Erling Haaland equaled the Premier League record of 32 goals in a 38-game season as Manchester City beat Leicester 3-1 to close within three points of Arsenal at the top of the table on Saturday.
The damage was all done in the first 25 minutes as Haaland struck twice after John Stones’ fine strike had opened the scoring.
Haaland was denied the chance to move ahead of Mohamed Salah’s 32 goals for Liverpool in the 2017/18 season as he was withdrawn at half-time as Pep Guardiola looked ahead to Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final, second leg against Bayern Munich.
Guardiola could also afford the luxury of handing a rest to Stones, Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Jack Grealish in the second half as City secured a 10th consecutive win in all competitions despite a late wobble.
“The game was tricky in the last 20 minutes, but the first 55, 60 minutes was good,” said Guardiola.
“At the end (it was uncomfortable). That normally happens when you make a lot of substitutions. We should avoid it.
“But sometimes it happens and it is important we started really well after the Champions League. We made subs to make players rest but we lost some control, though in general it was a deserved victory.”
Dean Smith was taking charge of Leicester for the first time, but the true test of his ability to get the Foxes in the English top flight is still to come as the visitors chased shadows for the first hour at the Etihad.
“There’s lots we can take. I’m obviously disappointed but a two-goal deficit to the best team in the world isn’t the end of the world,” said Smith, who was appointed Leicester boss until the end of the season earlier this week.
“Our season won’t be defined here, we have a run of games where we have to win matches.
Pressure on Arsenal
Smith’s defensive set-up was undone within five minutes as Leicester failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to Stones, who volleyed into the top corner from outside the area on his weaker left foot.
Haaland set a new record for goals scored by a Premier League player in all competitions when he netted his 45th of the season in a 3-0 trouncing of Bayern in midweek.
The Norwegian is set to smash even more landmarks in the final two months of the season as he moved to within two of the all-time Premier League record of 34 goals in a campaign jointly held by Andrew Cole and Alan Shearer.
Haaland doubled City’s lead from the penalty spot after Wilfred Ndidi handled Jack Grealish’s cross.
The 22-year-old then exhibited his mixture of blistering pace and brute strength to burst past Harry Souttar and hold off the Australian international as he latched onto De Bruyne’s pass and lifted the ball over Daniel Iversen.
But there was a price to pay for Guardiola’s changes as Leicester grew into the game as the second half wore on.
Former Man City forward Kelechi Iheanacho was left with the simplest of tap-ins after Ederson parried Souttar’s header 15 minutes from time.
James Maddison then wasted a glorious chance to set up a grandstand finish when Ederson saved a one-on-one with the England international before Iheanacho hit the post in stoppage time.
But a ninth defeat in 10 games leaves Leicester still second from bottom and two points adrift of safety.
City’s sixth consecutive league win puts the pressure back on Arsenal ahead of the Gunners’ trip to West Ham on Sunday.
The sides have now played the same number of games, but Mikel Arteta’s men are in action twice before they travel to the Etihad in City’s next Premier League game on April 26.
Arsenal host bottom-of-the-table Southampton on Friday, while City faces Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi-finals next weekend.
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