Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez has admitted that his match-winning goal at Bournemouth on Saturday was “lucky”.
Mahrez’s second-half strike means City are top of the Premier League once again after Liverpool could only draw with Everton on Sunday.
The Algeria international, who was only on the pitch because Kevin De Bruyne picked up a hamstring injury in the first half, struck a somewhat bobbly effort in at the near post with his weaker right foot.
And he says that it is usually a case of hit and hope when he cannot shoot with his left, and he was not intending to score at the near post either.
“I was lucky to be honest!” he told reporters after the match. “Sometimes when it comes to my right I just close my eyes and shoot.
“I tried to shoot across [goal] but hit the floor at the same time so it went inside the post."
Mahrez’s strike ended a run of 265 minutes without a goal in open play for City, who won the Carabao Cup on penalties following a 0-0 draw with Chelsea, and saw off West Ham last Wednesday thanks to a Sergio Aguero penalty.
Bournemouth defended with 10 men behind the ball on Saturday and saw their rare ventures up the pitch quickly snuffed out by Pep Guardiola’s side.
And Mahrez says that the result was "perfect", and pointed out that a run of narrow victories at this time of year is nothing new, given his title-winning Leicester side picked up four 1-0 wins in a row in March and April 2016.
“We’re used to it, but it’s always difficult, especially away at places like Bournemouth where you have less space,” he added.
“But we played well, especially in the first half and they didn’t have many chances – not a shot on target? So it was the perfect afternoon.”
He added: “Sometimes it’s enough and you have to take it. We are not always going to win 3-0 or 4-0. We beat West Ham 1-0 and now we’ve done it again.
“I remember when I was at Leicester, around this time we were winning every game 1-0. It’s a win, very good.”
The 28-year-old also says that the Leicester dressing room was far more anxious during their run-in than City’s is now, owing to the previous successes of the Manchester club.
“At Leicester we had a feeling where no-one had won the league, but here everyone has won it so it’s not the same thing.
“Here it’s more calm and composed. We know what to do. At Leicester, everyone was like ‘We have to win! We have to win! Quick!’
“There is no comparison. Everyone here is good, everyone is focused and we will try to win every game.”
He also says his team-mates are thriving on the pressure: “It’s very good,” he said. “We live for this, to be honest, this type of pressure. It’s good pressure, it makes you try to achieve more and more.”
Saturday’s goal was timely for the winger, who started his first Premier League game since December 30 against West Ham last Wednesday, only to be substituted after 55 minutes.
He played just 24 minutes in seven matches between those two starts, and Goal understands he was left out of the squad for a game at Huddersfield because he had become unhappy with his lack of game time.
Guardiola has defended the winger publicly, however, insisting that if he had played as regularly as Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane he would be in a much better match rhythm.
Mahrez acknowledges that he still has a lot of work to do, despite his decisive contribution at Bournemouth.
“You have to respect the choices of the manager,” he said. “We are professionals and if the manager thinks they are in good form, you have to respect it and when he needs you, you have to give everything.
“Do that, and the goals and assists will come.
“As an attacking player it’s always good to score, and help the team to win.
“I know I was a long time without playing but I’ve always been focused. But scoring is not a final thing – I still have to work hard because everything you have done in football is forgotten and it’s about the future."