Manchester City vs Leicester City: Robert Huth strikes blow for an endangered species at the Etihad

Manchester City 1 Leicester City 3

It’s getting madder and madder. Since all convention is defied, all logic inverted, we might conclude outcomes are being orchestrated by a higher authority. There was certainly something God-like in the sumptuous strike of Riyad Mahrez to double Leicester’s lead. Yet this was not a day for the decorative arts but the yeoman, and it was the contribution of Robert Huth, fore and aft, that ultimately made the difference. 

His bundled early strike and the thunderous header from a corner were the old-school interventions of a proper centre-half. Danny Higginbottom argued appositely in The Independent yesterday how this kind of player is becoming an endangered species in the English game, an uncompromising brute cast in the mould of the ancient stopper, defend first, play later.

Think Norman Hunter, Jack Charlton, Terry Butcher, Ron Yates, Steve Bruce and, pertinently, the absent Manchester City captain, Vincent Kompany. All could play, still can in Kompany’s case, but not as impressively as they put their body on the line and their foot through the ball. It would be remiss to ignore Huth’s partner, Wes Morgan, in this regard, for he is the mirror image of his cohort.

Together they operate a none-shall-pass policy in what is effectively a prison of their making. Nobody comes or goes without their permission. Sergio Aguero is a customer of the snake-hipped kind, and world class with it. Diminutive with a low centre of gravity, he spins opponents into oblivion.

But it was a wonder he did not walk off the pitch with a nose like Jake LaMotta’s, such was the frequency with which he ran straight into the Huth/Morgan wall. This does not happen by accident. Huth (right) treats open space like a fireman at a blaze, smothering the threat before it spreads.

That Aguero registered in the end did not discredit his opponents. Rather it was a compliment to them that it took until the 87th minute to pierce the shield. 

As a consequence of Leicester’s defensive structure the opposition is forced deeper and wider to find room, which pushes them into the territory managed with the same ruthless efficiency by Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kanté.

Into this void sank David Silva, Raheem Sterling and from the first bell Yaya Touré. The game was only seconds old when Kanté ran through the Ivorian totem, who is twice the height and double the weight, in what turned out to be emblematic of the 90 minutes. This was a challenge he had no right to win but would not countenance losing, scrambling through on all fours at one point.

Touré was gone in 51 minutes, removed alongside Fabian Delph. This amounted to a philosophical retreat as much as tactical, an admission that, despite enjoying majority possession, supremacy does not lie in the number but the quality of touches.

So Leicester have 13 games to negotiate while their rivals for the title battle on myriad fronts. Arsenal travel to Bournemouth today before working out how they might halt the leaders. 

Only Arsenal and Liverpool have beaten them. Those who usually colonise the top six thought the storm would blow out. They know differently now.

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