‘I said to Jamie at half-time I need you to score a goal’

Le­ices­ter claim spot in Champions League Al­lardyce says Rod­well miss was turn­ing point

The Daily Telegraph - Total Football - - TOTAL FOOTBALL BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE - By Luke Ed­wards

Clau­dio Ranieri has re­vealed he pleaded with Jamie Vardy at half­time to come up with a goal be­fore the Eng­land in­ter­na­tional scored twice in the sec­ond half to push Le­ices­ter City to within touch­ing dis­tance of the Premier League crown.

Le­ices­ter were made to work hard for the win against a bat­tling Sun­der­land side who should have equalised af­ter Vardy’s first goal when Jack Rod­well some­how failed to hit the tar­get from six yards out.

But when they needed their top goalscorer to re­turn to form in front of goal – he had not scored in open play since the start of Fe­bru­ary for his club – Vardy de­liv­ered in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion, his brace tak­ing him to 21 league goals this sea­son.

“I said to Jamie at half-time, ‘I need you, your team-mates need you, to score a goal’ and that is ex­actly what he did,” said Ranieri, who cried with emo­tion af­ter the fi­nal whis­tle as he ap­plauded Le­ices­ter’s trav­el­ling fans.

“Jamie had not scored for a while, but he has come up with some fan­tas­tic as­sists for his team-mates, but goalscor­ers al­ways want to score goals, so he is happy and I’m very happy.”

Ranieri claimed it was the mem­ory of see­ing an el­derly Le­ices­ter sup­porter in her shirt be­fore the game that had prompted his post­match tears. “I want to say thank you for the sup­port. They are amaz­ing. They are dream­ing. We want to keep on dream­ing.

“It is fan­tas­tic when you see be­fore the match an old lady with a Le­ices­ter shirt out­side the sta­dium. They came from Le­ices­ter, that is fan­tas­tic, that is emo­tion as well.”

As ever, Ranieri tried to cool talk of Le­ices­ter win­ning the ti­tle af­ter another tricky test had been passed.

“I don’t mind our sup­port­ers singing ‘we are go­ing to win the league’ and I don’t mind peo­ple say­ing that out­side of the club,” he added. “But it is im­por­tant we keep our fo­cus, our con­cen­tra­tion is on the match. It is im­por­tant we won to­day, but we have dif­fi­cult matches against West Ham and Swansea.

“Ev­ery time I speak to them, it is al­ways next match, next match. I don’t want to speak about any­thing more than the first match, it is not im­por­tant whether you lose or win, but no more than the next match.

“Our goal was be safe and that was OK. The next I said ‘Ar­rive in the Europa League’ and it is done. Now we have the Champions League very close to us. Now I say, ‘Come on, keep go­ing’.”

In fact, Le­ices­ter se­cured a Champions League spot when Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur beat Manch­ester United later in the af­ter­noon.

For Sun­der­land, this de­feat edged them closer to rel­e­ga­tion, although they still have hope ahead of next week­end’s cru­cial trip to Nor­wich City. For man­ager Sam Al­lardyce, though, there was in­evitably frus­tra­tion, par­tic­u­larly about Rod­well’s fail­ure to equalise.

“You will not get a bet­ter chance to score than that,” said Al­lardyce. “The turn­ing point was Jack Rod­well’s miss, which is be­com­ing one of our prob­lems now. We’re not con­vert­ing chances.

“We’ve al­lowed our­selves one slip in de­fence, which we should have mas­tered. Every­body knows Le­ices­ter play lots of balls over your de­fence to try to get Vardy in.

“We slipped up once, al­lowed Vardy in and he scored. That was dis­ap­point­ing. I’d have pre­ferred them to score any other way be­cause that’s his main threat. We’d coped OK up un­til then, but that’s no good if you let him in once.”

Al­lardyce con­tin­ued: “I think Le­ices­ter are unique in the fact that they don’t have to be pretty. They don’t have to play a cer­tain way. The way that they’re play­ing is so good, their fans love it. Whereas fans at some big­ger clubs might moan about it and com­plain about them play­ing ‘not the right type of foot­ball’. It’s ter­rific for them.

“Each and ev­ery player is play­ing bet­ter, and with more con­sis­tency, than they’ve ever done be­fore. They don’t seem to put a foot wrong and good luck to them.”

Over the top: Jack Rod­well misses a chance for a Sun­der­land equaliser

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.