LONDON: Gabriel Jesus came off the bench to secure Manchester City a 1-0 Premier League victory at Leicester City after yet another penalty miss by Pep Guardiola’s side last night.
It looked like being a frustrating day for second-placed City when Kasper Schmeichel saved Sergio Aguero’s spot kick just past the hour but Jesus spared his blushes late on.
The Brazilian was fractionally onside as he collected a pass by former Leicester title winner Riyad Mahrez and he showed great composure to power a shot past Schmeichel.
Victory lifted City seven points above Leicester in the battle for runners-up spot behind runaway leaders Liverpool who remain 19 points clear before their clash with lowly West Ham United at Anfield tomorrow.
While Liverpool’s first title for 30 years is a formality, champions City showed that they will not down tools as they edged an absorbing game that surprisingly required 80 minutes for the deadlock to be broken.
Premier League top scorer Jamie Vardy rattled the post for Leicester early on while Schmeichel made great saves from Kevin de Bruyne, Aguero and Mahrez. The Danish goalkeeper’s block from Aguero’s penalty means City have failed to score five of their last seven in all competitions.
Victory was the ideal boost for City ahead of a week in which they face Real Madrid in the Champions League followed by the League Cup final against Aston Villa next Sunday.
“The most important thing is that we won today even if we miss the penalty,” said Mahrez, who was superb on his return to the Midlands. “Today we showed a great reaction.
“It was a perfect game to prepare (for Real Madrid), a tough game, we are ready.”
As is becoming the norm, VAR was again a talking point with Leicester not being awarded a penalty in the first-half after De Bruyne appeared to block a free kick with his arm.
When Dennis Praet blocked Ilkay Gundogan’s fierce shot with his arm on the hour, City’s players appealed en masse and VAR correctly awarded the penalty.
Aguero went for power rather than placement, however, and Schmeichel saved with his legs.
Minutes later he denied Aguero again with an equally impressive save. City were relentless though and Mahrez surged forward before a perfectly-timed pass sent Jesus clear to score his fourth goal in five Premier League games against Leicester.
Earlier, Chelsea boosted their hopes of a top-four finish with a 2-1 win over London rivals Tottenham Hotspur while at the bottom Aston Villa and Bournemouth drifted deeper into trouble with damaging defeats.
Olivier Giroud and Marcos Alonso returned to the Chelsea starting lineup and responded with a goal each in the derby against Spurs at Stamford Bridge.
It was only Chelsea’s sixth win in 14 home Premier League games this season but was a timely one as they remain fourth, the last Champions league qualification spot, with 44 points from 27 games, four more than Jose Mourinho’s Spurs.
Erik Lamela’s shot deflected in off Antonio Rudiger to give Spurs some hope near the end but Chelsea were deserved winners.
Opportunist goals from Shane Long and Stuart Armstrong condemned Villa to a 2-0 defeat at mid-table Southampton.
Villa stay 17th on 25 points, one point above the relegation zone and a point behind Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth, who fell to a 3-0 loss at Burnley.
Crystal Palace broke a three-match losing streak as full back Patrick van Aanholt scored from a free kick to give Roy Hodgson’s side a 1-0 home win over Newcastle United.