The Ped Report City 5-1 Leicester City
After the minor irritation of not collecting all three points at Burnley last week, there was an equally minor feeling of trepidation as the Fox and Hounds, unnoted for their football finesse arrived at the Etihad for City's next test.
Leicester have proved to be tricky customers in recent years although they have failed in every sense to live up to the prowess they were able to demonstrate in their title-winning season when they inflicted a serious defeat upon City in the Premier League's most beautiful stadium.
Guardiola had locked-down the training grounds for a couple of days, insisting his fatigued charges headed away for a short, self-administered break, in order to recharge their batteries and the outcome of that was measurable instantaneously.
With the queue at the doors of the sick bay elongating as we speak, it was another week when the indefatigables had once again to parade, almost without match-day respite. Laporte was preferred at the back instead of the recovering Stones and the recovered Kompany, with the young, energetic legs of Zinchenko replacing Danilo on the left. The rest of the team more or less selects itself right now as David Silva, Sane, Delph and de Jesus seek to get better from the debacles of the earlier season. Refreshingly, Foden shook off his injury to enable Pep to fulfil his bench complement this week.
And, so to football and who would've thought that City's first opportunity would become a carbon copy of the glaring miss by Sterling, which took two points away from City last week? Bernardo it was whose trickery on the right wing found de Bruyne towards the edge of the box. He had already homed-in on both Aguero and Sterling in the box and his first-time low curling cross just missed Aguero's outstretched toe. Sterling was not quite so unattended this time but reacted more quickly than Dragovic and swept it into the net.
The relief on his face was visible from outer space, because that's where De Bruyne's pass came from and this should have set the tone and tempo for the rest of the match. But the rest of the first half was one of City's poorest of the season as nothing really came together, an air of frustration went around the grades like a Mexican wave and then, of course, Vardy equalised.
A poor pass from Gundogan caught out Zinchenko and Vardy was on it in a flash. He outpaced Zinchenko and Gundogan and with Laporte looming, Vardy got enough on it, which, when added to the deflection off the inside of Laporte's leg saw it crawl wide of the hitherto untroubled Ederson and into the far corner.
This simply added to the sense of frustration and increased the feeling of a threat to City's commanding position in the League. No doubt Stretford's finest were sensing an upset and set their sights on reducing City's lead at the top of the table with what should be a routine 1-0 win for the bus parkers when they face Newcastle United. Everything that City created resulted in shots at precisely the right height for the City reject stuck between the Fox and Hounds sticks, who must've thought he was a world-class keeper in refusing to allow the Blues to restore their lead.
But then came the second half and along with that a transformation of seismic proportions. From being largely invisible in the first forty five minutes, Sergio Aguero reminded the world just how brilliant he is with a series of quick-fire goals which reduced the useless Schmeichel to dust.
As with the first half, it started immediately. De Bruyne it was, again, prowling down the left and playing a quick one-two with the rejuvenated Sterling. Once again, the Belgian's laser-like eyes had already spotted Aguero's position in his favoured inside right and quite how he threaded the pass, first time, through a cluster of defenders and into the path of Aguero remains one of football's mysteries. The Mighty Atom does not miss from there and his side-footed shot beat Schmeichel and returned City to the front.
Five minutes later, Leicester's interest in the evening's proceedings ended. And it was a familiar story. First of all Walker closed down Fuchs who was forced to involve Schmeichel. He had clearly been watching the antics of Ederson at the other end and thought he might try likewise. His shocking pass was pressed by Fernandinho who instantly found De Bruyne, this time in the inside right location. He just as instantly saw Aguero lurking on the edge of the box, found him, and Aguero drilled it straight through Schmeichel whose exit wound saw the ball once again visit the back of the net. The ex-City player looked totally perplexed as the scoreboard pinged to 3-1.
Normally, this would signal an easing-off, a half-hour of keep ball. But not today. With the holes appearing, City pushed their toes down on the accelerator. Puel introduced one-time City target Mahrez to try to inject some urgency into their game, but Leicester had pretty well stacked their hand and were effectively handing the chances to the Blues.
Fifteen minutes later, it was Aguero-time again. This time Maguire slid the ball back to Schmeichel who simply offered it straight to Aguero. As I said earlier, he doesn't miss those. He gratefully accepted the match ball by easily slipping it past the Leicester goal unattender.
But with all the gifts from the said person, Aguero decided it was time for a cracker. The newly-introduced Foden turned from traffic and found Aguero outside the box. This time he hammered it like a missile right over Schmeichel and in off the underside of the bar. It was a fitting end to a fantastic 45-minutes which saw this much unheralded forward and goalscorer net four times in true striker fashion. This is a man that scores thirty-plus goals season-in, season-out and never gets selected in the Premier League "team of the year". Once again it was a Saturday of tumbling records and I am now losing count of how many goals this genius has put away for City.
This week it was a case of Sergigol-gol-gol-gol. A true masterclass of forward football, as he is now catching up with the Tottenham Onemanspurs diving cheat.
This season it has not been a simple task to nominate a man-of-the-match for City matches as the fantastic football we see depends on everyone doing their jobs around the field. De Bruyne ran this match with his systematic laser passes and Aguero terminated it with the precision of his finishing. In among this was the inevitable Fernandinho breaking up play and Bernardo who for me is improving week-by-week, offering something different in terms of inverted passes from the right. I still think some of his balls into the box are looking for someone like Dzeko and perhaps let him down slightly, but his all round play and improved work rate are reducing the effect of us not having the benefit of David Silva and demonstrating that City is still a ticking time-bomb even if El Mago is unavailable. With all of this in mind it would be a poor reporter who didn't give the award to a genius who has just scored four goals!!
You will have sensed throughout this Ped Report an element of disrespect in relation to Kasper Schmeichel. Like most City fans, I always positively welcome our former players when they return with their new teams, but I cannot like the Leicester keeper, not since a time when I was sitting on the City team bus behind him and Hart in Santander. Some of the City fans enjoying a drink with the Pena Racinguista were singing "Come on City" and were referred to as "muppets" by the said goalkeepers. I challenged both of them about it as the date was just ahead of Christmas and with the pressures on domestic budgets at that time of the year, I suggested they should show more respect for their fans. They didn't like it, but from then on, I don't like them!
So, it was with an element of delight that I saw my team take advantage of a series of errors leading to Schmeichel visiting the back of his net all evening and a rampant Sergio Aguero making it all possible.
The Stretford Stagecoachers will be on TV trying to cling to the coat-tails of their neighbours from the neighbouring City as they take on their old foe Rafa "the Rant" Benitez and no doubt the Crosby air will be turning ….blue (?)… when Sue's dear Liverpool return half the team to their starting point against Southampton on the South Coast later on. That being the case, I think I'll service the vacuum cleaner.
The Champions League is back this week and it's time for City to visit the land of the cuckoo clock. Will Greenpeace once again perform their party tricks at FC Basel?