Ranieri admits to relegation battle

LONDON • Could the unbelievable happen for a second season in a row at the King Power stadium?

Talk of the danger of relegation was on the lips of Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri even though Islam Slimani, a 65th-minute substitute, rescued a point with a penalty on Saturday.

It was with the last kick of the game, as Middlesbrough buckled under late pressure and Martin de Roon hauled down Wes Morgan recklessly in the box.

For the second time, Leicester had dragged themselves back from the spot after Riyad Mahrez equalised in the first half on an afternoon, when the Premier League champions played as poorly as they had all season and looked as though they had forgotten how to score from open play.

The same could not be said of the visiting Alvaro Negredo, who capitalised on poor defending to twice give Boro the lead.

Leicester were so disjointed, in the week when they reached the last 16 of the Champions League, that Ranieri hauled off Jamie Vardy and Mahrez after an hour and later issued a warning.

"When a team like Leicester play in Europe for the first time, they always lose something in their league," he said, after the 2-2 draw left them on 13 points, two above the bottom three.

" But for us now, it is important to think we are in a relegation battle and then every point is okay. I'm not worried, but I'm a very pragmatic man."

He also conceded that the Foxes missed the suspended midfield general Danny Drinkwater "a lot," adding: "There is a good connection between him and Riyad, and him and Vardy."

Boro head coach Aitor Karanka was unhappy with the officials, including referee Lee Mason, after the first penalty and revealed that Morgan owned up to fouling Calum Chambers, which forced him to handle the ball.

THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Ranieri admits to relegation battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe