It was supposed to be all about Sergio Aguero, but it was a fellow Manchester City player with an uncertain future that made the difference as the Premier League leaders took another huge step towards the title on Saturday evening.
Benjamin Mendy was making just his second Premier League appearance in four months as he nimbly avoided one challenge and coolly sidefooted home the crucial opener in a 2-0 win over Leicester City that propelled Pep Guardiola’s side 17 points clear at the top of the table.
City had dominated against Brendan Rodgers’ strangely unadventurous side and were only missing a goal until Mendy became the game’s unlikely hero.
Aguero was one of the first players to sprint over to celebrate with the enigmatic Frenchman, who has found himself on the periphery of Guardiola’s plans this season.
But it almost seemed unfair that the Argentine was never presented with an opening as enticing as the one Mendy converted in the 58th minute.
Just five days after the announcement that Aguero would leave the club, he was given the opportunity to show from the first whistle that he still has plenty to offer at the highest level.
Against Leciester, the 32-year-old made his usual astute runs, worked hard off the ball, linked up with the team – but somehow the big chance he was craving never came.
Indeed, his biggest goal contribution was getting Fernandinho’s 30-yard strike into the bottom corner of the Leicester goal disallowed, with Aguero standing in an offside position when he leapt out of the way of the Brazilian’s superb fifth-minute shot.
The striker could not hide his frustration during the game as he was forced to feed off scraps while others went close to scoring, with Kevin De Bruyne firing against the bar, and Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus both forcing Kasper Schmeichel into action.