The Meat In A Manchester Sandwich

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Aston Villa visited the King Power Stadium, which has, in recent times been a fiery encounter seeing 3 red cards in the two league meetings last season. Leicester were looking to build on their great start to the season, but with only a couple of days to work with the team following a busy international period for the City players, Ranieri had some tough decisions to make with the line up.

Out went Kante and King for Shinji Okazaki and Gokhan Inler respectively. The latter looking every bit the replacement for Cambiasso with an impressive performance as Switzerland captain at Wembley on Tuesday night, being rewarded with his first league start of the season.

City set up shop with a 4-2-3-1 formation, matching Villa like for like. Inler made a bright start, but seemed to fade quickly and he appeared to be taken aback by the pace of the game. There were a couple of flashes of brilliance, but he had a mixed first half as did the rest of the team. Morgan had the best chance of the half on 10 minutes, but headed over when he perhaps should have hit the target.

Villa had done their homework and forced Leicester to sit deep in their own half and also stifled our wide play, limiting us to a couple of shots from distance from Drinkwater and Mahrez which didn’t trouble Guzan. Schlupp was completely out of sorts in the first 45 and got caught in possession on 24 by Gil. He broke forward and teed up Grealish, who steered a weak shot straight at Schmeichel.

A goal was on the cards with Villa looking most likely to score and they did break the deadlock on 39 after City failed to clear their lines from a corner. The ball fell kindly to Grealish who still had work to do on the edge of the box, curling a sublime right foot shot past a diving Schmeichel, marking his first Villa goal.

Claudio Ranieri had seen enough at half time to warrant an immediate change for the second half. Okazaki made way for Nathan Dyer to make his debut and Mahrez moved up behind Vardy, with a more conventional 4-4-1-1. Schlupp had clearly had a dressing down as he came out looking like his normally attacking self. He broke down the left on 48 and found Vardy in the box who almost scored with a clever back heal, skimming past Guzan’s near post.

As City were preparing two substitutions on 62, Villa went 2-0 up as Agbonlahor picked up the ball after dispossessing Mahrez on the half way line. He ran the left channel and cut the ball back inside for Gil who hit a superb first time curling finish into the top left, leaving Schmechel with no chance. Ranieri, however, stuck to his game plan and brought on the subs he had prepared with Ulloa and Kante coming in for Inler and Albrighton.

Villa fans were lapping up the scoreline with cries of Ole with every Villa pass. Leicester kept their composure and didn’t let such cries deter them and they continued to push forward, winning a corner which was nicely turned in by De Laet on the volley. The confirmation of the goal coming from the goal line technology. Game on.

City were firmly turning the screw, applying pressure to the Villa backline, with Mahrez, Vardy and Dyer providing some excellent link up play. Vardy went close after some great work by Mahrez, but he saw his shot deflected wide, hitting the side netting. However in the 82nd minute, Mahrez picked up the ball, cleverly turning several defenders before laying off to the impressive Drinkwater, who delivered a defence splitting pass for Vardy to drive home from close range.

Many City fans probably would have settled for a point at this stage, however with a minute left of normal time, Mahrez once again took control of the ball and dropped a perfectly weighted cross into the centre of the 18 yard box. Dyer bravely attacked the ball, looping a header over the advancing Guzan, taking a hefty whack in the process. However he was soon back on his feet and the noise in the ground was electrifying. City had completed an unlikely comeback, taking second spot in the league, providing the meat in a Manchester sandwich.

After the 5-3 win v Man Utd last season and the great escape that followed, did we really think we were dead and buried with 18 minutes left? Of course not, Foxes Never Quit!

Man of the Match – Riyad Mahrez

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