Jamie Vardy hat-trick leads Leicester demolition of Manchester City

Jamie Vardy broke a 16-match goalless run in style with a hat-trick as Leicester City defeated Manchester City 4-2 for their first league win since October

Leicester have performed like a wan tribute act for most of the domestic season but here the champions showed the qualities of which they are really made, and it was Manchester City who looked bogus. Jamie Vardy scored a hat-trick and Andy King one goal as Claudio Ranieri’s men blew away a Pep Guardiola side who lacked the mettle to go with their frilly pretensions. Aleksandar Kolarov and Nolito’s late goals did not mask that.

Snow machines and reindeers gladdened the atmosphere outside the ground before the kick-off and by the end the home fans were singing with festive cheer, while Guardiola was facing questions about the need for new resolutions.

Leicester have struggled in the defence of their title, unable to recapture their verve or to prevent opponents from subduing their well-known strengths. But City appeared to make no allowance for the champions’ abilities and were found wanting physically and tactically. They were ideal opponents for a Leicester side in need of a confidence boost.

They came into the game hoping to begin jilting comparison with Manchester City’s class of 1938, the only English champions to be relegated the season after winning the title. Just as City were shorn of the suspended Fernandinho and Sergio Agüero, Leicester were deprived of Danny Drinkwater – and the lifeless midweek performance by fringe players in Porto seemingly persuaded Ranieri he was also deprived of a plan B, as he redeployed the players who had started the 2-1 defeat at Sunderland. They were too strong for City.

Ranieri has admitted “we are missing everything from last season”, but here his team recaptured their magic. It took only three minutes. Leicester opened the scoring after Robert Huth powered a header forward and Riyad Mahrez helped it on with a delicious flick to Islam Slimani, who threaded a pass through to Vardy. The striker, showing no evidence of a loss of confidence following 16 club games without a goal, lashed a low drive across Claudio Bravo and into the bottom corner.

Two minutes later Leicester increased their lead. Again Huth and Slimani were instrumental, the former heading on a throw-in to the latter, who laid the ball back to Andy King at the edge of the area. The midfielder struck it first time into the top corner. Bravo’s effort to stop it was as unconvincing as the defence in front of him.

Leicester were playing with the vibrancy they have lacked while the visitors were defending feebly, as if surprised by the onslaught. They were especially discombobulated when Huth ventured into the box. In the 12th minute the German headed another long throw from Christian Fuchs on to Slimani, who volleyed wide from eight yards. City, intricately going nowhere, forced Ron-Robert Zieler to make his first save in the 19th minute.

One minute later Leicester forced Bravo to pick the ball out of the net for the third time thanks to a move of simple brilliance. Fuchs found Mahrez with a long pass from the back and the Algerian put Vardy through with another exquisite first-time pass. “Unbelievable – only he can do this,” Ranieri said. “Another player would have stopped the ball and lost momentum.” Vardy applied the finish the pass deserved, racing around Bravo and scoring.

City could not cope with Leicester’s energy and directness and at times seemed confused by their own highfalutin scheming, with Pablo Zabaleta’s wandering role a particular puzzle. It is not anti-intellectual to suggest they were trying to recite poetry before showing they had learned their ABC.

City hogged possession for the remainder of the first half but failed to penetrate Leicester’s defence and remained naively exposed to counterattacks. Slimani should have made it 4-0 before the break but headed wide from eight yards as City’s defenders stood flummoxed.

Guardiola made no changes at half-time. Nor did Leicester, obviously. Within five minutes City mounted a bigger threat than they had managed in the first period but Kelechi Iheanacho failed to connect with a cross from Jesús Navas. The youngster was not making the most of his rare opportunity to start instead of Agüero.

Ranieri pumped his fists and hollered on the sidelines, exhorting his players to maintain their concentration and dynamism as City probed. Swift, imaginative interplay – yes, City did some of that – took them into Leicester’s penalty area just before the hour, before Iheanacho teed up Ilkay Gündogan, who shot wide from 18 yards. Guardiola then figured his team needed new impetus, so introduced Raheem Sterling and Yaya Touré.

Zabaleta popped up on the edge of the right-hand corner of Leicester’s area in the 62nd minute and curled a shot narrowly wide. Then, up at the other end, Slimani barged past two defenders and forced a save from Bravo.

City lurched further into farce in the 78th minute, as John Stones blithely played a back pass without looking. Vardy inflicted suitable punishment on his England colleague, intercepting and netting from an acute angle. Kolarov expertly converted a free-kick four minutes later, and crossed for Nolito to score from close range before the end, but those were footnotes in a story of renewed glory for Leicester and flawed plotting by City.


Paul Doyle at the King Power Stadium

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