Belfast Telegraph

Manuel Pellegrini delighted with win, but Manchester City stuggled

Manchester City 2 Leicester City 0

By Ian Herbert

A performance not imbued with champion class was not what Manuel Pellegrini had in mind when he said for the umpteenth time this week that: "We have a style of play."

But Manchester City are lurching precariously into the season's last few months and the stadium-recruitment advertisements flashing "Looking for a new job?" in front of the Chilean's eyes keep offering ironic significance. So any old three points will do.

The kind of opposition the champions would have swished away with minimal effort at this point in the last two seasons hit the base of Joe Hart's post 10 minutes from time, and the thin margin of City's lead suggested that anything might happen until James Milner made sure of things, with his adroit half-volley from Jesus Navas's cross which finally beat Leicester's valiant Mark Schwarzer in the 89th minute.

The win ensures Chelsea are not out of sight at the top of the table, though it all added to the same sense of a club struggling to push on and look stronger, as they strengthen their squad. The goalscorers, once again, belonged to the era before this club became set on a process of Barcelona-fication, and the jewel was David Silva, whose opening strike last night took him to 10 goals for the season.

For a deeper sense of whether this club are advancing or stagnating, we must look beyond the relatively smooth terrain they must next cross - Burnley, West Bromwich, Crystal Palace - to the course of events 13 days from now in Barcelona.

Truth is, there are very few elite sides left to face for the manager to show that his champions are advancing.

Pellegrini looked like a man trying to understand how to make this squad work. The relegation of Vincent Kompany seemed to carry a deep significance, a public acceptance from this club at last that the captain has not been playing at the right level.

The same could often be said of the team last night. It was sometimes hard to countenance that we were watching the champions of the land facing the division's bottom team - an outfit who have lost 10 of their 14 away games all season and were self-evidently here to defend.

The night represented a chance for last summer's signings, who have frankly not delivered, to reveal themselves.

They did not. There were flickers of intent from City.

But it was hardly a resuscitation of a side who had taken only nine recent points from 21 in the Premier League.

The atmosphere was as subdued as it has been at the stadium this season, with Leicester's two penalty appeals in the first half-hour and a clever ball inside Martin Demichelis which set Andrej Kramaric free, doing nothing to lift the mood.

Both appeals looked dubious, though Wilfried Bony was the luckiest to escape with an awkward challenge on Kramaric on the edge of the City area.

The skewed shot from the new Ivorian striker which hit the corner flag in the early moments of second half did not make the £25m signing a source of fear on his first start for the club.

City finally applied some pressure as the first half reached its end, though it took a very scrappy finish to claim the lead. Yaya Touré seized possession and drove forward to find Aleksandr Kolarov, whose low cross Leicester had two attempts to clear before the little Spaniard Silva took the rebound and poked the ball in.

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