Leicester City 1:0 FC Copenhagen
A Riyad Mahrez goal, five minutes before half-time, was enough to defeat Copenhagen at the KPS on Tuesday night, taking City a big step closer to a place in the knockout phase…
Claudio Ranieri made four changes to his side with Simpson, King, Mahrez and Slimani returning to the starting line-up, against a side unbeaten in their 21 games this season.
The opening stages of the game were played out in a swirling mist created by a spectacular display of pyrotechnics in the the Copenhagen corner during the Champions League anthem.
Copenhagen took the early initiative, Schmeichel blocked a angled shot from Santander and then Huth and Morgan got in each other’s way defending a cross.
Morgan then appeared to suffer a back strain stretching to reach an Augustinsson cross.
Happily for City he managed to continue.
After 15 minutes of slick passing possession from the visitors City began to find their feet and it became clear that the orders for the night were direct balls forward to the front two.
This led to a Vardy cross that was gathered by Olsen, and a Vardy shot that was deflected wide.
With Drinkwater and King combining well in midfield City began get the upper hand. Albrighton teed up Vardy on the edge of the area, but his mis-hit volley trundled straight into Olsen’s grasp.
Vardy’s pace then earned him a free-kick out on the left, but Fuchs whipped in free-kick was punched clear by the commanding Olsen.
City broke the deadlock five minutes before the break.
Vardy’s cross from the left was nodded back across goal by Slimani, and Mahrez produced a flying kung-fu flick past Olsen to give City a precious lead.
The Danish Champions pressed forward in search of an equaliser before the break.
Toutouh went close with a shot and then Cornelius went even closer with an angled header from a corner, but the ball went a couple of inches past the left hand post, and City took their lead in at the break.
City started the second half strongly: Vardy set up Mahrez for a shot that flew well over, and then a delightful Mahrez ball (after he had won two tackles!) set up King in the area but his cross was cleared.
At the other end a low shot from Jorgensen was deflected straight at Schmeichel.
A weak header from Johansen then saw Mahrez make progress into the area, but his shot was blocked before it reached Olsen.
City had the ball in the net again in the 65th minute, when Slimani jabbed the ball over the line from close in after his original header was saved by Olsen, but celebrations were halted by what looked like a harsh offside decision.
King then sent Slimani through on the right, but the Algerian slipped on the wet turf as he attempted to get round Johansson.
Pacy substitute Falk caused City some problems and Fuchs was booked for tripping him. City brought on a sub of their own in the 85th minute, with Okazaki replacing Vardy.
With time running out, Copenhagen pressed forward trying to preserve their unbeaten record and Santander sent a header over from close in.
In the 90th minute it looked as though City were about to lose two points when Santander beat Simpson on the left and crossed for Cornelius. His shot from 8 yards looked netbound, before Schmeichel threw himself across goal and pulled off a world class save, the Danish keeper denying the Danish Champions.
The final whistle saw City sitting on top of Group G with 9 points from three games – more than they had gained in 8 Premier league games.
Claudio Ranieri touched on this contrast after the game: “From one side I’m very proud, from the other side, when I think of the Premier League, I’m very, very angry. But it’s OK because in my career this has happened. When for the first time you play in a big competition, you lose something when you go back in your league. This is normal but we want to change this way. It’s just psychological.”
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Drinkwater, King, Albrighton, Mahrez (Amartey 90), Slimani (Ulloa 88), Vardy (Okazaki 85). Subs Not Used: Zieler, Hernández, Schlupp, Musa.
Copenhagen: Olsen, Augustinsson, Johansson, Kvist, Verbic (Falk 66), Delaney, Cornelius, Santander, Ankersen (Gregus 87), Toutouh (Pavlovic 85), Jorgensen. Subs Not Used: Andersen, Hogli, Antonsson, Kusk.
Referee: N Rizzoli. Attendance: 31,037.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.
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