Champagne flowing for Foxes after Leicester reach 40-point mark
Published 02/01/2016 | 20:51
Claudio Ranieri insists Leicester will toast their first half of the season with a glass of champagne after reaching the 40-point mark.
The Foxes have been the surprise package of the campaign, beginning 2016 level on points with Barclays Premier League leaders Arsenal - after being bottom of the table exactly 12 months ago.
Despite their meteoric rise and maintaining their newfound mantle as potential title challengers, Ranieri has played down their chances all year, insisting that getting 40 points, the widely-accepted tally needed to stay up, remained the aim.
Leicester reached the landmark on Saturday courtesy of a goalless draw at home to Bournemouth, but it was tinged with disappointment.
Ranieri's team played for over half an hour against 10 men and Riyad Mahrez saw a penalty saved. The stalemate saw the Foxes fall two points behind Arsenal at the top of the table as their run without a win reached three matches.
Nevertheless, Ranieri was not downbeat and he and his players are planning to celebrate.
"Forty points, come on. It's fantastic. We didn't score but it's another clean sheet and champagne for my players, of course. Or maybe the chairman pays. I buy the pizza," said Ranieri, who in October treated his players to pizza when they kept their first clean sheet of the season.
Ranieri then challenged his players to pick up even more points in the second half of the season than they managed during the first.
He said: "Now we must achieve the next goal and remain calm. We did 39 points in the first half (of the season) so in the second half we try to make 40 points.
"I know it's difficult but this league is crazy. We are safe so we try."
Leicester huffed and puffed against 10 men following Simon Francis' red card. They created openings but were just unable to take one.
Ranieri said: "Of course I am disappointed but if I analyse all the match, they played well in the first half. We were unlucky with Jamie Vardy with the goals and Mahrez with the penalty, the goalkeeper made a fantastic save.
"We tried to win the match and do our best but when you play with such high intensity, you can make mistakes and we made mistakes with the last pass. We were too anxious to score a goal but it's okay - 40 points."
Referee Andre Marriner made the decision to send off Francis in the 57th minute.
The Bournemouth captain and Vardy chased after Danny Drinkwater's through ball, and with Vardy winning the race, Francis made a sliding challenge, bringing down the Foxes man. Television replays suggested Francis got a touch on the ball, and he protested as much, but Marriner brought out his red card and awarded the penalty.
Bournemouth will feel some justice was served as Artur Boruc, diving to his left, got two strong hands to Mahrez's spot-kick.
Cherries boss Eddie Howe felt it should not have been a penalty and praised his team for the way they battled to earn a point.
"For me it's not a penalty. That was my opinion live and it still is after seeing it on the replays," said Howe.
"For me, Simon has a difficult job there. Vardy has got goal side and is going towards goal at full pace. Simon has come from the side, got a clear touch on the ball and it is not a penalty, or a free-kick, in my opinion.
"It's a difficult one for the referee because he only sees the player go down. But I think everyone on the other side - the touchline side - can see it's a clear touch on the ball.
I think when you play with 10 men for such a long spell in the game, to come away with anything is a huge result and full credit to my players for that.
"No matter how we got it, I think is definitely a point gained and I have to compliment my players."