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English Premiership

Mahrez treble lifts Leicester to summit

Leicester City's midfielder Riyad Mahrez celebrates after scoring his third goal during an English Premier League football match against Swansea City on December 5, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

Leicester City’s midfielder Riyad Mahrez celebrates after scoring his third goal during an English Premier League football match against Swansea City on December 5, 2015. PHOTO/AFP

SWANSEA, December 5- Riyad Mahrez stole the spotlight from record-chaser Jamie Vardy as the Algeria winger’s hat-trick fired Leicester to the top of the Premier League with a 3-0 win at Swansea on Saturday.

Vardy set a new Premier League record when the Leicester forward scored for an 11th consecutive match against Manchester United last weekend to break the previous record held by Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But Vardy’s attempt to equal the streak of Sheffield United’s Jimmy Dunne — the only man to have scored in 12 successive English top-flight games in the 1931-32 season — ended in disappointment in south Wales.

Although the 28-year-old, the Premier League’s top scorer with 14 goals, was held without a league goal for the first time since August, Leicester’s return to the top of the table still made it a good day for Vardy, who played a role in two of Mahrez’s goals.

Fuelled by Mahrez and Vardy, Claudio Ranieri’s team took advantage of previous leaders Manchester City’s defeat at Stoke to move two points clear in first place.

The Foxes are unbeaten in nine league games, extending their stunning run just months after they barely avoided relegation at the end of last season.

Struggling Swansea have won only once in 11 league games to increase the pressure on boss Garry Monk.

Vardy’s recent heroics this week inspired suggestions from a Hollywood screenwriter that a film should be made to chronicle the forward’s remarkable rise from non-league obscurity.

It would hardly be surprising if the sudden rush of fame had gone to Vardy’s head, but his ferocious work ethic remains undimmed by celebrity.

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That tenacious attitude played a significant role in Leicester’s opening goal in the fifth minute.

Chasing an apparent lost cause, Vardy pressured Swansea defender Kyle Bartley into conceding the corner which led to Mahrez bundling his effort over the line despite appeals for handball by the Algerian.

Mahrez’s ninth goal of the season was followed almost immediately by a golden opportunity for Vardy but, for once, the England international fluffed his lines when he ran clear on goal and shot straight at Swansea keeper Lukasz Fabianski.

Swansea’s lack of defensive cohesion made it a matter of time before Ranieri’s side created another dangerous opening and they doubled their lead in the 22nd minute.

N’Golo Kante’s precise pass picked out Mahrez and, with Swansea’s appeals for offside ignored by the officials, he was allowed to advance unchecked before curling a cool finish past Fabianski.

Ki Sung-yueng almost reduced the deficit early in the second half when the South Korea midfielder headed against the crossbar from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free-kick.

But Vardy’s value even when he isn’t scoring was underlined in the 67th minute when he ignored the chance for a shot and picked out Mahrez, who drove a powerful strike into the bottom corner from the striker’s unselfish pass.

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