LEICESTER: Manchester City’s bid to retain the Premier League title suffered a major blow as the champions crashed to a shock 2-1 defeat at Leicester on Wednesday.
Just days after their surprise home loss to Crystal Palace, Pep Guardiola’s side took the lead through Bernardo Silva’s early goal.
But Marc Albrighton equalised for Leicester and Ricardo Pereira’s 81st-minute rocket handed City a third loss in their last four league games.
City are now seven points behind leaders Liverpool and drop to third place below Tottenham.
The problems are mounting up for Guardiola as Liverpool extended their lead at the top to leave City ruing a week either side of Christmas that threatens to see the trophy prised from their grasp.
In a rarity for Guardiola’s impressive team, Leicester had them rattled on occasions, especially in a 10-minute spell at the end of the first half in which Claude Puel’s side threatened to seize the initiative completely.
Leicester failed to make the most of that period but claimed victory with eight minutes remaining as Pereira pounced with a 20-yard blast to give a fine Leicester performance its deserved reward.
City dominated much of the second half but failed to significantly trouble Kasper Schmeichel in the Leicester goal to lay bare one of the issues facing Guardiola — an uncharacteristic lack of attacking cohesion.
Sergio Aguero made captain for the day, played a key hand in Silva’s goal yet struggled, on the whole, to make any impression on a solid Leicester defence led superbly by the impressive Harry Maguire.
With Raheem Sterling also kept quiet by Leicester’s disciplined display, only Leroy Sane of City’s attacking trio made any real inroads into the home side’s defences.
– De Bruyne below his best –
With Kevin De Bruyne, the creative lynchpin of last season’s title success, struggling to recapture his best form after injury setbacks and withdrawn in the second half, City lacked a spark.
It looked set to matter little on 14 minutes, where Leicester were caught square at the back for Bernardo Silva’s opener.
Ben Chilwell played the goalscorer onside as Aymeric Laporte and Aguero combined to tee him up for a crisp finish past Schmeichel.
But the lead lasted for just five minutes before a lethargic City were hit with an equaliser on the counter-attack.
They claimed a foul for Chilwell’s challenge on Bernardo Silva but referee Mike Dean waved play on and Leicester were ruthless.
James Maddison found Jamie Vardy out wide and the striker hung a dangerous cross to the far post, where Albrighton arrived to head home.
City pressed for much of the second half but Schmeichel was rarely troubled and he saw Pereira score a spectacular winner on 81 minutes.
A corner by Albrighton was cleared poorly by Sane and Ricardo drilled the ball inside the far post.
When Delph was dismissed for a high challenge on Pereira in the dying moments, Guardiola’s misery was complete.