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Club Brugge 0 Leicester City3: Ranieri thrilled Foxes' style delivers a dream outcome on a fairytale debut at the top table

By Mark Ogden

Published 15/09/2016

Claudio Ranieri celebrates with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel following Leicester's victory over Brugge
Claudio Ranieri celebrates with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel following Leicester's victory over Brugge

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri hailed his fantastic Foxes after a 3-0 rout of Club Brugge marked a fairytale Champions League debut.

Riyad Mahrez scored twice after Marc Albrighton grabbed the opener just five minutes in to net the Foxes' first ever goal in the competition.

Last season's Premier League champions were assured and composed and the scoreline reflected just how easy it was for them in the Jan Breydel Stadium.

They were beaten 4-1 by Liverpool on Saturday and have lost twice in the league already this season, but victory in Belgium left Ranieri delighted.

"It was important to show the reaction after the Liverpool defeat," said Ranieri. "I said we cannot think about the Champions League, it's an experience for us and we hope to go through the group and play again.

"If we don't achieve the first two positions we'll go in the Europa League, that's our desire to continue in Europe although the Champions League is better.

"Now we play the first match, there are another five. We played our style. They tried to find a right solution but it was very difficult. It was good for us to start our story with a victory."

It was not supposed to be this easy for the Foxes, but as debuts go Ranieri's team could not have been more emphatic, impressive and at ease on the biggest stage as they dispatched Brugge with brutal efficiency.

The Champions League will provide much sterner tests than Michel Preud'homme's limited team - Porto will bring streetwise European experience to the King Power Stadium in a fortnight - but Leicester announced themselves as worthy competitors and will now fancy themselves to progress from Group G.

It was perhaps the perfect wake-up call for Ranieri's players to see Jose Izquierdo miss a clear chance for Brugge inside the first three minutes. Released by Hans Vanaken's through-ball, Izquierdo escaped Wes Morgan and broke to the edge of the penalty area before shooting wide of Kasper Schmeichel's post.

It was a bad miss, but it made Leicester realise quickly that Europe is a different environment to the Premier League and that pace and movement are particularly potent at this level.

Ranieri, embarking on his sixth Champions League campaign with his sixth different club, could sniff the danger and he was out in the technical area urging his players to focus.

And the Italian was rewarded with an instant response. Islam Slimani, the £29.8m club record signing making his debut, won a throw-in with tenacity and desire and, from Hernandez's long throw, Albrighton gave Leicester the lead on five minutes.

A lack of communication between Vanaken and goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle led to the midfielder heading the ball out of his keeper's grasp, allowing Albrighton to bundle into the net.

Any nerves Leicester may have had evaporated, and Ranieri's players began to dominate, with Danny Drinkwater and Daniel Amartey controlling the midfield.

Jamie Vardy had a powerful run blocked by Ruud Vormer and Morgan headed an Albrighton cross over the bar before Mahrez made it 2-0 on 29 minutes with a gem of a free-kick. Vardy's pace won the set-piece, with the England forward's run being brought to an unceremonious end by Brugge captain Timmy Simons on the edge of the box.

Simons was booked, but more painful punishment was to come with Mahrez floating a left-foot shot into the far corner.

After the break Slimani bullied the Brugge back four and caused panic whenever he ran at them, but it was Vardy's direct running which led to the third.

After racing past two defenders, Vardy was brought down by the on-rushing Butelle on the penalty spot. Butelle could have seen red, with Greek referee Tasos Sidiropoulos opting to be lenient with a yellow, but further punishment was inflicted when Mahrez sent the keeper the wrong way from the spot.

Game over and points won. It will not always be so straightforward for Leicester, but what a way to announce themselves in the Champions League.

Brugge: Butelle, De Bock, Denswil, Engels (Poulain, 53 mins), Van Rhijn, Vanaken, Pina, Simons, Vormer, Diaby (Vossen, 63 mins), Izquierdo (Felipe Gedoz, 78 mins). Unused subs: Bruzzese, Claudemir, Cools, Bolingoli Mbombo.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Hernandez, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Albrighton, Drinkwater, Amartey, Mahrez (Gray, 81 mins), Slimani (Ulloa, 62 mins), Vardy (Musa, 70 mins). Unused subs: Zieler, Chilwell, King, Wasilewski.

Referee: Tasos Sidiropoulos (Greece)

Man of the match: Riyad Mahrez

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph

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