Leicester City 2:1 FC Bruges
City’s 2-1 win over Bruges at the KPS on Tuesday night sealed top spot in Group G, and saw the Champions League new boys into the last 16…
City, who only needed a point to progress into the knockout phase, had one change to the starting line-up with King replacing Amartey in midfield.
And Claudio Ranieri’s side got off to a cracking start, taking a 5th minute lead.
Fuchs made good progress down the left and curved a low cross round two defenders, which was met by Okazaki at the near post for a fine finish into the top left hand corner.
The Belgian champions were rattled by this and struggled to keep possession against an energetic looking City. Three minutes later Mahrez almost caught out Butelle with a near post shot from an acute angle, but the keeper managed to block.
City continued to press forward, but decent crosses from Albrighton and Vardy saw no one in position for a finishing touch.
In a rare attack for Bruges, Vanaken got his head to a cross, but straight into Zieler’s grasp.
After a flat spell of play, City reignited the crowd with a second goal on the half hour.
Albrighton went round Cools down the left, but the defender caught him as he went past and referee Ruddy Buquet had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Mahrez sent Butelle the wrong way with his usual halting run up, and City were so close to the next round that you could almost touch it.
Approaching the break, there was a chance at either end.
Morgan sent a header towards the top corner, but Butelle saved; and Zieler produced an acrobatic parry in response to a curling effot from Izquierdo.
City applied some early pressure in the second half, with a long-throw and a cross from Fuchs both causing the visitors’ defence problems, but it was Bruges who found the net in the 52nd minute.
City’s proud record of no goals conceded in the competition was dented when Izquierdo collected the ball on the halfway line, raced past Fuchs, and fired in a shot that beat Zieler at his near post.
With the evening now gaining an extra edge, there were two disallowed goals in as many minutes. Vardy produced a clever back-heel that trundled over the line, while at the other end Claudemir found the net, but both were narrowly offside.
Claudio Ranieri made a double change in the 68th minute, with Gray and Schlupp replacing goalscorers Okazaki and Mahrez.
After a minute on the field, Schlupp beat his marker and charged goalwards, but sent his shot too close to Butelle.
Bruges had a decent attacking spell which gnawed at the nerves a little, but the City defence never looked too stretched.
Armartey replaced Albrighton with 12 minutes remaining, and he soon had a chance, but got his shot horribly wrong.
Bruges’s best chance came and went when a Van Rhijn corner was flicked across goal by Vanaken, but no one was positioned for what would have been a tap in.
A chance to end the evening in great style was then wasted. Gray played a superb one-two with Vardy, as City broke upfield, and was clear on goal, but the youngster hit his shot straight at the advancing Butelle.
In the third minute of time added on Gray was again denied by Butelle after Drinkwater teed him up, but the final whistle sparked delighted celebrations at City’s incredible achievement.
Porto’s goalless draw in Copenhagen meant that City had won the group with a game to spare. Not bad for a first attempt.
Claudio was delighted, but mindful of domestic matters: “It’s unbelievable. Top of the group, very happy, very proud for my players, very happy for the chairman, for the fans, for everybody. Another journey to the knockout – unbelievable. Now our mind must go on the Premier League because I want to push my players to think about that.”
Leicester: Zieler, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Drinkwater, King, Mahrez (Schlupp 68), Albrighton (Amartey 78), Okazaki (Gray 68), Vardy. Subs Not Used: Hamer, Hernández, Musa, Ulloa.
Bruges: Butelle, Simons, Poulain, Claudemir (Wesley 84), Vossen, Izquierdo, Pina (Limbombe 61), Vanaken, Cools, De Bock (Van Rhijn 70), Mechele. Subs Not Used: Bruzzese, Felipe Gedoz, Denswil, Bolingoli.
Referee: R Buquet. Attendance: 31,443.
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