Sunday 21 January 2018

Hull defeat gives Leicester unwelcome distinction

Hull City 2 Leicester City 1

Claudio Ranieri: ‘We made some mistakes’. Photo: PA
Claudio Ranieri: ‘We made some mistakes’. Photo: PA

Samuel Stevens

Claudio Ranieri has warned his Leicester City players they must learn from their mistakes quickly after a dispiriting opening-day defeat by newly-promoted Hull City.

The champions became the first reigning title-holders to suffer defeat on the opening day of their Premier League title defence as Adama Diamande and Robert Snodgrass scored either side of a controversial Riyad Mahrez penalty at the KCOM Stadium.

Hull City players create a huddle while Leicester City players walk off the pitch. Photo: Getty
Hull City players create a huddle while Leicester City players walk off the pitch. Photo: Getty

The Italian, whose side face Arsenal next weekend, said: "They played better. We tried to do our best. Our effort was amazing but it was individual, not as a team.

"We tried to win but sometimes it's impossible. We made some mistakes and we have to think where we made them. I told my players this season will be harder than last season."

Pre-season optimism had been lost on the Tigers with Steve Bruce's resignation the headline on a torrid 77 days since the joys of the Championship play-off final in May.

No new signings, a glut of injuries and a deeply unpopular owner made Hull favourites for a quick-fire return to the second-tier.

Jamie Vardy of Leicester City and Jake Livermore of Hull City battle for possession in the air. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Jamie Vardy of Leicester City and Jake Livermore of Hull City battle for possession in the air. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Mike Phelan, the caretaker manager thrust into a dire situation, allowed himself a wry smile at full-time as his band of no-hopers knocked Leicester's crown askew with an emphatic, assured display of defiance in East Yorkshire.

The visitors' first opportunity of the match came on 18 minutes. Lightning-quick Ahmed Musa, a club-record £16m signing from CSKA Moscow, evaded Jake Livermore on the left flank, cutting inside for Jamie Vardy.

The England striker swiped at his shot, however, to a chorus of raucous cackling from the home faithful, before Mahrez then arrowed an effort just wide.

The Algerian's wizardry bedazzled defences aplenty en route to the title last term. Side-stepping both Andrew Robertson and David Meyler, Mahrez slid it across to Danny Drinkwater in the box. The Manchester United graduate, hoping to cement a place in Sam Allardyce's England squad, could only curl his attempt across goal.

Leicester were struggling to handle a slow pitch and an opponent determined to bog them down in a packed midfield. The Foxes' ruthless touch is one of the many variables which helped them confound 5,000/1 odds last time around but it abandoned them here. Another effort was blazed over the bar by Vardy moments later.

It came back to haunt on the brink of half-time, as Diomande pounced to put Hull into an unlikely lead. Schmeichel did brilliantly to keep out a looping header by Davies, from Snodgrass's corner, but the Dane could do little about Diomande's powerful over-head kick.

Ranieri trudged down the tunnel at the break with work to do. Referee Dean lent a helping hand, however, by awarding a contentious penalty soon after the restart. Demarai Gray howled in agony when Tom Huddlestone trampled on his ankle outside the area.

Replays confirmed the foul was committed on the line but Dean, just five yards away, deemed it to be inside. Mahrez made no mistake, driving it down the middle to cancel the arrears.

The script suggested a Leicester renaissance was about to unfold. With a clutch of teenagers on the bench, no permanent manager and a hostile crowd, their hosts were there for the taking.

Instead, Ranieri's men surrendered another. Schmeichel's throw was short of Gray, its intended target, and invited Hull to press again. Danny Simpson hashed his clearance from Ahmed ­Elmohamady's cross, allowing the ball to bobble into Snodgrass's path 18 yards out.

The impressive Glaswegian thumped it into Leicester's bottom left corner. Advantage to the Tigers again.

The Chinese consortium who plan to buy Hull, some of whom had gone to the trouble of wearing official merchandise, were in the directors' box watching on. "We are top of the league," sung the home supporters as they filtered down the terraces at full-time.

Despair became delirium in just 90 minutes.

Clearly, there's life in Hull yet.

Sunday Indo Sport

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