Leicester win to reach Champions League knockout stage

Shinji Okazaki celebrates scoring for Leicester City against Club Brugge

Leicester City’s remarkable debut Champions League campaign continued as they reached the knockout stages with one game to spare by beating Club Brugge.

The Foxes needed a point to move into the last 16, yet secured three to ensure they will finish top of Group G.

A smart finish into the top corner by Shinji Okazaki, after a fine cross by Christian Fuchs, set Claudio Ranieri’s side on their way.

Riyad Mahrez doubled the lead from the penalty spot – his fourth goal in five Champions League games – after Marc Albrighton was fouled by Dion Cools, before Jose Izquierdo hit a wonderful consolation after a 40-yard run.

Leicester were unrecognisable from the side who have struggled in the Premier League this season.

They are the second English team, after Arsenal, to secure a place in the draw for the knockout stages on 12 December.

Who’s through?
In: Arsenal, Paris St-Germain, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid. Leicester City, Juventus
Out: Ludogorets, Basel, PSV Eindhoven, FC Rostov, Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, Legia Warsaw, Tottenham, CSKA Moscow, Sporting Lisbon

European delight for domestic strugglers

The Foxes are just two points above the Premier League’s relegation zone after back-to-back defeats.

Yet Ranieri’s team cannot stop winning in Europe. Incredibly, they have picked up more points in the Champions League than the domestic league this season.

While they have lost to, among others, Hull City, West Bromwich Albion and Watford in the league, Leicester have beaten Brugge twice – as well as Porto and FC Copenhagen. It means they have 13 points from five games in Europe – yet just 12 from 12 matches domestically.

Leicester have won four Champions League games this season, but only three in the Premier League.

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There may be disappointment that their run of four successive Champions League clean sheets is over.

Izquierdo’s thumping finish, following a terrific solo run, sparked a late Brugge surge and ensured a nervous finish, yet the Belgians could not force an equaliser.

From Glanford Park to glory

On this day eight years ago, Andy King scored the winner for Leicester in a League One game at Scunthorpe’s Glanford Park. The midfielder played the full game as the Foxes wrote another chapter in their fairytale rise.

Okazaki’s sublime fifth-minute finish sent home fans into raptures before Mahrez was denied by keeper Ludovic Butelle moments later.

Danny Drinkwater, Fuchs and Albrighton caused the visitors problems as Leicester turned on the style. It was Albrighton’s pace that forced Cools to concede the penalty, which allowed Mahrez to make it 2-0 on the half-hour mark.

Victory almost slipped away as Brugge fought back, and nervous tension filled the night air at the King Power Stadium as Jelle Vossen went close to equalising late on.

But the final whistle was greeted by the kind of roar not heard since the Premier League trophy was paraded around the ground last season.

Man of the match – Marc Albrighton (Leicester)

Marc Albrighton

‘Amazing achievement’

Leicester captain Wes Morgan: “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.”

Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez: “I have the chance to win games and we’re very happy to be first and keep going in the Champions League because it’s an unbelievable feeling.

“We’re feeling good. We wanted to finish first. It wasn’t that easy, especially after it went 2-1 but we did it and we’re very happy to be first.”

What next?

With their place in the Champions League knockout stages sealed, Leicester will attempt to improve their Premier League form. They have three top-flight games before the draw for the last 16 – starting at home to Middlesbrough on Saturday.

Line-ups

Leicester

  • 21ZielerBooked at 90mins
  • 17Simpson
  • 5Morgan
  • 6Huth
  • 28Fuchs
  • 26Mahrez