A stunning free kick from Kevin De Bruyne earned Manchester City a 1-0 victory at Leicester City on Saturday, a win that moved the champions back to the top of the Premier League.
With top goalscorer Erling Haaland missing a Premier League game for the first time since arriving at City through injury, the visitors lacked a cutting edge in the first half, with Leicester containing them with ease.
It was clear it would take something special to unlock the determined hosts, with Belgian midfielder De Bruyne stepping up, firing an unstoppable free kick into the net four minutes after the break to put City in front.
Leicester responded well and has a chance to level through a stunning volley from De Bruyne’s Belgium team mate Youri Tielemans, but City goalkeeper Ederson brilliantly tipped the thunderbolt of a strike onto the crossbar.
The hosts kept coming, putting City under plenty of late pressure, but the champions held on to climb back to the top of the standings on 29 points, one clear of Arsenal who play Nottingham Forest on Sunday. Leicester stay 17th.
“”The free kick goes perfectly, luckily it’s 1-0,” De Bruyne told BT Sport. “Ederson has been great, sometimes we only talk about his distribution but he’s a great keeper and he proves it every week.
“We have proved we can win with or without Erling Haaland.”
Leicester coach Brendan Rodgers could not hide his delight that Haaland, who has 17 league goals from just 11 starts this season, was missing.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sliding on my knees when I heard he (Haaland) wasn’t playing,” he said pre-match, before seeing his side keep City at bay in the opening period.
The hosts came into the contest on the back of three successive clean sheets, and restricted City to half chances early on. With Bernardo Silva’s angled shot well saved, it was the champions’ only real opening of note before the break.
There was absolutely nothing anyone could have done to keep De Bruyne’s third league goal of the season out, however, as he curled an unstoppable free kick into the top corner.
“It’s not about the assist that Kevin always has, or the free kick. I know he has these qualities, the last few games he was not himself,” City boss Pep Guardiola said.
“He needs his dynamic, when he can move in different pockets. What can I say about Kevin? Everyone knows him.”
City were comfortable in their lead and never looked in danger of suffering a second league loss of the season.
City have now kept a clean sheet in six of their 12 games this season, which is better than all other Premier League teams.
“There were times where you felt like you didn’t touch the ball for 10 minutes but that’s what it’s like when you play against one of the best teams in the world,” Leicester’s James Maddison told BT Sport.
“The difference was a moment of brilliance from probably the best player in the Premier League.”