Leicester learn to grind out results

Leicester City's Leonard Ulloa roars in joy after netting their late winner against Norwich City on Saturday. The victory ensured that the Foxes remained top of the English Premier League regardless of the results of their nearest challengers Tottenh
Leicester City's Leonard Ulloa roars in joy after netting their late winner against Norwich City on Saturday. The victory ensured that the Foxes remained top of the English Premier League regardless of the results of their nearest challengers Tottenham and Arsenal last night.PHOTO: REUTERS

Despite not playing well, they still get win against Norwich to boost EPL title hopes

LONDON • For months, Leicester City have shown that they have some of the makings of English Premier League champions: the best attack, the top scorer, and the team with the fewest defeats.

On Saturday, they ticked another box - finding a way to win when they were not at their best.

In a bold attempt to break down Norwich City's brave resistance at the King Power Stadium, Foxes manager Claudio Ranieri sent on Leonardo Ulloa in place of defender Daniel Amartey, and it did the trick.

IT'S TIME TO WIN UGLY

You can't always play well. I'd sign today if we can win 11 matches from tonight without playing well. It's not important now whether we play well or not - it's important we take points.

CLAUDIO RANIERI, Leicester manager, on his team's performance against Norwich.

The striker slid home an 89th-minute winner to give the leaders a hard-fought 1-0 victory that ensured that they would remain at the top of the table no matter what happened in yesterday's matches.

In Leicester's 15 previous league wins this season, their latest winner had come in the 83rd minute.

"You can't always play well," Ranieri said after watching his side register just three shots on target on Saturday, with the first recorded in the 58th minute.

"I'd sign today if we can win 11 matches from tonight without playing well. It's not important now whether we play well or not - it's important we take points."

They took all three, taking their haul to 56 points and setting a new club Premier League record for most points in a season. Their previous best was 55 back in 1999-2000.

While Ranieri savoured his decision to send Ulloa on to the pitch, the Italian was keen to credit his other players for the vital win.

"Norwich played well and closed the space, but we believed until the end," he said.

"This victory was very important to restart after the Arsenal defeat.

"I said before the Arsenal match that Norwich would be more difficult.

"Both teams could have scored a goal in the final 20 minutes. Fortunately, it was us who scored a goal at the end of the match.

"The conclusion I have drawn from this is that my players believe until the end. That, for me, is very important."

Norwich manager Alex Neil was understandably disappointed that his side had nothing to show for their efforts, but he still drew some encouragement from their display.

"I don't think we deserved that. In the game we had good chances and defensively we were solid," he said.

"We kept (Jamie) Vardy and (Riyad) Mahrez quiet and we certainly deserved something. There are a lot of things to take from it."

Vardy, the league's top scorer, and Mahrez could not add to their tallies of 19 and 14 goals respectively, but Ulloa got his third of the campaign. The Argentinian has made 20 league appearances for the Foxes this term - 15 as a substitute.

"It was a good choice," said Ranieri with a wry smile.

"I tried to make some changes to spread out their defensive line with (Jeff) Schlupp on the left and Riyad on the right, and after I also put on Ulloa because I needed another scorer in the box.

"Leonardo is happy, everybody is happy because the team are at the top of the league. Everyone would like to play, but it is not possible.

"As I have said many times, we have a fantastic dressing room. All of my players believe in the project and back their team-mates when they are playing well.

"When I need some changes, they are ready to come in."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'LEICESTER LEARN TO GRIND OUT RESULTS'. Print Edition | Subscribe