Tuesday 20 March 2018

Points not placings for Ranieri

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, right, saw his side go top of the table with a win at West Ham.
Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri, right, saw his side go top of the table with a win at West Ham.

Claudio Ranieri played down Leicester's position as early Premier League pacesetters as his side made it two wins out of two with victory at West Ham.

Having started the season with an impressive 4-2 home win over Sunderland, the Foxes sprung a surprise at Upton Park as goals from Shinji Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez were enough to see them beat the Hammers 2-1.

Dimitri Payet reduced the deficit for the home side as they looked to recover from a poor first half but their afternoon ended acrimoniously as goalkeeper Adrian was sent off in injury time.

The win for Leicester saw them replace Manchester United as league leaders on Saturday evening but, for Ranieri, the fact they have already accrued six points is much more important in achieving his long-term goals for the campaign.

"I look at the table and then I say 'okay, us six points'," he said.

"That is important for us, not to be top of the league. That is for others, not me. I don't think too much. I look at my players, I train my players...they can win, they can draw, they can lose. But now we have six points which is very, very important for us to maintain ourselves and play in that league.

"I want to maintain a low profile. We can't think we are top of the league. We have six points that is important for us."

Having been the better side in the first half, Leicester were forced back after the break but did not fold after conceding and held on for the win - with Ranieri happy to see his players able to fight for the cause when things are going against them.

"In the second half we suffered a lot," added the Italian.

"First half we played well; ball on the floor, play quickly, two touches and I think we surprised West Ham. Afterwards it was normal, West Ham play at home, want to draw the match, and we conceded a lot of the pitch to them.

"We suffer and then I watched my players suffer and fight together. And that's it. They are afraid, I didn't know, but now I am very happy for all the performances."

For the Hammers, having won at Arsenal last Sunday, this defeat would have hurt as they looked to maintain their own winning start.

Manager Slaven Bilic bemoaned a slow first-half performance that led to his side's downfall.

But he refused to point the finger at Reece Oxford, with the 16-year-old replaced at half-time by Pedro Obiang, and pointed to a rejected penalty shout on the stroke of half-time as Kasper Schmeichel and Diafra Sakho came together as a potential turning point.

"We lost the game in the first half, we were better in the second," conceded Bilic.

"The first-half performance was not down to Reece Oxford - there were a few candidates I could have taken off.

"I remember the penalty incident and for me he could give a penalty. I saw it again and for me it is (a penalty).

"Maybe it was hard for the referee to see, but Schmeichel didn't get the ball and then spread his arms - it could have changed the game, that was the moment you need something."

Bilic said the dismissal of goalkeeper Adrian, who kicked Jamie Vardy in the chest as he looked to backtrack having gone up for a late corner, "could have been seen as a red card" - with the Spaniard set to miss the next three games.

Press Association

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