Sport Soccer

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Ranieri's verbal volley sparks Foxes

Claudio Ranieri (PA)
Claudio Ranieri (PA)

Mark Ogden

Claudio Ranieri abandoned his calm persona to deliver an angry half-time dressing down to his Leicester City players during their 1-0 victory against Newcastle United which restored the club's five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.

Leicester travel to Crystal Palace on Saturday knowing that a win would move them eight points clear of closest challengers Tottenham ahead of Bournemouth's visit to White Hart Lane on Sunday.

The hard-fought win over Newcastle was secured by Shinji Okazaki's spectacular first-half overhead kick, but Ranieri was unhappy with his team's tempo during the opening period of the game.

The Japanese attacker admits Ranieri's fury helped ensure Leicester saw the game out to claim the points. "We've got a five-point gap again now, so it was a very important match to win," Okazaki said. "But the manager was so angry at half-time.

"Yes, he is smiling most of the time, but when we came in at half-time he was mad. He is always joking, but maybe to see him angry like that is good for us. He doesn't throw things, though!"

Okazaki insists, however, that one of the secrets of Leicester's success has been the squad's ability to relax and avoid becoming burdened by the pressure of expectancy.

"Our spirit is very good for each game - nice and simple. No pressure," he said. "It's not easy to switch off, but maybe the character of the players is what is good. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, they are so relaxed. They are laughing and joking all the time - no pressure and that's good."

Okazaki's goal earned the £7m summer signing from Mainz a rare share of the limelight this season. "I don't practise overhead kicks," he said. "The goal was just instinctive, but that is my character."

Ranieri, meanwhile, continues to play down his team's chances. "No I don't look at the table - I look at the next match, Crystal Palace. Alan Pardew (Palace boss) was upstairs to watch us, it's another tough match," he said.

"We want to enjoy and want to continue. "The fans must dream and we must work. I'm pleased with our spirit.

"We played our match against Newcastle and we won three points. At this point of the season, the points are important, not how you play," he said. Now it's important to stay calm."

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