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Resilient Foxes prove they belong with cream of crop

Leicester City 0-0 Man City

By Mark Ogden

Published 30/12/2015

Glove story: Rival keepers Kasper Schmeichel (left) of Leicester City and Joe Hart of Manchester City share a joke after Premier League shock troops Leicester ended their amazing year level
on points with league leaders Arsenal in an enthralling 0-0 draw at the King Power stadium last night
Glove story: Rival keepers Kasper Schmeichel (left) of Leicester City and Joe Hart of Manchester City share a joke after Premier League shock troops Leicester ended their amazing year level on points with league leaders Arsenal in an enthralling 0-0 draw at the King Power stadium last night
No offence: Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero goes down when challenged by Leicester’s Gokhan Inler but no penalty was given

Leicester City can at least go into 2016 with the knowledge that they have a goalkeeper capable of keeping them in the race for the Premier League title after Kasper Schmeichel took a leaf out of his father's book to frustrate Manchester City.

Claudio Ranieri's team, bottom of the table on January 1, 2015, will end the year second only on goal difference following an absorbing stalemate against pre-season title favourites Manchester City.

The visitors may have shaded it, and become the first team since Hull in March to prevent Leicester from scoring at home, but they once again failed to win on their travels and the hosts showed just why only Arsenal and Liverpool have beaten them in the league this season.

Schmeichel's array of saves, reminiscent of his father Peter, were the crucial factor, though. Whatever happens to Ranieri's side, Leicester's remarkable year has ensured that the team now approach encounters with the likes of City with the self-confidence to go toe-to-toe with the Premier League's established superpowers.

The respect shown by Manuel Pellegrini's players was evident from the start.

Defenders Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi began the game with greater focus than usual and one would instantly protect the other whenever there was a hint of Jamie Vardy being played through.

But having lost at Arsenal last week - a defeat which extended their winless away run to five in the Premier League - Pellegrini's team perhaps also played with added caution at the back.

It has been the defensive frailties that have compromised City on the road, usually in the absence of injured captain Vincent Kompany, because, as they showcased in the first-half, they possess true quality going forward.

It was the visitors who created the better chances, with the opening 45 minutes becoming a battle of wills between Raheem Sterling and Schmeichel. Schmeichel went in at the interval having shaded his personal duel, however, by denying Sterling on numerous occasions.

The England winger saw three goalbound efforts kept out by the former City keeper, with a 27th minute right-handed save the most impressive. Sergio Aguero also saw a scuffed effort kept out, with Kevin de Bruyne another frustrated by the Dane.

And after surviving City's increasing pressure, Leicester attempted to catch Pellegrini's men on the counter late in the first-half.

Aside from a 25th minute strike from Riyad Mahrez which flew over Joe Hart's crossbar, Leicester struggled to worry the visitors until a dangerous Christian Fuchs cross evaded Vardy before being directed wide by Marc Albrighton at the far post.

Vardy, the Premier League's leading scorer, then spurned a golden chance to break the deadlock on 40 minutes when he was put through on goal by Danny Drinkwater.

Drinkwater and Vardy had teamed up to hustle Fernandinho into a mistake 30 yards from goal, but having broke clear, Vardy let City off the hook by shooting over.

Restricting Vardy and Mahrez to just one chance apiece in the first-half was an achievement in itself for City, with the two Leicester attackers accounting for 28 of the 37 league goals scored by the team ahead of this game.

Aguero should perhaps have scored the opener on 46 minutes, when he escaped his marker before only being able to flick De Bruyne's cross over. His recent ankle and hamstring injuries perhaps continue to trouble the City striker, but with such a track record for scoring crucial goals, it is understandable that Pellegrini prefers him.

But when the Argentine was replaced by Wilfried Bony on 63 minutes, it was not before time.

The sides remained finely balanced, though, thanks largely to the efforts of Leicester midfielders Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante. It was becoming a game in which one goal would almost certainly decide the outcome, and Kante sent a right-footed shot wide from 25 yards on 54 minutes before Otamendi forced another save from Schmeichel.

As the game entered the closing stages, Ranieri upped the ante by replacing midfielder Gokhan Inler with forward Leonardo Ulloa.

The switch almost brought an instant reward when Ulloa earned a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area following a clumsy foul by Mangala.

Although Fuchs struck the ball well, Hart was equal to the challenge.

Having seen Schmeichel perform a series of heroics at the other end, it was perhaps fitting that Hart made his own decisive contribution to save his team from defeat.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez, Drinkwater (King 80), Inler (Ulloa 67), Kanté, Albrighton (De Laet 90), Vardy.

Goals: none

Subs not used: Okazaki, Dyer, Wasilewski, Schwarzer.

MAN CITY: Hart, Sagna, Otamendi, Mangala, Kolarov, Y Touré, Fernandinho, De Bruyne, Silva (Navas 74), Sterling (Iheanacho 89), Agüero (Bony 64).

Goals: none

Subs not used: Zabaleta, Caballero, Demichelis, Horsfield.

Man of the match: Schmeichel

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Craig Pawson

Belfast Telegraph

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