Last season, Leicester City defied the odds and proved to the world that the underdogs can achieve greatness. The English outfit won the Barclays Premier League in 2015-16, after being labeled 5,000-1 odds before the start of the season.
After earning a spot into the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League tournament Claudio Ranieri‘s side were given a fairly-reasonable group for the group-stage. Paired with F.C. Porto, F.C. Kobenhavn, and Club Brugge, Leicester knew they were given a better group then other sides.
Winning their first three games of the group-stage by a combined score of 5-0, Leicester sat a top of the group with nine points. Surprising media, former players, and opponents alike Leicester were making the most of their time in Europe’s biggest club competition. Their form in Europe was outstanding, while their form in England was suspect at best.
At the beginning of November, Leicester drew at Kobenhavn 0-0 but kept their unbeaten streak alive. Knowing a good result at home against Club Brugge on MatchDay #5 would put them closer to advancing to the Round of 16.
Tuesday saw the King Power Stadium rocking with 31,443 fans hoping to see the Foxes move towards the knockout stage. It took only five minutes before Leicester opened the scoring as Shinji Okazaki chipped home over Brugge keeper Ludovic Butelle for a 1-0 lead.
Riyad Mahrez doubled the hosts advantage in the 30th minute as he slotted home a penalty kick down the middle of the goal. Marc Albrighton was fouled inside the box by Brugge’s Dion Cools for the spot-kick opportunity. Mahrez made the most of his chance, scoring his fourth goal of the competition.
Heading into halftime, Leicester had a 2-0 lead and looked more likely to score heading into the second half. However, Brugge cut the deficit to 2-1 seven minutes into the second half as Jose Izquierdo finished nicely from the right-side of the box. Jelle Vossen was credited with the assist on the goal.
As the second half continued, Brugge became pressuring constantly while Leicester looked to absorb the pressure. Daniel Amartey and Demarai Gray had chances of their own to extend Leicester’s lead but failed to do so.
At the final whistle, Leicester punched their ticket into the next round with a 2-1 victory. Out-possessing Brugge 53%-47%, Leicester forced Butelle into six saves. Foxes keeper Ron-Robert Zieler made two saves in the win. Leicester captain Wes Morgan told BBC Sport following the match that it is a great achievement for the club to win their group. “For a club like Leicester to finish top of our Champions League group is an amazing achievement. It’s been better than we could have imagined. We felt very comfortable at 2-0 up going into half-time. We just wanted to maintain our performance. That Brugge goal was a very big blow and we had to really dig in towards the end.”
Advancing in this tournament will help this team financially, but should also help their confidence both in Europe and in England. To avoid a relegation fight in the EPL, Leicester need to continue performing well on a regular basis but cannot afford to overlook teams.
With a game to spare, Leicester can afford to rest some players in the final group-stage match at Porto. Winning today also guaranteed Leicester as the group-winners which could help them in the Round of 16 draw. For being a 5,000-1 underdog, they are quickly making believers out of everyone and anyone who doubts them.