Sports - Football

Leicester hold off Man City to stay on top

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez tackles Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov at the King Power Stadium on December 29.
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez tackles Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov at the King Power Stadium on December 29. AFP

Leicester City end the year joint-top of the table with Arsenal after holding firm against Manchester City. The visitors dominated possession at the King Power Stadium, but came up against an inspired defense from Claudio Ranieri's men.

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This time last year Leicester were fighting for survival at the bottom of the Premier League. Today they move top of the table, behind Arsenal on goal difference, after a goalless draw against Manchester City.

Manuel Pellegrini's men put on an offensive display in the first half of an entertaining encounter. But Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel saw off all three of Raheem Sterling's shots on target, and rescued the ball from Sergio Aguero's feet to prevent the Uruguayan from scoring.

The home team then created chances of their own, with Jamie Vardy firing just over the bar from 18 yards.

Despite recovering from a virus, Leicester's star striker harassed Manchester City's defense from start to finish, bursting with pace and determination.

In the second half, Leicester took the game to their opponents, showing the fighting spirit which has become their trademark this season.

Marc Albrighton just missed the target after a wonderful through-ball from Riyad Mahrez, and Christian Fuchs drew a save from Joe Hart with a powerful free kick.

With Raheem Sterling running at Leicester's defense and Sergio Aguero lurking in the penalty area, the visitors also looked dangerous.

But with both Sergio Aguero and David Silva yet to recover full fitness after nagging injuries, and without their charismatic captain Vincent Kompany, Manuel Pellegrini’s men lacked their usual punch.

Kompany limped out of Saturday’s 4 – 1 win against Sunderland with a new calf injury, after just ten minutes on the pitch.

The centre-half has started just eight games all season, and should be out for another month according to his manager.

The goalless draw marks yet another frustrating encounter away from home for Manchester City, who have won only three games on the road this season.

“We had more possession, more attempts, more options”, Manuel Pellegrini told the press, “but it was a tough game against a tough team playing away.”

Meanwhile Claudio Ranieri took pride in his player’s reaction after losing against Liverpool on Boxing Day, their first away defeat this season: “We played well, we created some chances. I wanted to see how my players responded after the Liverpool defeat and they responded well.”

The Italian manager also expressed his delight at the unexpected turn of events this season: "This league is very crazy...nobody wants to win the league. It's very strange."

By matching a star-studded side which has won two of the last four league titles, Leicester City continue to defy Premier League giants in what some have called a “miraculous” campaign.

Against all expectation they enter 2016 joint-top of the table, as they prepare for their next encounter against Bournemouth on January 2, whilst Manchester City will seek a much needed away victory against Watford.

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