Leicester bag Brugge win to secure Champions League progression

Date published: Tuesday 22nd November 2016 9:44

Leicester City: Champions League Group G winners

Leicester City: Champions League Group G winners

Leicester’s Champions League fairy tale continued as they beat Brugge at the King Power Stadium to qualify for the knockout stage.

The Foxes have taken top spot in Group G meaning they go into their final trip to Porto next month in cruise control following another historic achievement in their first season in the competition.

They are five points clear of Porto, who drew 0-0 in Copenhagen, following a fourth win in five games, although they had to dig deep after Brugge improved drastically after the break.

Shinji Okazaki’s opener set the early tone at the King Power Stadium as the hosts soothed their Premier League wounds, with the defending champions just two points above the relegation zone with a quarter of the season gone.

Riyad Mahrez’s penalty gave them breathing space before Jose Izquierdo, Brugge’s bright spot, pulled a goal back after the break – the first the Foxes have conceded in this European campaign.

Robert Huth almost turned into his own net late on as Brugge finally made the game a contest but Claudio Ranieri’s side hung on.

Victory also means Leicester have more points in Europe than the Premier League after dispatching Brugge, who have lost every game in the Champions League this season.

The build-up to the game had been strangely subdued given the Foxes’ domestic struggles but Okazaki did his best to lift Leicester with a fifth-minute opener.

Dion Cools lost possession just outside the Leicester box and Marc Albrighton started a rapid break by finding Jamie Vardy, who then fed Christian Fuchs.

The left-back advanced with enough space to produce a delightful low ball which bypassed the Brugge defence and allowed Okazaki to sweep in a brilliant finish at the near post.

Mahrez then forced Ludovic Butelle into a smart near-post save as the Foxes went for the kill and Okazaki miscued a fine chance after 11 minutes when Brugge played themselves into trouble.

The visitors were backing up striker Jelle Vossen’s observation they were a laughing stock in Europe this season and displaying all the calamitous elements which presented Leicester with a 3-0 victory in Belgium two months ago.

Even when they did creep into the Foxes’ box Vossen almost fell over his own feet and Ron-Robert Zieler saved Hans Vanaken’s tame 23rd-minute header.

Leicester were in complete control and doubled their lead after 30 minutes when Mahrez grabbed his fourth Champions League goal of the campaign.

Brugge never looked comfortable at the back and Cools, who lost the ball for the Foxes’ opener, clumsily chopped down Albrighton in the box to allow Mahrez to score from the spot.

It seemed game over as Brugge initially continued to demonstrate why they have never won in England in, what is now, 13 attempts with a limp effort to rouse themselves.

Izquierdo’s token effort was saved by Zieler but fresh from a half-time pep talk from boss Michel Preud’homme the visitors came out firing and pulled a goal back after 52 minutes.

Izquierdo broke from inside his own half and outpaced the chasing hosts to produce a fine angled finish which flew high past Zieler at his near post from 15 yards.

Jamie Vardy thought he had restored Leicester’s goal-two advantage and ended his 13-game club goal drought seven minutes later but his cheeky flicked strike was correctly ruled out for offside.

The Foxes’ dominance had disappeared and Izquierdo should have done better than blazing high and wide before Leicester substitute Jeff Schlupp forced Butelle into a low save with 21 minutes left.

Nervous Leicester began to sit deep as Brugge exerted some pressure for the first time and the Foxes lived dangerously when Huth turned a corner a yard wide of his own goal with five minutes left.

Demarai Gray could have ended the contest with two minutes to go but lacked the conviction to beat Butelle when clean through and was again denied in stoppage time after a quick break.

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