Claudio Ranieri happy to see Jamie Vardy end goal drought against Stoke
Published 23/01/2016 | 18:26
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri had been telling Jamie Vardy that if he continued to work hard then his goal drought would end - and he was proved right on Saturday.
During his six Barclays Premier League matches without a goal Vardy has been typically industrious, buzzing around opposition defenders and not allowing them time on the ball, despite h is fitness being tempered earlier this month by a minor groin operation.
It was the same against Stoke and if the 29-year-old's confidence had been affected by his recent lack of goals, he showed no signs of it as he calmly rounded goalkeeper Jack Butland, after latching on to Danny Drinkwater's pass, before rolling the ball into the net from a tight angle.
It was Vardy's 16th goal of a prolific season but his first since December 14. However, it was never an issue for Ranieri.
"It was not a problem," said the Italian.
"Jamie I tell every day it is not important, although I know goals for the strikers is important and maybe now he has more confidence, and when I speak with him I say it is important you continue to work hard because you are the main man and if you start to press then everyone follows.
"Then sooner or later you score a goal, I tell him this. You have to work and make it happen and then the goal will arrive."
Drinkwater and substitute Leonardo Ulloa scored either side of Vardy's goal as Leicester went top of the Premier League with a vital victory, with their next three league games being against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal.
"It was very important to be top of the league at the end of January because now February is a month that is very, very tough. Liverpool, Arsenal, City - it is unbelievable. But we are ready to fight," said Ranieri.
"Now the players will have three days off, to clear the minds. And when they come back we restart to work hard because the league for us is very exciting.
"You know how much I love the clean sheet but it was also very important to score the three goals because Stoke City is a very good team - solid, strong and taller than us. The first half was very difficult but fortunately we find the goals.
"We made a fantastic performance and I am very pleased with my players."
Stoke created very little. Kasper Schmeichel had to be alert when called on to make his only real save of the game just after the hour, batting away Joselu's header to preserve Leicester's lead.
City will have to be much better when they travel to Anfield on Tuesday to try to overturn a first leg deficit and make it to Wembley in the Capital One Cup.
Boss Mark Hughes does not think his players had the semi-final against Liverpool on their minds but he expects an immediate response from them.
"Maybe subconsciously they did, but I hope not," said Hughes.
"But no, I don't think so. It wasn't a great day for us and we didn't produce anything of note. We're an honest group and this was just one of those days to forget, I think.
"We are a lot better than we were able to show but that's credit to Leicester, who work exceptionally hard and press you in all areas of the field.
"We couldn't deal with that and we couldn't retain the ball in key areas of the pitch because of the pressure we were put under, which was disappointing.
"You can't win Premier League games if you don't have a good number of players playing really well, which we didn't have.
"We needed to be better but we'll be looking to bounce back quickly - we have managed to do that more often than not. We have a huge game on Tuesday and I expect my team to respond very quickly."