Saturday 18 November 2017

Ranieri sends for 'gladiators' to save Leicester's season

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: PA
Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri. Photo: PA

Jamie Holland

Beleaguered Claudio Ranieri has called for Leicester's "gladiators and soldiers" to step forward and save the club's season following yet another defeat.

Millwall progressed to the sixth round of the FA Cup at Leicester's expense after Shaun Cummings scored in the 90th minute at the Den to pile yet more misery upon Ranieri and the relegation-threatened Premier League champions.

Leicester had an extra man on their League One opponents for the majority of the second-half after Jake Cooper was sent off, having been shown a second yellow for a rash challenge on Ahmed Musa.

However, the deficit only sought to inspire Millwall, who struck for the winner when Cummings latched on to a knock-down from substitute Lee Gregory to coolly slot the ball past keeper Ron-Robert Zieler.

Leicester, one point above the Premier League relegation zone, are now without a victory from their last eight matches.

"I want to speak again with the players and say we have to fight every match," said an animated Ranieri.

"Who wants to fight? Tell me. I need the soldiers. I need the gladiators, because Millwall, with 10 players, showed they are fantastic gladiators.

"It is strange because last season we won for this, to be more determined than the opponent and play with more heart than the opponent. We could also lose, but we would fight every match. I want to see this, the fight until the end.

"This defeat could be good for us because, when you lose against a team who fights, you have to say well done to them, but why did we lose?"

With one eye on their trip to Sevilla in the Champions League next week and the visit of Liverpool the following Monday, Ranieri made 10 changes to the side which lost at Swansea.

Leicester started well, but failed to find a way past Jordan Archer in the Millwall goal and then failed to take advantage of Cooper's 52nd-minute dismissal.

"Going down to 10 men just after half-time is tough," Millwall manager Neil Harris said.

"It put the pressure and expectation on to Leicester's shoulders and my players did not freeze."

As Millwall celebrated a famous win, there were ugly scenes at the final whistle after the home supporters spilled on to the pitch and goaded the Leicester fans.

Missiles appeared to be thrown by both sets of supporters and police horses were called upon to defuse the situation.

The FA last night announced an investigation into the disturbances, but that should not take anything away from another great Millwall performance.

Premier League opposition have strolled into the Den on three occasions in the past six weeks for FA Cup ties and each time they have been sent home with their tails firmly between their legs.

First to fall were Bournemouth, devoured 3-0 in the third round after making 11 changes to their starting line-up. Then came Watford, beaten by a late Steve Morison winner after switching seven players.

Mauling

Now, most dramatically, Leicester City have suffered their very own south London mauling. They, too, made drastic changes - 10 in total - and they, too, paid the price.

"You beat one Premier League team, and it's a shock," said Harris.

"To beat a second one, you have done really well. To beat three? That is some achievement. That is testimony to my players, their hunger and willingness to learn."

As Millwall look forward to a quarter-final trip to Tottenham, Leicester must pick themselves up quickly ahead of their midweek trip to Sevilla for the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie.

Leicester have not won in the league this year, and have showed few signs that they are capable of turning that form around.

They currently sit in 17th place, just one point above the drop zone, which they could find themselves in by the time they take on Liverpool next Monday. (© Daily Telegraph, London.)

Telegraph.co.uk

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