Okazaki fuels Foxes

Striker makes contribution as Leicester sinks Liverpool

Kyodo, AP

Jamie Vardy scored twice and Japan international Shinji Okazaki had a hand in the second goal as leader Leicester City enhanced its Premier League title credentials with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.

Vardy opened the scoring with a superb long-range strike over Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet from Riyad Mahrez’s long ball forward on the hour mark.

The England striker then made the points safe, turning home Okazaki’s deflected shot from close range.

“I tried to hit that shot aggressively,” said Okazaki. “I am getting the sort of touches I am picturing in my mind.”

Okazaki worked tirelessly and he nearly got on the scoresheet himself when his header was pushed onto the crossbar by Mignolet after eight minutes.

The former Mainz hitman also had strong claims for a penalty waved away moments before Leicester’s second goal when he was brought down by Mamadou Sakho.

“We have to think about what a great performance we did,” Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri told LCFC.com. “It was amazing because we beat a very good team, very well organized. (Liverpool boss Juergen) Klopp has made a fantastic job so far and I am sure next season it will be much better.

“But I want to say we made a fantastic performance tonight. We pressed everywhere and we didn’t give the Liverpool players the time to think. They were very dangerous on the counter attack and had a great chance at the beginning of the second half.”

Victory saw the Foxes stay three points clear at the top of the table ahead of Manchester City, their next opponent on Saturday.

“I am looking forward (to that match). Hopefully I can score a goal,” said Okazaki.

City and Tottenham also won on Tuesday to stay in touch with Leicester, but Arsenal was held 0-0 by Southampton and dropped to fourth place.

Manchester United beat Stoke 3-0, scoring in the first half at home for the first time since September. Jesse Lingard, Anthony Martial and Wayne Rooney — with his seventh goal in his last seven games — scored for United, which trimmed the gap to the Champions League qualification places to five points.

Criticized for much of the season for its risk-averse attacking approach, United has scored six goals in its last two games.

“A result like that settles the nerves of the fans, the players, even the manager,” Lingard said. “Hopefully now we can go on a run.”

Sergio Aguero was the match winner for City in a 1-0 victory at Sunderland in the team’s first game since announcing the hiring of Pep Guardiola as coach starting next season. Aguero looks like he’s back at his sharpest, having scored eight goals in as many games in 2016.

Tottenham won 3-0 at Norwich thanks to a double from Harry Kane and another goal from young midfielder Dele Alli. The win lifted Spurs to third, above north London neighbor Arsenal on goal difference.