Riyad Mahrez inspires Leicester City to comfortable win
Algerian midfielder opens scoring before setting up second against Huddersfield
Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez scores his side’s first goal past Huddersfield Town’s goalkeeper Jonas Lossl during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium. Photograph: Lindsey Parnaby/AFP
Leicester City 3 Huddersfield Town 0
Riyad Mahrez highlighted his value to Leicester City by orchestrating this victory over Huddersfield, opening the scoring with an exquisite volley before teeing up Islam Slimani for his team’s second goal. Marc Albrighton struck a third late on.
Mahrez’s brilliance, which came in the wake of gleaming recent form, illuminated an otherwise drab encounter and endeared him further to home fans, who sang his name when he was substituted before the end. This performance must also have made the Algerian more attractive to any club thinking of forking out for a slinky and sharp attacker this January.
The Mahrez show did not begin until the second period, as the first half unfolded like a demonstration in support of a winter break. Both teams were playing their fourth match in eight days and flaunted the ill-effects of that gruelling schedule, with players looking jaded and imprecise. That, at least, meant the goalkeepers got plenty of opportunity to rest during this match.
Players were also vulnerable to injury, as Wes Morgan proved when hobbling off with a muscular strain in the 27th minute following a lumpish tackle on Steve Mounié.
Jamie Vardy was absent because of a groin strain suffered in Saturday’s defeat at Liverpool but Adrien Silva was a notable inclusion among Leicester’s substitutes, the Portuguese midfielder finally entitled to play after four months of suspended animation. Leicester paid Sporting Lisbon £22 million for Silva in September but submitted the paperwork 14 seconds too late for international clearance to be granted, meaning the player had to bid his time in a bureaucratic limbo until the Premier League could rubber stamp the deal as soon as the January’s transfer window opened. He appeared at last, to tremendous acclaim, as an 86th minute substitute.
Before that Silva and all other spectators watched a misleading start to proceedings here when Chris Löwe forced a save from Kasper Schmeichel in the first minute. There followed no other shots on target in the first half.
Danny Williams did have two goalscoring chances but fluffed both of them. The first came when he chugged on to a pass by Aaron Mooy over the top of Leicester’s defence but Williams’s first touch was clunky and when he fell to the grass at the edge of the area under mild pressure from Harry Maguire, the referee was right to ignore appeals for a free-kick. Then, in the 21st minute, Mounié teed up Williams for a free shot from 20 yards but the midfielder sidefooted a weak shot way wide.
Wilfred Ndidi was guilty of similar scruffiness at the other end, skewing the ball wide from 10 yards after a throw-in by Christian Fuchs provoked a scramble in the Huddersfield box. But even that scramble was relatively low-key by the standards of two teams who are usually among the most energetic in the Premier League.
Claude Puel is not celebrated for his rousing orations but the Frenchman obviously found the words to uplift his troops at half-time because they improved dramatically in the second period. Slimani signalled the change by producing the hosts’ first effort on target in the 50th minute, although the striker’s header was saved comfortably by Jonas Lössl.
But three minutes later Lössl was given a far more onerous task, ordered to pick the ball out of his net after Mahrez deposited it there with a beautifully controlled volley from 12 yards. Marc Albrighton had set up the chance by hooking a clever pass over to the Algerian after weak defensive headers by Mathias Jorgensen and Mounié.
Mahrez created his team’s second goal on the hour, splitting Huddersfield’s defence with a neat pass to his compatriot, Slimani, who produced an equally deft finish, dinking the ball over the advancing Lössl.
After that Huddersfield never looked like averting their first defeat in five matches and, indeed, were grateful that a late header by Ndidi bounced out off the crossbar. They were not so fortunate in the 90th minute, however, when Albrighton scored from close range after strong work by Slimani and Demarai Gray. – Guardian service