Football

Mahrez sends Foxes to front of the pack

Hat-trick hero adds to Monk misery

SWANSEA CITY 0

LEICESTER CITY 3

(Mahrez 5, 22, 67)

Leicester returned to the top of the English Premier League with a handsome victory at Swansea – and this time they didn’t even need a Jamie Vardy goal to do it.

Riyad Mahrez was the Foxes’ hero with his first hat-trick in English football and themanner of Swansea’s defeat will raise further questions about manager Garry Monk’s position, whose side have now taken only six points from the last 33 on offer.

Having set a Premier League record of scoring in 11 consecutive matches, Vardy was out to match the best top-flight mark of 12 successive games set nearly 84 years ago.

Irishman Joe Dunne scored in 12 in a row for Sheffield United between October 1931 and January 1932, and Vardy’s best chance to equal that mark came when he bore down on goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski after 15 minutes. But Fabianski saved smartly and Vardy took a backseat for once as Mahrez took his tally for Premier League goals this season into double figures.

It was a hugely impressive performance from Leicester, who made the most of Manchester City’s earlier defeat at Stoke to reclaim top spot, and on this evidence who is to suggest they can not stay there.

Claudio Ranieri’s side were so disciplined at the back that Swansea failed to muster a single shot on target until the final 15 minutes, Danny Drinkwater and N’Golo Kante were supreme in midfield and the pace of Mahrez and Vardy proved unstoppable. Leicester were ahead after five minutes when Kyle Bartley needlessly conceded a corner and Swansea failed to deal with Marc Albrighton’s kick.

PERFECT

Leonardo Ulloa made a nuisance of himself at the near post and the ball appeared to strike Mahrez on the arm before squeezing past Fabianski.

The early lead was perfect for Leicester to utilise their pace on the counter-attack, even if Swansea failed to help themselves with some questionable defending and their failure to retain possession. Bartley was at fault again when his careless kick gave Vardy the opportunity to match Dunne’s record but, for once, the England man was unable to accept a one-on-opportunity.

But Leicester’s second arrived after 22 minutes with Mahrez again benefiting from a decision in his favour. The Algerian appeared a yard offside when he raced onto Kante’s pass, but he made no mistake to stroke the ball past Fabianski.

Mahrez should have completed his hat-trick moments later, but Fabianski saved well and the Poland keeper was relieved to see Ulloa flash an effort inches wide.

Swansea neededto respond quickly after the interval and Ki Sung-yueng met Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick to strike the crossbar.

But the game was settled after 68 minutes when Kante strode 40 yards unchallenged to find Vardy, who unselfishly laid the ball off for Mahrez to finish in style.

Vardy had late chances to equal Dunne’s record before Bafetimbi Gomis finally brought a save out of Kasper Schmeichel and Sigurdsson struck a post.