Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 30 November 2020

Jamie Vardy the master marksman as Manchester City create the wrong kind of history

This was the first time Pep Guardiola’s side had conceded five goals in a game

History for Manchester City, but not the right sort. This was the first time Pep Guardiola’s side had conceded five goals in a game, the first City had let in five at the Etihad Stadium. The Catalan has fashioned many a spectacular scoreline, but this was one he must wish he could forget.

Leicester should savour it. As the other City began a month without an established out-and-out striker, they were given a display of the merits of the specialist centre-forward. Jamie Vardy arrived at the Etihad Stadium with the distinction of being the only player to score a league hat-trick against a Guardiola team. When he left, he had a second treble to his name and if two were spot kicks, he created a sensational scoreline.

It extended Leicester’s 100 per cent start to the campaign – an achievement that is all the greater after they imploded at the end of last season – and gave Guardiola a bloody nose. City’s fortunes may rest on whether they can improve their defensive record and this boded badly. Mistakes abounded as they conceded three penalties.

It could not be attributed just to absentees, though Guardiola was without Aymeric Laporte at the back and Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero, the scorers of 313 City goals, further forward. It meant Vardy was the lone career centre-forward starting, with Raheem Sterling instead leading the line for City. The 17-year-old Liam Delap was summoned for a Premier League debut with 40 minutes remaining and clipped the bar with a header from Benjamin Mendy’s cross. It would have been a true striker’s goal, but the display of finishing had already come from Vardy.

This was Leicester’s first win at the Etihad since 2016, and the first four goals came from the catalysts of their shock title then. Riyad Mahrez had put his former employers behind with a stunning strike and Leicester’s eventual win was all the more admirable as it was a comeback victory.

It amounted to a triumph for Brendan Rodgers. Deprived of his best defensive midfielder, with Wilfred Ndidi out for 12 weeks, he changed shape to incorporate a back five. It seemed the gambit had failed when Mahrez struck, but Leicester’s rejigged rearguard absorbed pressure. Guardiola’s side did not turn possession into enough chances.

Yet their opener was terrific. In the corresponding fixture 16 months ago, Vincent Kompany delivered his brilliant final strike for City. Mahrez’s effort was of a similar standard. The Algerian connected sweetly with a rising half volley on his less favoured right foot. It was angled into the far corner and left his former teammate Kasper Schmeichel motionless.

So far, so good for Guardiola. Yet it went horribly wrong. Leicester, the electric Harvey Barnes in particular, had posed a threat on the counter-attack and City’s defence disintegrated, especially after Fernandinho, who had made some well-judged challenges, came off for Delap.

Kyle Walker had begun the game in barnstorming fashion, as if intent on impressing the watching Gareth Southgate. Sent off on his last appearance for England, he blotted his copybook again by tugging back Vardy, when the latter was found by Barnes. Vardy dispatched the resulting penalty over Ederson. His second spot kick of the day, and fourth of the season, came when Eric Garcia nudged Vardy in the back. If Vardy retains the Golden Boot, it will owe much to his prowess from the penalty spot. Yet there is much more to his game, as he showed with his second. A player defined by speed showed style and audacity.

It was a deft flick with the inside of his foot after a cross from Timothy Castagne. The full-back Leicester bought has been involved in goals they have scored in each of his three appearances so far.

Then James Maddison came off the bench to torment City. His unstoppable, 25-yard shot gave Ederson no chance. While Nathan Ake headed in his first City goal, Leicester had the final say. Mendy fouled Maddison and, with Vardy off the pitch, Youri Tielemans scored from 12 yards.

Updated: September 28, 2020 10:53 AM

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