Sli­mani spot on to save Le­ices­ter

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

LE­ICES­TER:

Le­ices­ter sal­vaged a dra­matic 2-2 draw against Mid­dles­brough as Is­lam Sli­mani con­verted a penalty deep into stop­page-time at the King Power Sta­dium yes­ter­day. Clau­dio Ranieri’s side trailed twice to goals from Mid­dles­brough striker Al­varo Ne­gredo, but Riyad Mahrez got Le­ices­ter’s first equaliser with a penalty be­fore his Al­ge­rian team-mate Sli­mani struck from the spot to earn a point with vir­tu­ally the last kick of a thrilling en­counter.

Although Le­ices­ter fin­ished the hap­pier thanks to their late es­cape, the Foxes re­main too close to the rel­e­ga­tion zone for com­fort and their fairy­tale ti­tle seems a life­time ago just seven months later. Mid­dles­brough went into the match as the Premier League’s joint low­est scor­ers, but they threat­ened first as Adama Traore sped past Chris­tian Fuchs and drove in a cross-shot that Ron-Robert Zieler par­ried to Marten de Roon, who swept his ef­fort wide. Karanka’s team had found their stride quickly and Ne­gredo’s 977-minute goal drought came to an end in the 13th minute.

Ne­gredo, on loan from Va­len­cia, had gone 11 games with­out a goal since scor­ing in the open­ing game of the sea­son, but the Span­ish striker was in un­usu­ally clin­i­cal mood as he ex­changed passes with Gas­ton Ramirez and fired high into the net from in­side the penalty area.

Le­ices­ter’s 2-1 Cham­pi­ons League win over Brugge in mid­week was the lat­est mem­o­rable mo­ment in their maiden voy­age in Europe’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion. Ranieri’s men have been far less in­spired in their ti­tle de­fence, but they roused them­selves af­ter fall­ing be­hind and Ja­pan striker Shinji Okazaki hit the bar with a spec­tac­u­lar scis­sor kick from Mahrez’s cross. The Foxes’ pres­sure was re­warded with a 34th minute equaliser when Mid­dles­brough de­fender Calum Cham­bers was pe­nalised for hand­ball and Mahrez stroked home the spot-kick.

Af­ter scor­ing 13 times by this stage last sea­son, Le­ices­ter striker Jamie Vardy has found him­self stuck in a rut with 14 games with­out a goal since he net­ted his sec­ond of the cam­paign on Septem­ber 10. Vardy could have bro­ken his bar­ren streak when Okazaki crossed to­wards him just be­fore half time, but Ramirez cleared as the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional pre­pared to shoot.

It would prove an­other frus­trat­ing af­ter­noon for Vardy, who was booked and never looked likely to get on the score­sheet be­fore be­ing sub­sti­tuted mid­way through the sec­ond half.

Vardy was re­placed by Sli­mani and Mahrez also de­parted as Ranieri tried to pep up his at­tack, yet Mid­dles­brough re­gained the lead in the 71st minute. Adam For­shaw’s high pass over the Le­ices­ter de­fence sent Ne­gredo rac­ing clear and he fired a low strike past Zieler. —AFP

Le­ices­ter Mid­dles­brough 2

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