Saturday 23 September 2017

Foxes in a hole as Ranieri faces the reality of relegation battle

Leicester City 2 Middlesbrough 2

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez in action with Middlesbrough's Fabio. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez in action with Middlesbrough's Fabio. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

John Percy

Last season it was Claudio Ranieri's imaginary bell and "Dilly Ding Dilly Dong". This season it is the alarm bells that should be ringing after another chastening afternoon for the Premier League champions.

Islam Slimani, their £28m record signing, saved Leicester from falling to their third consecutive defeat by scoring from the penalty spot in injury time - their second spot-kick of the game - but this was another disjointed display and the Foxes remain only two points above the dotted line.

Claudio Ranieri
Claudio Ranieri

Jamie Vardy has now gone 15 club games without a goal and was substituted midway through the second half, while Riyad Mahrez was also replaced after an ineffectual performance.

Ranieri said: "When a team like Leicester plays in Europe for the first time they always lose something in their league. But for us now it is important to think we are in a relegation battle and then every point is OK. I'm not worried but I'm a very pragmatic man. Now we are there.

"Last season we were very far away (from relegation) but I was always watching behind me. This season we must be patient, stay together and pass the bad moment because sooner or later we will be back.

"The performance wasn't good. They played better than us. I am very happy with our character, that they believed until the end that something good could happen. We showed fantastic spirit."

Middlesbrough's Alvaro Negredo (left) and Leicester City's Christian Fuchs battle for the ballb during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Nigel French/PA
Middlesbrough's Alvaro Negredo (left) and Leicester City's Christian Fuchs battle for the ballb during the Premier League match at the King Power Stadium. Photo: Nigel French/PA

While Vardy's goal drought extended for another week, Alvaro Negredo ended his wait to justify his continued selection by Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka. They were both brilliantly executed by 'the Beast', his first goals in 12 games, and Middlesbrough were unfortunate to not clinch their first away win since August.

Negredo repaid Karanka's faith by starting, and finishing, the move that gave them the opening goal in the 13th minute.

Leicester equalised on 34 minutes. Danny Simpson's cross was clearly handled by Calum Chambers and Mahrez put away the penalty - his second goal from the spot inside a week.

Middlesbrough regained the lead 19 minutes from time, with Robert Huth's positioning suspect, but Leicester were gifted a reprieve in added time when Marten de Roon clumsily brought down Wes Morgan. © Daily Telegraph, London.

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