Club Brugge 0:3 Leicester City
City kicked off their first ever Champions League campaign in fantastic style, beating Club Brugge 3-0 on Wednesday night at the Jan Breydel Stadium.
Thousands of City fans had descended on beautiful Bruges on a burning hot afternoon, and it was a shame that so many couldn’t get into a ground that was some 9,000 under capacity for such a landmark game in the club’s history.
Claudio Ranieri made two changes to his side with Slimani making his debut in place of Okazaki, and Hernández in for the injured Simpson.
The City boss revealed: “I said to the players when you hear the Champions League music it charges the battery and makes you fight.” and this turned out to be the case, after an early scare.
In the 3rd minute Vanaken sent a ball between Huth and Morgan,to Izquierdo who was one on one with Schmeichel but sent his shot narrowly wide.
Two minutes later it was City who went ahead: Butelle came out to claim a long throw from Hernandez on the right, but Vanaken’s slight touch with his head took the keeper out of the equation and Albrighton was beautifully placed to finish from close in.
Albrighton’s face was a picture as he celebrated scoring City first ever Champions League goal.
Having had a poor start to the season this seemed to knock the Belgian champions’ confidence. City dealt fairly comfortably with their attempts to level matters, while Morgan sent a header over the bar from a corner.
The highly fortified away corner was then in raptures as City extended their lead in the 29th minute. Simons brought down Vardy twenty yards out and Mahrez stepped up to deliver a perfect free-kick that had both curve and pace to beat Butelle and find the top left hand corner.
Brugge were struggling to cope with Vardy, and Engels became the next player to go into the book for fouling him. Drinkwater’s 30 yard free-kick was on target, but straight at Butelle.
Moments later Drinkwater had another crack, connecting well with a half cleared corner, but this time the ball went a foot over the bar.
Neither side made a change at the break but Brugge were soon forced into one when Engels suffered a dislocated shoulder after a shove from Slimani that earned him a booking.
City then put the game beyond doubt with a third goal on the hour. Vardy pounced on a defensive error and charged through on goal, only to be brought crashing down by Butelle.
The keeper was booked and Mahrez didn’t seem to have let recent spot-kick misses affect his confidence, firing home his second of the game.
With the game won, Ranieri began to withdraw players with thoughts of Burnley on Saturday, Slimani and Vardy making way for Ulloa and Musa.
Brugge enjoyed a decent spell which saw Izquierdo, beating Hernandez and firing in a shot that beat Schmeichel but not the foot of the far post.
Huth got his head to another Hernandez long throw but his effort was too close to Butelle, before a rampaging run from Musa almost set up Mahrez.
Mahrez then made way for Gray, receiving a great ovation on his exit, after an indifferent start to the domestic season he had stepped up on the European stage.
Huth sent a header wide, and Gray fired over after a good run before the ref brought an end to Brugge’s misery.
This was City’s first win in Europe in 55 years, but Claudio Ranieri’s caution echoed that of last season: “We’ve just played the first match; there’s another five to go. We have taken confidence. But let’s stay calm. It wasn’t easy. If they’d scored early it would have changed the match.”
The fans were in dreamland however, and after the long walk back into town the party was just beginning…
Brugge: Butelle, Van Rhijn, Simons, Engels (Poulain 53), Diaby (Vossen 62), Izquierdo (Gedoz 76), Pina, Vanaken, Densweil, Vormer, De Bock. Subs Not Used: Bruzzese, Claudemir, Cools, Bolingoli.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Hernández, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Drinkwater, Amartey, Mahrez (Gray 81), Albrighton, Slimani (Ulloa 62), Vardy (Musa 70). Subs Not Used: Zieler, Chilwell, Wasilewski, King.
Referee: T Sidiropoulos. Attendance: 20,970.
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