Manchester City moved to the top of the Premier League after Kevin de Bruyne’s world-class free-kick broke down Leicester City’s stubborn resistance at the King Power Stadium.
Brendan Rodgers had obviously put up his squad to restrict the defending champions, and it had worked successfully until De Bruyne curled a beautiful 25-yard shot into the top corner four minutes after half-time.
City’s dominance was rewarded with De Bruyne’s goal, despite missing the lethal touch of the absent Erling Haaland, who has been suffering from a fever and a foot ailment.
Leicester almost burst out of their defensive shell when Youri Tielemans hit a volley from a corner that Manchester City keeper Ederson pushed on to the bar, but they lacked the offensive ambition and skill to challenge Pep Guardiola’s side.
Man City won despite Haaland loss
The goals of Haaland have been the main theme surrounding Manchester City’s season thus far, but the magnificent Norwegian was absent due to illness and injury, which caused him to leave at half-time against previous club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League in midweek.
It was an opportunity to see how Manchester City made up for his absence, and in the first half, when Leicester City simply sat back and let the champions attack with the occasional counter-attacking threat of their own, Haaland’s sheer physical presence and air of menace would have been a welcome addition to their attacking efforts.
And yet, even without Haaland, Manchester City demonstrated why they were the Premier League’s biggest force years before his spectacular entry on to the scene by conjuring up a spectacular moment from another area to win this difficult fixture.
De Bruyne, a wellspring of match-winning brilliance over the years, delivered with a right-foot free-kick from 25 yards that was absolutely unstoppable, bouncing against the frame of the goal and tantalisingly out of reach of Leicester keeper Danny Ward.
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Manchester City then held strong, despite Tielemans hitting the crossbar, with the celebrations at the final whistle displaying their satisfaction at defeating a Leicester squad that had been showing signs of improvement.
Leicester were never going to come out blazing against this potent Manchester City side but after the disappointing narrow loss there must be the sense they were risk-averse for too long.
The Foxes were content to sit back in the opening half, giving every impression that if they were offered a draw at any point they would have shaken on it instantly.
It was always going to be a problem to implement such a major change of gameplan once Manchester City scored – as they were always likely to do – and so it proved when De Bruyne turned on his magic just after half-time.
The frustration for Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers was that when his team adopted an enforced positive approach, it actually caused the visitors problems and unsettled their defence, as evidenced by the thunderous Tielemans strike, which Ederson touched on to the bar, and an incident in the dying seconds when John Stones directed a nervous header straight at Ruben Dias, the rebound flying narrowly wide of his own goal.
Leicester supporters understood the method, as seen by warm ovation when the game ended goalless at halftime, but shouts when Rodgers made beneficial changes and inserted forwards Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka indicated they also want a more proactive approach.
Their attempts to destabilise Manchester City were ultimately futile, and the champions triumphed.