Champions League – Sevilla – Leicester City – FC Porto – Juventus

24 February 2017

Ranieri Sacked As Spanish Win But Leicester Get Important Away Goal While Juventus take charge

Following the insane shenanigans of the previous night surely nothing in the other Champions League matches could scale the heights of Manchester City and Atletico Madrid this week?

Sevilla 2 Leicester City 1

They didn’t but it was close. Football is such a mad meze of delights, highs and lows that nothing seems impossible as Leicester came away from Sevilla with an important Jamie Vardy away goal and a fair chance of progressing to the quarter finals of the Champions League. Only 9 months ago Claudio Ranieri was sitting like a King taking the highly unfancied Leicester City to the heights of ecstasy by winning the Premiership with odds of 5000 to one but following the narrow 2-1 loss to the Spanish club Sevilla on Wednesday night the following day saw Leicester City incredibly sack Ranieri. That’s thanks for you!

How stupid are those perpetrators at Leicester City that sacked the man who led them to indescribable treasures last season. Bloody stupid is the answer.

Leicester City flew back from Spain against the winners of the Europa League in 2014, 2015 and 2016. This is the team that have not been knocked out of a European Club competition since 2012 because they’ve won them all so coming away from Spain with just a 2-1 defeat in this first leg was more than a decent achievement for an often assassinated Leicester this season.

Yes Leicester have had a poor season this year but by the tumultuous standards of last year anything was going to be a comedown. Yes they have looked poor as other teams worked them out this season. Yes not all players have been firing on all cylinders this season. Does everyone forget how poor the Chelsea players were last season after winning the title in 2014/2015? Eden Hazard went missing, Diego Costa threw his toys out of the pram and Jose Mourinho was another manager making an inglorious exit from the then Premiership Champions. Yes Leicester weren’t on fabulous form in the run up to this game but they still came away with a narrow loss and that all important away goal. They have a real chance in the second leg against a top rated Spanish side who haven’t been out of the top 10 since the turn of the century. They are the Arsenal of the Spanish La Liga with the difference being that they actually win European competitions.

There’s the old saying ‘when the chips are down, the chips are down’ but Leicester have so far played this seasons Champions League really well and it was the heroes of last year in the shape of Kasper Schmeichel and Jamie Vardy who were Leicester City’s saviours. OK in fairness the Foxes didn’t play well but they battled for a respectable first leg loss for the chance of turning it around at home.

Let’s be bluntly honest. Vardy has had a dreadful season and I reckon his confidence has been shot to pieces, not by Claudio Ranieri, Gareth Southgate or Sam Allardyce who have all managed him this season but by Roy ‘I Haven’t Got A Clue How To Pick An England Team’ Hodgson. Last summer when England were pathetically woeful at the European Football Championships and found out big time by little Iceland, Hodgson didn’t pick him, left Vardy on the bench when here was a man scoring goals for fun whose confidence was sky high. Ridiculous Roy ridiculous. Since then Vardy has had more chance hitting the back of a van than hitting the back of the net. It has been vetted that Hodgson may be in the reckoning to replace Ranieri which would be ironic given that without Hodgson’s poor decisions last summer affecting Vardy that Hodgson might be slightly to blame for Leicester’s current woes.

Last night he got Leicester out of jail along with Schmeichel who saved a penalty. It was Vardy’s first shot in 7 games that’s how poor his form is at the moment. He scored for the first time in 758 minutes of action for Leicester in all competitions while at the other end Leicester have kept just two clean sheets in their last 22 games in all competitions and none in their last 10. In fact Leicester failed to direct a single shot on target in the first half, registering just one shot on target in total in their last four first halves in all competitions.

Before the game, manager Claudio Ranieri suggested a positive display could act as a turning point for their season, and while they were outclassed for long periods, the rediscovery of a stubbornness and spirit could prove crucial not just for this tie but the rest of the campaign.

The tie looked to be over after Correa’s calm close-range finish in the second half had doubled the lead given to the home side by Sarabia’s powerful, pinpoint header before the break. Yet with less than a quarter of the game to go, Drinkwater produced Leicester’s one incisive attacking ball of the night to find Vardy, whose run into space behind his marker and first-time finish bore all the instinctual qualities he showed so often last season.

Kasper Schmeichel saved a Correa penalty well with the score at 0-0 (it shouldn’t have been a penalty in the first place to be frank) and he made a number of other good saves.

Sevilla also hit the post and bar had over 70% possession but will only take a slender lead to the King Power Stadium for the second leg on 14 March by which time Leicester will probably have a new manager but will have lost a lot of respect.

FC Porto 0 Juventus 2

In the other game Italian giants look to have the tie in the bag as goals from substitutes Marko Pjaca and Daniel Alves in the 72nd and 74th minutes were enough for Juventus to punish 10-man Porto to take charge of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The hosts saw left-back Alex Telles dismissed after two bookings in a 74-second spell, the second after a wild sliding tackle on Stephan Lichtsteiner on 27 minutes. The sliding tackle deserved a red on it’s own and the rush of blood to his head ensured Porto were up against it for over an hour but it looked increasingly possible as the game wore on that Porto might just hang on for an unlikely draw.

Porto spent long spells in their own half and survived a Paulo Dybala strike against the post before the interval with a cracking effort.

But Juventus with 77% possession broke through when Pjaca drove low into the net five minutes after coming on and Alves finished from six yards 80 seconds after his own introduction.

The goals ensured Juve’s fourth successive 2-0 win on the road in all competitions and their advantage now looks huge ahead of the return on 14 March. Other than a penalty shootout defeat to Inter Milan in December, the last time the Juve lost on home soil was in August 2015. Good luck Porto as you are going to need it.


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