LEICESTER, UNITED KINGDOM (AFP) – Gabriel Jesus struck late to give Manchester City a 1-0 win at Leicester early yesterday, strengthening their hold on second place behind champions-in-waiting Liverpool despite more woe from the penalty spot.
Pep Guardiola’s men have endured a turbulent week after they were banned from European club competitions for two years for breaches of financial fair play rules.
But a second-half winner from substitute Jesus after Sergio Aguero had failed to convert a penalty put them 17 points clear of fifth-placed Tottenham and sends them into their midweek match against Real Madrid in good spirits.
City looked like they might have to settle for a draw after squandering their fourth penalty in a row in the Premier League, with each being missed by a different player.
“We have missed four penalties in a row but maybe we will shoot a penalty when we need it to win something,” Guardiola told the BBC. “The keepers are good too, but the next one we are going to score.”
The City boss said his team were in good shape for their Champions League last-16 first-leg tie in Spain.
“We are playing the kings of the competition, we will see, we will try to enjoy it and do our game,” he added.
City, who still trail leaders Liverpool by 19 points, bossed possession in a lively opening spell at the King Power Stadium but the home side should have taken an early lead when Jamie Vardy was put through.
The pacy forward, who has not scored since December after an electric spell, was preparing to celebrate but saw the ball rebound agonisingly off the base of the post to safety. A minute later, former Leicester favourite Riyad Mahrez went close, striking a left-footed shot from outside the box that was palmed away by Kasper Schmeichel.
Aguero had the ball in the net on the stroke of half-time but the goal was ruled out for off-side.
Both sides maintained their intensity after the break and Schmeichel produced a fine save, diving down to his right to keep out a Kevin De Bruyne shot.
The decisive moment appeared to come just after the hour mark when Manchester City were awarded a penalty after a video assistant referee (VAR) check confirmed that Leicester’s Dennis Praet had handled the ball in the area.
Aguero blasted the ball down the middle but Schmeichel kept it out with his legs, moments later denying the Argentine hitman with his left foot.
Guardiola replaced Aguero with Jesus with less than a quarter of an hour to go and the change paid quick dividends as the Brazilian stretched to poke the ball past the diving Schmeichel after an assist from Mahrez in the 80th minute.
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the result, which leaves his side seven points adrift of City, and felt his side should have had a penalty of their own when De Bruyne appeared to block a free-kick with his hands in the first half.
“We were always a threat in the game,” he told Sky Sports. “Of course they have big quality, but I was so pleased with how we defended.
“There’s no magic formula, you’ve just got to work hard. The players gave everything tonight. We’re in a great, great position in the league so it’s just staying positive.”