MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester City isn’t short of goals in the title defense, and the champions found a way to make it unintentionally even more entertaining against Leicester.
A 6-3 victory — featuring a double from Raheem Sterling — put City six points in front at the top of the Premier League at the halfway point on Sunday, with second-place Liverpool having a game in hand.
It was a compelling second half on Boxing Day just when it looked like Leicester was completely out of sight after City had scored four times in the opening 25 minutes.
Three goals in 10 second-half minutes offered Leicester a glimmer of hope of a comeback that was snuffed out by Aymeric Laporte’s header and Sterling’s second.
It secured a ninth successive victory for Pep Guardiola’s side, with the last three seeing 17 goals scored by City.
And while title rivals Chelsea and Liverpool are busy with two-legged League Cup semifinals at the start of January, the end of City’s defense of that title does give some recovery time after the packed Christmas and New Year schedule.
There was little doubting City’s fitness levels from the outset against a Leicester team that was too easily picked apart.
It was a high ball over the top from Fernandinho that reached Kevin De Bruyne, who had the space to maneuver the ball around Leicester territory before scoring the opener after five minutes.
A foul by Youri Tielemans on Laporte secured a penalty that was converted by Riyad Mahrez.
Bernardo Silva’s ability to coast past Leicester players created the opening for the third, with João Cancelo squaring for Ilkay Gündoğan to net from close range.
Leicester was struggling to contain the threat and conceded another penalty when Tielemans tripped Sterling, who struck into the top corner in the 25th.
A game that seemed over was brought to life again 10 minutes into the second half when Laporte’s slip allowed Leicester to launch a counterattack that ended with Kelechi Iheanacho setting up James Maddison.
The midfielder turned provider in the 59th when he muscled his way past City players before slipping the ball through to Iheanacho whose throughball set up Ademola Lookman.
The third Leicester goal came in the 65th after Maddison’s shot was tipped onto the crossbar by Ederson and the ball dropped for Iheanacho to send over the line to reduce City’s lead to 4-3.
It took only four minutes for Laporte to restore City’s two-goal lead as the eighth different scorer in the match.
Sterling had the final say with a close-range strike after Rúben Dias headed down a corner.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.