Le­ices­ter beats Cardiff in first game since owner’s death

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - SPORT -

It was poignant and emo­tional at Le­ices­ter's first match on Satur­day since owner Vichai Sri­vad­dhanaprabha died in a he­li­copter crash.

The tears shed by goal­keeper Kasper Sch­me­ichel summed up the mood as a huge ban­ner, a Thai flag with "RIP Vichai" and the Le­ices­ter badge, was un­furled be­fore the English Pre­mier League game at Cardiff.

Some­how, though, Sch­me­ichel and his team­mates man­aged to put their col­lec­tive grief to one side to fo­cus on the foot­ball for 90 min­utes and grind out a 1-0 vic­tory.

There was a united feel­ing be­fore the game when two big ban­ners were pushed around the ground by both sets of fans. Flo­ral trib­utes were laid on the pitch as the teams and coach­ing staff gath­ered in the cen­ter cir­cle for a minute's si­lence for Vichai, one of five vic­tims last Satur­day of the crash out­side the club's King Power Sta­dium.

Le­ices­ter then gath­ered in a hud­dle for Sch­me­ichel's team talk and, what­ever emo­tive words he used, they worked as De­marai Gray scored the only goal with a low fin­ish in the 55th minute.

Gray cel­e­brated by re­mov­ing his jersey to re­veal an un­der­shirt on which was writ­ten "For Khun Vichai," and was booked by ref­eree Lee Probert. Sch­me­ichel ran the length of the field to join a team cel­e­bra­tion.

The Le­ices­ter fans sang Vichai's name for the rest of a highly charged af­ter­noon and, at the fi­nal whis­tle, the vis­it­ing play­ers came to­gether to em­brace.

"We were very close to the chair­man," cap­tain Wes Mor­gan said. "''We know what his wishes were. He used to come down at home games, have a joke and a laugh, al­ways say, 'Want win and three points.' We did that to­day.

"It has not been an easy week, we had to try and hold our emo­tions in to­day and do the best we can. We have a very emo­tional con­nec­tion with the fans, so we stayed till the end and cel­e­brated vic­tory with them."

The next task for Le­ices­ter's play­ers will be to fly out to Bangkok for Vichai's fu­neral.

"That was a tough game, not just on the pitch, but men­tally," Sch­me­ichel said. "There are a lot of ex­hausted peo­ple in there now but I am proud of this team and the club, the way ev­ery­one has han­dled them­selves has been un­be­liev­able.

"Com­ing out for the warm-up was tough, the first 10 min­utes I couldn't steady my­self, I was shak­ing a lit­tle bit. But it was nice to get a win to take to Thai­land now and hope­fully we did his fam­ily proud."

Liver­pool mid­fielder James Mil­ner's 50th English Pre­mier League goal was not enough to se­cure vic­tory as his side had to set­tle for 11 against fel­low ti­tle chaser Arse­nal at Emi­rates Sta­dium yes­ter­day.

The teams had first-half strikes ruled out for off­side and the vis­i­tors were par­tic­u­larly un­for­tu­nate to see Sa­dio Mane's ef­fort dis­al­lowed.

The Sene­gal for­ward pounced af­ter Roberto Firmino hit the post, and the goal was chalked off even though Mane was be­hind the ball when his fel­low striker lobbed Arse­nal goal­keeper Bernd Leno.

Alexan­dre La­cazette also net­ted at the other end but team­mate Shko­dran Mustafi was clearly in an off­side po­si­tion.

Liver­pool even­tu­ally took the lead on the hour when Leno pushed Mane's cross back in front of his own goal and Mil­ner drilled in his third goal of the sea­son.

Alex Iwobi then set up the equal­izer with a clever pass to La­cazette, who curled in a pre­cise shot to pre­serve Arse­nal's 14match un­beaten streak in all com­pe­ti­tions.

The draw took Liver­pool one point clear in the stand­ings be­fore sec­ond-place Manch­ester City hosts Southamp­ton to­day.

Arse­nal is four points off the pace.

New­cas­tle fi­nally tasted vic­tory 11 games into the English Pre­mier League af­ter beat­ing Wat­ford 1-0 at St James' Park.

Ay­oze Perez con­verted fel­low sub­sti­tute Ki Sung-yueng's free kick in the 65th minute.

Wat­ford was left to won­der how it ended up empty-handed af­ter Ger­ard Deulofeu and sub­sti­tute Ste­fan Okaka spurned gilt-edged op­por­tu­ni­ties, while Roberto Pereyra rat­tled the cross­bar.

The vis­i­tors should have been ahead af­ter 15 min­utes when de­fender Adrian Mari­appa shot wide. Deulofeu then broke clear only to be de­nied by a fine in­ter­ven­tion by DeAn­dre Yedlin.

Perez then put New­cas­tle in front and the home team could have ef­fec­tively ended the match as a con­test when Salomon Ron­don headed a Kenedy cross wide.

There was still time, though, for Okaka and An­dre Gray to go close to snatch­ing an equaliser for Wat­ford.

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