The Premier League pendulum swung Leicester City’s way in the early kick-off on Saturday, as the Foxes produced a stunning performance in their 3-1 victory against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.
Defender Robert Huth was the unlikely hero for the visitors, as he netted a brace either side of Riyad Mahrez’s sublime strike to send the travelling fans into raptures.
Sergio Aguero netted a consolation goal for City, but it was too little, too late as Leicester moved six points ahead of their title rivals at the top of the Premier League.
Saturday was supposed to be the day that the wheels finally came off for Leicester. A trip to the Etihad Stadium—where Manchester City are nothing but solid—can only mean one result, can’t it?
Well, Claudio Ranieri and Co. clearly didn’t read the script, as they sprung into a 1-0 lead inside the opening three minutes.
N’Golo Kante robbed Yaya Toure and slipped in Mahrez, who drew a foul from Aleksandar Kolarov to win a free-kick in a dangerous position.
The Algerian took responsibility on the dead ball himself and put it on a plate for Huth to stab home from close range via a deflection from Martin Demichelis.
While the delivery was good, fingers had to be pointed at Manchester City’s defenders, who simply vacated the six-yard box. Paddy Power poked fun at the hosts’ rearguard:
Paddy Power @paddypower
Martín Demichelis just unable to cope with the searing pace of big Robert Huth.2016-2-6 12:49:11
City then woke up and started to dominate possession, but they just couldn’t break Leicester down. Wes Morgan and Huth were proving impenetrable in the heart of the Foxes defence, while Danny Drinkwater and Kante kept City’s creative sparks at bay.
More attacking play was expected from Manuel Pellegrini’s men after the break, but Leicester caught them cold within three minutes of the restart through the ever-impressive Mahrez.
The Algerian broke through, left Demichelis for dead and slotted the ball beyond Joe Hart, who was rooted to the spot.
It was nothing more than Mahrez deserved after another sensational performance, and Jamie Carragher labelled him the current best player in the league:
But the Foxes weren’t done there, as Huth put the icing on a beautifully crafted cake by notching his second of the match on the hour mark.
The German met Christian Fuchs’ corner and once again left Hart with no chance thanks to a pinpoint header. Leicester legend and fan Gary Lineker didn’t hide his emotions on Twitter:
Gary Lineker @GaryLineker
I think I might cry! 3 f**king nil!2016-2-6 14:05:36
From then on, Ranieri’s men turned on the style. In fact, they could easily have notched five or six but for some good goalkeeping from Hart.
The Englishman twice foiled his countryman Jamie Vardy from close range, while Shinji Okazaki also went close.
There was just enough time for Manchester City to pull a goal back on 87 minutes, as Aguero nodded home a Bersant Celina cross at the near post.
But it wasn’t enough to spoil the Leicester party, as they moved closer to the most unlikely title win in modern football history. The Times’ Henry Winter reflected on how big a moment it would be for former Chelsea manager Ranieri to lift the Premier League trophy at his old stomping ground:
Henry Winter @henrywinter
Long way to go but Ranieri being presented with @premierleague trophy at the Bridge on May 15 would be 1 of greatest fairy-tales in football2016-2-6 14:03:26
“The bookmakers have made us the favourites now,” Ranieri said, per Suhayl Al Sammari of Gazzetta World. “I do not take much interest, as at the start of the season they said I would be the first to lose my job.”
Leicester travel to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal next week, with another tough examination of their title-winning credentials.
However, the way that Ranieri’s players went about their business in tactically perfect fashion means it would be far from a surprise to see the Foxes pull out yet another piece of magic.
Is it finally time to start taking Leicester City seriously? Yes.
Following the match, Mahrez—one of the stars of the show—spoke to BT Sport and said that Leicester City will keep believing that they can win the Premier League title, via BBC Sport:
"We got a great win. Leicester still have a lot of games so we can't speak now about the title. We have to keep going. We will fight for the title and see what we can do. We didn't expect to win 3-1 so we will keep dreaming and see what can happen."
Fellow hero of the hour Huth also talked up his team's chances of winning the title to BT Sport, yet he insisted that the Foxes are taking it one game at a time:
"All the teams around us have the Champions League and Europa League. It is inevitable they are thinking about other games and it can only work in our favour. We only have the league to focus on. We don't really think about it. It is just like any other day. We just talk about the next match."
Manchester City boss Pellegrini, meanwhile, remained optimistic despite seeing his side outplayed, as he told reporters that his side haven't given up on the trophy just yet, via BBC Sport's Simon Stone:
Simon Stone @sistoney67
Pellegrini: "Nothing is finished. This was an unexpected defeat but we won't give up."2016-2-6 14:57:16