Claudio Ranieri praised the “fantastic” Jamie Vardy after the in-form forward inspired Leicester’s comeback in their dramatic 2-2 draw at Southampton.
After their flat performance throughout the first half and conceding goals to Southampton‘s Jose Fonte and Virgil van Dijk, Leicester’s Vardy scored twice to secure what had appeared an unlikely point for his team.
Producing the finest form of his career, Vardy, who so far this season has scored nine Premier League goals and who has already spoken of the need to continue his prolific run if he is to make the England squad for Euro 2016, headed Leicester’s first goal before missing an exceptional 81st-minute, close-range chance to equalise.
However, he swiftly recovered from his disappointment and responded a minute into stoppage time by shooting powerfully into the top corner beyond Kelvin Davis to rescue a point.
“Jamie Vardy is important for us,” Ranieri said. “If I was a player I’d think ‘Oh, Jamie can score, Jamie can score’ and this is important.
“He’s got good stamina, and it’s good to think during the match ‘Jamie can score’.
“Jamie in the Championship scored 16 goals, last season he (experienced) the Premier League, a lot of confidence he took with the (England) national team, and now maybe he’s more sure, more confident.
“He’s fantastic. He ran a lot, pressed a lot, but also at the right moment was very, very clear to choose the best solution.
“I think only of Leicester. If Roy (Hodgson) wants him (for England at Euro 2016), it’s good for him, good for Jamie, good for Leicester, good for everybody.
“(We have a) good spirit, fantastic. To go down 2-0 is not easy, to recover. I have a very fantastic group. They believed everything could be possible.
“We were desperate (in the second half). I told the players, ‘If we lose 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, it’s the same, we’re still losing’.
“They believe, our fans believe, and this is very important.”
Southampton had comfortably controlled the opening 45 minutes – Victor Wanyama was particularly effective in nullifying Leicester’s first-half threat – before struggling to react to the visitors’ intensity and eventual goals.
Manager Ronald Koeman could be seen shaking his head at Leicester’s second goal, and was critical of their game management.
“Your’re two-nil up, it’s a good performance so far, and great goals from set-pieces, but I have to recognise it was difficult,” he said.
“Leicester showed great spirit, great belief, still after going two goals down.
“We had best chance to kill the game from Sadio (Mane) but at 2-1 it was more difficult. Maybe (Leicester) were a little bit more fresh.
“Maybe they need to understand when you can build up (play), play the long ball. If you watch the second half we didn’t have good possession.
“We spoke about how we have to manage the second half, and we didn’t have the feeling that it’s over. We know they have unbelievable spirit and they’ve made it always difficult.”