Manchester City 2 Leicester City 0: Manuel Pellegrini lives to fight another day as manager of slumping Manchester City but the unconvincing nature of this victory, courtesy of goals from David Silva and James Milner, raised more questions than it offered answers concerning the Chilean’s ability to lead the club to the heights desired by their billionaire owners.
Silva effectively settled the game in first half injury-time as Jeff Schlupp lost the ball to Yaya Toure in his own half and the midfielder’s drive forward allowed Silva to find Aleksandar Kolarov on the left, the full-back setting up the Spaniard for a shot which was initially blocked by Wes Morgan before he forced in the rebound.
Two minutes from time, substitute Milner completed the scoring, turning in a routine finish from six yards after neat approach play and a right-wing centre from Jesus Navas, a goal which flattered a City side clearly struggling for its mojo of last season’s title-winning form.
Vincent Kompany’s omission was the most high-profile response from Pellegrini to City’s recent travails, the defender and club captain being relegated to the substitutes’ bench.
City quickly established complete domination with Leicester massing 10 men behind the ball and the game settling into a training ground routine of attack versus defence.
City full debutant Wilfried Bony came close after just three minutes when his header, from a Silva corner, was comfortably cleared off the line by Esteban Cambiasso.
Toure’s long, low drive was easily held by Mark Schwarzer and City’s anxiety was obvious when Silva dithered in the area, following a Navas cross, and failed to get off a first-time shot.
Those nerves might have increased at the midpoint of the first half when Bony, defending a Leicester corner, went in over-enthusiastically on Schlupp and was relieved to see the referee wave away a strong penalty appeal.
Incredibly, there was another such shout two minutes later, as Andrej Kramaric chased Riyad Mahrez’s through ball with goalkeeper Joe Hart saving at the forward’s feet and surviving a less convincing appeal on that occasion.
Referee Robert Madley played an excellent advantage on 34 minutes following a foul on Silva, which allowed Navas to surge into the area and cross for Bony who couldn’t make clean contact inside the six-yard area and was denied superbly by Schwarzer’s reflexes. And the Australian goalkeeper was soon called into action again, this time diving to keep out a Navas shot after the City winger appeared on the left-hand corner of the penalty area.
Bony could have ended a frustrating first half on a high note as he expertly controlled Silva’s lob forward but his hurried shot flew high and wide over the Leicester goal. Instead, it was left to Silva to ensure his lacklustre team was not booed off at the break.
City’s and Bony’s, concern continued upon resumption as the Ivory Coast international somehow contrived to hit the left-hand corner flag with a shot just six yards out after good work from Navas and, when Fernando brought down Kramaric right on the edge of the home area, Leicester appealed yet again for a penalty. Instead, Kramaric was presented with a free-kick inches outside the box which he placed into the side-netting via a slight deflection off the wall.
There were anxious moments for Pellegrini, not least in the 69th minute when David Nugent missed an open net at the far post although his embarrassment was spared by an offside flag and, five minutes further on, when Mahrez struck the post from a step inside the area.
MAN CITY (4-1-2-1-2): Hart 7; Sagna 7, Demichelis 7, Mangala 6, Kolarov 7; Fernando 5; Navas 6, Silva 7 (Lampard 79, 6); Toure 6; Bony 5 (Milner 71, 6), Aguero 6 (Dzeko 84).
LEICESTER (5-4-1): Schwarzer 9; Simpson 7, Morgan 7, Huth 7, Upson 7, Konchesky 5 (Nugent 57, 6); Mahrez 7 (Ulloa 76 6), James 6, Cambiasso 8, Schlupp 5; Kramaric 6 (Vardy 57, 7).
Referee: R Madley 6.
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