Pep Guardiola said Kevin De Bruyne is back at his best after the Manchester City midfielder’s sublime free-kick sealed a 1-0 win in Leicester that took the champions to the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
Guardiola’s side were without Erling Haaland at King Power Stadium after the Norwegian failed to recover from an ankle injury.
But, after a recent drop in form, De Bruyne made sure the prolific striker wasn’t missed as he scored with a superb set piece in the second half.
“He’s back. He wasn’t playing well in the last few games, but he was fantastic,” said Guardiola.
“He knows. He is a player we need to be dynamic and free. But it is difficult with a defender five and a midfielder that he keeps because there is literally no space. “
City’s first away win in their last four games has put them one point above second-placed Arsenal, who host Nottingham Forest on Sunday.
After losing to Liverpool, City bounced back with consecutive league wins to underline their determination to win a fifth title in six years.
“For us it is a great victory. Away Leicester is always complicated. We had to suffer, “Guardiola said.
“It’s a good result when you play early on Saturday and win. Now we wait to see what others will do. “
Leicester’s first defeat in four games leaves them a place above the relegation zone.
Haaland had started all but one games this season after joining from Borussia Dortmund, scoring 22 goals in all competitions.
“He has ligament damage. He feels better, we still have a week,” said Guardiola of Haaland.
“He will not play against Sevilla (in the Champions League next week) because we have already qualified and we hope that against Fulham he can help us. Otherwise he could play against Chelsea in the League Cup. “
– De Bruyne high beam –
With Haaland sidelined, Julian Alvarez arrived for his second league start to the season and City looked unperturbed in a lively start.
Danny Ward had to parry a header from Ilkay Gundogan before De Bruyne struck a corner towards Rodri, whose header was overturned by the Leicester goalkeeper.
Bernardo Silva was next to test Ward from just inside the penalty area as the City barrage increased the pace
Camped in their own half for extended periods, Leicester took 25 minutes to pick up a shot, with the effort of Harvey Barnes putting an end to the spell of the City Ederson goalkeeper as a spectator.
De Bruyne’s long-distance drive was too close to Ward, while Jack Grealish’s penalty appeal was dismissed after theatrically falling under a challenge from Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.
City kept up the pressure when Rodri pitched wide from distance early in the second half.
City had failed to score in their previous three away games, but De Bruyne finally put an end to that drought in the 49th minute.
Taking aim from 25 yards, the Belgian star delivered a superb free kick that curled around the Leicester wall as he crashed into the top corner via the post.
De Bruyne’s 60th Premier League goal brought the Belgian to fourth place alongside David Silva on City’s top scorer list in the competition.
It was also City’s first free-kick goal in the Premier League since January 2021
Youri Tielemans was inches from Leicester’s immediate equalizer when the Belgian’s ferocious shot was turned over the crossbar by Ederson.
Kelechi Iheanacho comes off the bench and twice comes close to equalizing with a sudden shot that whistles just wide and then a close-range shot straight on Ederson.
City almost managed to give Leicester a point in injury time when John Stones’ header hit Ruben Dias and flew just wide.