LONDON • Jamie Vardy admitted that Leicester's players were stung by the criticism they have received since Claudio Ranieri's sacking as the England international scored twice to inspire the Premier League champions to a victory over Liverpool on Monday that lifted them out of the relegation zone.
It was the Foxes' first league win of the year, ending a run of five successive top-flight defeats, and came on a night when the Leicester fans chanted Ranieri's name in the 65th minute and stood to applaud the Italian, who was dismissed last Thursday amid accusations that player power pushed him out .
Vardy has denied any part in Ranieri's dismissal and he responded with his first league goals since December as Liverpool were beaten 3-1, with Danny Drinkwater scoring Leicester's other goal and Philippe Coutinho pulling one back for Jurgen Klopp's team, who were hugely disappointing.
"There has been a lot of unfair stuff written and you've seen a reaction from everyone," Vardy said. "It definitely got us fired up in a good way to put a reaction on the pitch. The mood is a bit of joy and relief.
"We deserved it and now we have to make sure we keep the continuity going and it will drag us away from the position we're in."
Leicester's performance was in sharp contrast to the insipid displays that led to Ranieri's sacking on Thursday and comes as the club's Thai owners search for a permanent successor.
Number of tackles Leicester made against Liverpool, 17 more than they did in their lacklustre 0-3 loss to Manchester United.
Wilfred Ndidi contributed 11 of those tackles.
Caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare will lead preparations for the crucial home match with Hull on Saturday and said: "I could see in their eyes that they were up for the fight.
"In the warm-up there was an intensity and we set the tone in the first 10 minutes. We reminded the players of what they did last year."
The win will do Shakespeare's chances of landing the manager's job until the end of the season no harm.
Ranieri's former assistant restored Shinji Okazaki to the starting line-up and reverted to the sort of tactics that were so successful last season.
Shakespeare said: "Could I do the job? I think I can. Does it faze me? No. I think it is one game and I'm humble enough to know that. We have to make sure the owners do what's right for the football club."
Asked what Ranieri would have made of the win, Shakespeare replied: "Knowing Claudio, he'll say, 'That's football.' He said that to me on Thursday night and reminded me of that on Friday morning.
"The performance you saw tonight, I saw it against Man City (a 4-2 win in December). We have done it, but not often enough."
Leicester looked a team reborn. But where have this lot been this season? Why did Ranieri's dream have to die before the players woke up?
Fans stood in the 65th minute and shone torches to profess their gratitude to Ranieri. The players' performance seemed like a pledge of support for his replacement.
THE GUARDIAN, THE TIMES, LONDON, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE