Manchester City overcame a resilient Leicester City side to consolidate their Champions League aspirations in an incident-packed match at the Etihad Stadium.
Goals from David Silva and Gabriel Jesus had given Pep Guardiola’s men a two-goal advantage and seemingly put them on course for an easy afternoon, only for Shinji Okazaki to shrink the deficit shortly before half-time.
This spurred on the reigning Premier League champions, who were awarded a penalty when Riyad Mahrez was fouled by Gael Clichy. Mahrez stepped up and scored – only for the effort to be chalked off by referee Bobby Madley, who spotted that the taker had touched the ball twice when his standing foot gave way.
Here are three things we learned from an enthralling clash…
City can taste Champions League qualification
A couple of months ago, City were in serious danger of missing out on the Champions League altogether. But their defeat of Leicester leapfrogged them over Liverpool into third spot, if only temporarily, and put them within touching distance of securing their place in Europe’s showpiece competition.
While Chelsea have steamrollered all before them en route to the title, Guardiola’s side have compiled an impressive run of results themselves. It’s now just one defeat in their past 10 Premier League matches, with the return of the Brazilian starlet Jesus from a metatarsal injury providing a timely boost in the absence of Sergio Aguero.
Another player back from injury is club captain Vincent Kompany, whose importance cannot be overstated. He has added steel to the defence, which in this fixture had to withstand considerable pressure from the Foxes.
No arguments – Madley gets the controversial decision spot on
It was no surprise that confusion reigned when Madley disallowed what appeared to be a perfectly legal penalty by Mahrez, which would have put the visitors back on level terms.
The Egyptian had slipped while taking the spot-kick, with the ball touching his right foot before spinning into the back of the net via his left. Mahrez celebrated but the eagle-eyed referee had spotted the double-touch infringement, disallowed the goal and awarded City a free-kick, much to the bemusement of Leicester’s players who protested vehemently.
There is no doubt, though, that Madley made absolutely the correct call. Such an incident is uncommon and it would have been easy for him not to pick up on it, but he was up to speed with the rules.
Shakespeare deserves a permanent contract
Even in defeat here, Leicester showed the spirit that helped them become shock Premier League champions last season. It is a desire that was sorely lacking earlier in the campaign under Claudio Ranieri, whose sacking by the club’s owners stunned football but has been vindicated.
Craig Shakespeare has always been an able deputy, but since succeeding Ranieri in a caretaker capacity, he has earned the right to be given the job on a permanent basis. The very real threat of relegation has been avoided, while the Foxes also came within a whisker of qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League.
With six victories in their past 10 league fixtures, Leicester supporters can head into next season with hope after initially fearing the worst. He may not be a big name with a reputation to match, but Shakespeare has proved he is up to the task.