Okazaki, Mahrez fire Le­ices­ter into last 16

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Shinji Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez scored as Eng­land’s mir­a­cle club Le­ices­ter City beat Club Brugge 2-1 on Tues­day to book their place in the Cham­pi­ons League knock­out phase. Le­ices­ter are toil­ing in de­fence of their 5,000-1 Premier League ti­tle, but the fairy­tale con­tin­ues in Europe as they be­came the first Cham­pi­ons League debu­tants to win their group since Malaga in 2012. Porto’s fail­ure to beat FC Copenhagen left Le­ices­ter five points clear at the Group G sum­mit, guar­an­tee­ing them a kinder draw for the last 16 even be­fore their fi­nal match away to Porto on De­cem­ber 7.

“We’re on another jour­ney. I don’t know where, but we’re ex­cited!” said Le­ices­ter man­ager Clau­dio Ranieri. “We started well, we pressed, scored twice and kept pos­ses­sion. But after they scored we lost our way a lit­tle.

“Now the group is won, it’s im­por­tant to come back in the Premier League.” The only dis­ap­point­ment for Ranieri’s side, who sit two points above the rel­e­ga­tion zone in the Premier League, was a sec­ond-half goal by Brugge’s Colom­bian winger Jose Izquierdo.

It pre­vented Le­ices­ter from be­com­ing the first team since Manch­ester United in 2010 to keep clean sheets in their first five group games, but that was of sec­ondary im­por­tance on a his­toric night. Brugge’s de­feat at the King Power Sta­dium was their fifth in suc­ces­sion in the group and ex­tin­guished the Bel­gian cham­pi­ons’ faint hopes of pip­ping Copenhagen to a Europa League place. Le­ices­ter had needed less than five min­utes to get off the mark in their 3-0 win in Septem­ber’s re­v­erse fix­ture and they were just as quick to get go­ing in the teams’ re­u­nion.

A sharp break down the left wing in­volv­ing Marc Al­brighton and Jamie Vardy cul­mi­nated in Chris­tian Fuchs curl­ing a de­light­ful cross be­hind the visi­tors’ de­fence that Okazaki hooked home at the near post. Le­ices­ter’s Jekyll and Hyde trans­for­ma­tion had taken place once again and they swarmed all over their punch-drunk op­po­nents in a man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of last sea­son’s ex­traor­di­nary ti­tle surge.

Mahrez turned Lau­rens De Bock in­side-out be­fore draw­ing a near-post block from Brugge goal­keeper Lu­dovic Butelle, who also gath­ered a shot from Okazaki after Vardy nixed Bran­don Mechele’s at­tempted clear­ance.

In the 29th minute it was 2-0, Mahrez send­ing Butelle the wrong way from the penalty spot after Al­brighton had lured Dion Cools into an un­tidy chal­lenge on the edge of the box.

It was the Al­ge­ria winger’s fourth goal of the cam­paign, strength­en­ing his po­si­tion as the top scorer in the group.

Le­ices­ter goal­keeper Ron-Robert Zieler, deputis­ing for Kasper Sch­me­ichel, could not have wished for a gen­tler start to his com­pe­ti­tion de­but, although he did have to box away a curler from Izquierdo.

Le­ices­ter went into half-time as the last team in the com­pe­ti­tion still to con­cede a goal, but that statis­tic would change within seven min­utes of kick-off in the sec­ond half.

After win­ning the ball back in his own half, Izquierdo set off on a charg­ing run down Brugge’s right flank be­fore thump­ing a shot high past Zieler at his near post.

Play­ers on both sides had goals chalked off for offside-Vardy for Le­ices­ter, Claudemir for Brugge-be­fore the hosts were given a scare when sub­sti­tute An­thony Lim­bombe sliced wide. Seek­ing to keep Brugge on the back foot, Ranieri sent on the fleet-footed Jeff Schlupp and De­marai Gray for goal-scor­ers Mahrez and Okazaki, with Ahmed Musa fol­low­ing shortly after. Schlupp al­most made an im­me­di­ate im­pact, seiz­ing on a loose pass and dis­patch­ing a low shot that Butelle dropped to his left to save. Ri­cardo van Rhijn’s cor­ners gave the hosts some nervy mo­ments late on and Butelle twice pre­vented Gray from mak­ing it 3-1, but Le­ices­ter would not be de­nied their place among the con­ti­nen­tal elite.— AFP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.