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Slimani slays the Porto dragon yet again

Published: 28th September 2016 08:45 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th September 2016 10:12 AM   |  A+A-

islma slimani_AP

Leicester's Islam Slimani tries to score during the Champions League Group G soccer match between Leicester City and FC Porto. ( AP)

LONDON: They called him "the dragon-slayer" for his goalscoring record in the Primeira Liga against Porto, those giants of the game in Portugal, although Islam Slimani, like Leicester City, seems to have his eye on building a reputation right across European football.

His goal was the matchwinner in this second successive Champions League victory for the improbable champions of England who have taken to the challenge of this new competition as readily as they tore up their domestic league last season.

Their pounds 28?million record signing Slimani, like so many Leicester signings, looks the part already and a home win against FC Copenhagen in two weeks' time will put his team within a point of the group stages.

Claudio Ranieri's team are still yet to concede a goal in the course of their two wins although, after an explosive first half, they did have to ride their luck towards the end. Even so, they are embracing the competition and using their home games as a platform to attack rather than sit back and wait for the opposition to die of boredom.

It was a wonderful goal that decided the match and there was enough about Leicester defensively to withstand the best which Porto, third in their own league last season, threw at them in the closing stages. The only changes Ranieri made from Saturday's defeat to Manchester United were Kasper Schmeichel returning in goal and Luis Hernandez at right-back.

They may have allowed the game to run away from them at Old Trafford on Saturday, but Leicester made no such mistake in the first Champions League game here. They took the game to Porto in thrilling fashion in the first half and they were worth more than their one-goal lead by the break.

The Uefa anthem rang out around the ground for the first time, the stadium itself was rebranded in accordance with the governing body's guidelines and the locals loved every minute of it. Ranieri selected a 4-4-2 formation which, in the best traditions of Leicester's title-winning season, took the game to their opposition.

Porto are not quite the force they once were as the Portuguese club of the new millennium. Yet they still a club these, with Champions League winner Iker Casillas in goal, but they were blown away in the first half. The Leicester goal was a beauty, with Marc Albrighton switching the ball from left to right, where Riyad Mahrez took a couple of those feather-soft touches before swinging in the kind of left-footed cross that just needs a nudge in the right direction. Vardy attacked it but it was Slimani who connected, his aggression and strength taking him into positions the Porto defence struggled with.

It was the Algeria international's seventh goal in seven games against Porto, continuing a fine record at his previous club, Sporting Lisbon. The mood was bad-tempered at times and Vardy was sufficiently keyed up to shove an opponent out of the defensive wall and earn himself a needless booking.

By the hour, the Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo, whom Gary Neville succeeded at Valencia, changed his 4-3-3 to try to get some parity with a Leicester midfield sweeping all before it. With two strikers and the Portugal international Danilo trying to exert some more influence in midfield, the visiting side had more of the game.

On the counter-attack, Leicester were impressive but they required a second goal to put the game away and that would not come, and it was Porto who had the better of it as the game came down to a final nervous 10 minutes for Ranieri's team. The substitute Hector Herrera had a shot pushed away by Schmeichel on 75 minutes and the territorial advantage the home side had enjoyed faded away as the away side took control of the possession.

The Porto substitute Jesus Corona struck the Leicester post with a on 83 minutes as Ranieri's team retreated. They dropped deep, which suited Robert Huth and Wes Morgan who prefer to deal with crosses than balls in behind them, but there were a few anxious moments towards the end.

Ranieri will be concerned that away from home his team might find themselves pushed on to the back foot more often as they tire at the end of the games but, even so, they have made a remarkable start to this competition.

When Porto won the Champions League under Jose Mourinho in 2004, Leicester were relegated from the Premier League. They have come a long way back and they look set to stay in this competition beyond Christmas.

Leicester City (4-4-2): Schmeichel 6; Hernandez 7, Morgan 7, Huth 6, Fuchs 6; Mahrez 6 (Gray 88), Drinkwater 7, Amartey 7, Albrighton 6; Slimani 7 (King 82), Vardy 6 (Musa 90). Subs Zieler (g), Schlupp, Simpson, Okazaki. Booked Vardy, Slimani, Huth.

Porto (4-3-3): Casillas 6; Layun 6, Felipe 5, Marcano 6, Alex Telles 6; Andre Andre 6 (Herrera 63), Danilo 6, Oliver Torres 6; (Corona 77), Andre Silva 7, Adrian Lopez 6 (Diogo Jota 63), Otavio 6. Subs Jose Sa (g), Boly, Ruben Neves, Depoitre. Booked Felipe, Andre Silva, Danilo.

Referee C Cakir (Turkey).

 

 

 

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