albrighton: 3/10
A humbling afternoon against a polished Raheem Sterling. Man City overloaded on his side, but he did well to reduce the damage. He was given the room to drive forwards and deliver in crosses, which he utilised to a good extent. He had a wonderful chance to make it 5-4, but his header went wide; perhaps he should have scored.
Jannik Vestergaard: 3/10
Except for a few clearances, the Danish defender seemed powerless, with the hosts being too swift for him in terms of agility and mobility. His positioning was all over the place, leading to several chances during the game. He should have been closer to De Bruyne for the opening goal.
Daniel Amartey: 4/10
He was part of a defensive unit ripped apart by Man City’s fluid attacks in the first half and could not halt them. While he did not make any obvious mistakes, he was vulnerable in defensive duels. He won a lot of headers in the second half and made an excellent goal-line clearance to keep the visitors in the game.
Luke Thomas: 6/10
Another game in which the youngster showed his capabilities to compete against the elite. He dealt with the pace of Mahrez and Silva, while winning tackles to stay relatively tight. In attack, he provided an outlet from left-back and created Albrighton’s big chance.
Ayoze Perez: 4/10
Perez was pretty anonymous the whole afternoon. Keeping aside a successful dribble and one ball across to Maddison, the Spaniard did not have a great deal of impact on the game and was hooked at half-time.
Keirnan Dewsbury-Hall: 6/10
Overwhelmed by Man City’s free-flowing midfield in the first half, Dewsbury-Hall stood up in the second period, contributing to the Foxes’ attacks while moving the ball well into dangerous areas. He also did some arduous running, tracking back to cover for others.
Youri Tielemans: 4/10
The Belgian had a woeful evening. Hauled back Laporte for the first penalty before tripping Sterling for the second. He failed to match Man City’s speed in attack and midfield. He exhibited a little more poise in the second half as Leicester almost completed a stunning comeback.
Ademola Lookman: 7/10
The former Fulham winger gave a glimpse of what he can contribute from his preferred position on the left flank and put on a lively display. A livewire with his dribbling, he slid past his marker using his footwork. Scored a sublime goal, handling the pass exceptionally well before finishing calmly. He helped his side in staging the comeback, even if it proved insufficient at the end.
James Maddison: 7.5/10
James Maddison has now been directly involved in seven goals in his last five Premier League games:
⚽️ 4 goals
🅰️ 3 assists
— William Hill (@WilliamHill) December 26, 2021
With Leicester going all-out at the break, the English playmaker reinvigorated the spark and edge in the attacking line as he drove through the midfield and danced around the pitch. Maddison initiated several counter-attacks with precise passes and linked up effectively with the forwards around him to help his side put a spirited fight. He fired three shots on target, one of which was the goal itself; he completed three key passes, three dribbles and was fouled thrice.
Kelechi Iheanacho: 8/10
Looked rusty in opening exchanges, perhaps, due to a lack of football recently. After being bullied initially and looking slightly off the pace, Iheanacho took his time and produced an excellent display in the second period. A constant threat on turnovers, the Nigerian grabbed a goal and two assists to put the Foxes on the cusp of a stunning comeback.
55' – Iheanacho assists
59' – Iheanacho assists
65' – Iheanacho scores
— Soar Super Eagles (@SSE_NGA) December 26, 2021
Timothy Castagne: 6/10
Castagne was subbed on to steady the defence and implement an adjustment in formation, which he achieved to some extent. Nonetheless, he had limited cover at the back to deal with buzzing Manchester City forwards overpowering him late in the game.
Hamza Choudhury: 5/10
Rodgers sent Hamza Choudhury on the pitch to provide more bite and grit to prevent the hosts from adding more goals. However, he could not make the desired impact.