Lampard shows his worth as City outwit toothless Foxes

Frank Lampard celebrates scoring Manchester City's winner in their Premier League clash with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Frank Lampard celebrates scoring Manchester City’s winner in their Premier League clash with Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.

Manchester City are not a side for routine. Against Roma on Wednesday, they responded to the desperate situation of a Champions League exit with a performance of some urgency. Against the bottom side in the Premier League three days later at the King Power Stadium, they made what should have been routine something more than that.

 It would be wrong to say they were under threat yesterday, but they failed to add to Frank Lampard’s first-half goal and, in the closing minutes, Leicester City were invited to attack. It was not an invitation Nigel Pearson’s side took up with much enthusiasm. “What’s missing is goals,” Pearson said later, although it’s not the only thing missing from his side.

Lampard has never lacked them. Yesterday, he scored his 175th Premier League goal of his career, moving level with Thierry Henry, and he demonstrated why Manuel Pellegrini wants the player to stay at the club until the end of the season.

“Frank wants to stay, we want to keep him and now we must resolve the problem with New York City and MLS,” Pellegrini said.

City head into Christmas with Edin Dzeko, who was injured in the warm-up, and Vincent Kompany, who aggravated a hamstring injury, unavailable, while Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic are also out. Jose Angel Pozo made his full league debut, but City are now without an established striker until the new year.

Pellegrini said they would consider buying in January, but it is the Christmas period which will be of more concern. City don’t have a testing series of games, but they are a side that can often make things hard for themselves.

Lampard has provided something different, and his nous separated the teams yesterday. When Dzeko pulled out, Pozo, an 18-year-old signed in 2012 from Real Madrid, replaced him, and in the week that they had officially opened their new training complex, this was a statement of symbolic value.

It was Noel Coward who said he hated stooping to symbolism, and City didn’t want to send a message here as much as simply claim the three points.

Kompany, Yaya Toure and David Silva were among the five changes from the side that had triumphed in Rome. Silva was probably the most important selection, having missed the past six weeks with a knee injury, but if those players brought an aura to the side, the changes didn’t provide the expected energy.

“One of the reasons Frank Lampard played is because it was important to refresh the team, and Frank was very useful for us today,” Pellegrini said later.

Leicester City – without a win since they beat Manchester United 10 games ago – went on the attack from the very outset, startling the champions with their energy as Jamie Vardy troubled both Eliaquim Mangala and Bacary Sagna with his direct running.

Esteban Cambiasso went close with a free-kick as Leicester defended robustly, then attacked robustly. City’s defence was troubled by Leicester’s pacy counter-attacks, but it didn’t help that their back four wasn’t always working in unison.

It took half an hour for City to show up, but they didn’t match Leicester’s intensity. Instead, they took the pace from the game. Pozo gently volleyed the ball into Hamer’s arms as an introduction, but Silva and Samir Nasri were beginning to have an influence.

Shortly after Pozo’s attempt, Silva drifted wide and crossed for Toure to shoot, with Hamer making a more difficult save. But City, in the club’s restrained way, were starting to turn the screw, and before half-time they took the lead with Frank Lampard again illustrating his importance.

It was Nasri this time who caused the problems. He gathered the ball on the edge of the box, took it by Morgan on his outside and crossed from the left along the six-yard line. Lampard was where he has been throughout his career, but Leicester were taken by surprise, allowing him to take up his traditional position unmarked, and he was able to roll the ball gently past Hamer to give the defending champions the lead.

City looked like they wanted to leave it at that, having had enough excitement for one week. They spent the second half holding Leicester off like a tired heavyweight entering the 15th round, Leicester appealed for a penalty when Mangala tangled with Vardy, but they were probably being optimistic, although Mangala is the kind of player whose style lends itself to the opposition appealing for penalties.

In the final 10 minutes, Mangala got the home crowd going when he went for a header as Hart came to catch it, but the confusion came to nothing in the end.

Nick Powell, on loan from Manchester United, replaced Vardy, but he looked like a player lacking in confidence. Leonardo Ulloa was also on. He swung a foot at the ball in injury-time, but his goal against Villa last weekend – his first since the Manchester United game – hasn’t restored his belief.

It was Leicester’s last chance, and City had made the routine more difficult than it should have been. Pearson felt people would look at the score and think the 1-0 was workaday. “The reality is a little bit different.”

He was right, but the result was still the same.