'Old' Leicester Rouses Ranieri

Islam Slimani heading in the winner. The Algerian continued his remarkable scoring record against Porto to give Leicester City a historic win that puts them in a commanding position at the top of Group G.
Islam Slimani heading in the winner. The Algerian continued his remarkable scoring record against Porto to give Leicester City a historic win that puts them in a commanding position at the top of Group G.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Manager sees reassuring signs of his team's spirit of last season in victory over Porto

LONDON • Manager Claudio Ranieri said he had seen reassuring signs of the "old" Leicester City after his team's 1-0 Champions League victory over Porto at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester's fairy-tale Premier League title success was built on a miserly defence, but they have suffered some heavy losses already this season, most recently losing 1-4 at Manchester United.

They produced a far more dogged display against Porto on Tuesday, with Islam Slimani's 25th-minute header and a spirited rearguard action helping to procure a second successive Group G win.

The script had seemingly been written for Slimani, who was signed from Porto's rivals Sporting Lisbon, and the Algerian continued his remarkable scoring record against Nuno Espirito Santo's side.

Porto have lost 15 of their 17 matches in England and they could have been forgiven for thinking there was little chance of that winless run improving with Slimani on the pitch.

Nicknamed "Dragon Slayer" during his time with Sporting - Porto are known as the Dragoes - Slimani took his tally to six goals in his past four games against Porto with a superb header.

BACK TO THEIR BEST

I recognise this team when it plays together as a team. If we play in this way, I'm not surprised.

CLAUDIO RANIERI, Leicester's manager, on his team's transformation after the defeat by Manchester United.

The sequence includes a goal against Porto earlier this season and it was no surprise that the man who arrived on transfer deadline day in a £29 million (S$51 million) deal left to a standing ovation when he was withdrawn eight minutes from time.

"I'm happy when I see my players play like tonight, with our spirit," said Ranieri, whose team were playing their first home game in the Champions League in the club's 132-year history.

"I recognise this team when it plays together as a team. If we play in this way, I'm not surprised.

"I was surprised when we conceded three goals on a corner on Saturday (at United).

"Very, very surprised.

"We showed very good character, attitude and personality today and it was good for everybody and the team after the bad defeat in Manchester."

Leicester's win left them two points clear of Copenhagen at the Group G summit ahead of the two sides' meeting at the King Power Stadium on Oct 18.

But, ever cautious, Ranieri said it was far too early to start thinking about the last 16.

"I'm waiting. I'm San Tommaso (Saint Thomas): if I touch, I believe," said the Italian.

"Now we have to continue to stay calm. Copenhagen won 4-0 (against Club Brugge), are very well organised, drew 1-1 in Porto.

"It is very important for us now to clean our minds and go back in the Premier League."

Porto, who will visit Brugge in their next game and manager Nuno said his side cannot afford another misstep if they are to avoid a second consecutive group-stage exit.

"We have to win the next match in Bruges. Nothing can be achieved without a win," he said.

Ranieri also baulked at the news that he has been included among the candidates to succeed Sam Allardyce as England manager by British bookmakers.

Leicester were given odds of 5,000-1 to win last season's Premier League title, prompting the Italian to respond: "The bookmakers? You know I have not a good relationship with the bookmakers."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline ''Old' Leicester Rouses Ranieri'. Print Edition | Subscribe