Leicester: Leicester City striker Islam Slimani resumed his torment of Porto as the Premier League champions preserved their 100 percent Champions League record with a narrow 1-0 victory on Tuesday.
Playing in their first ever Champions League home game, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester prevailed thanks to Slimani’s 25th-minute header to make it two wins from two in Group G.
Slimani earned the nickname ‘The Dragon Slayer’ for his scoring feats against Porto with former club Sporting Lisbon and he has now scored seven goals in seven career appearances against The Dragons.
“I was very confident with Slimani because Slimani often scored against Porto when he was a Sporting player,” said Ranieri.
“I spoke with Riyad (Mahrez) and Islam and said, ‘Come on guys, make something good tonight.’ And they made a pass, assist, goal. It was good.
“After, we defended very well, well organised, because Porto played very well. We closed very well all the space.
“We suffered in the last 10 minutes, but it was important to win. Concentration was high, we were resilient. I’m very happy.”
Eight years to the day previously at the King Power Stadium, Leicester had beaten Hartlepool United 1-0 in an unremarkable English third-tier game.
Eight years on, they are the champions of England and having won 3-0 at Club Brugge in their opening group fixture, their fans will already be dreaming of a place in the last 16.
Two points clear in Group G, the European campaign is proving a welcome tonic for Leicester, whose faltering league title defence has seen them beaten three times already.
Two-time European champions Porto, meanwhile, have now played 17 games on English soil without winning, losing and failing to score on their last five visits.
“I just wish the players had played from the first minute as in the last 15 minutes, because we played well in the last 15 minutes,” said Porto coach Nuno Espirito Santo.
“It is not easy to come to the Premier League champions and start from the first minute like we finished, but that is the challenge and I’m quite optimistic for the future.”
– Corona hits post –
Porto right-back Miguel Layun made an enterprising start to the game, working fit-again Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel with a curling shot and then whipping a low cross across goal.
But Layun’s defensive colleagues were quickly made to look uncomfortable by Leicester’s muscular strike pairing of Slimani and Jamie Vardy.
Brazilian centre-back Felipe was particularly discomfited, almost heading Christian Fuchs’s long throw into his own net and then being booked for blocking Vardy’s run.
The crowd sensed blood and in the 25th minute the breakthrough arrived courtesy of 28 million pounds ($36.3 million, 32.3 million euros) record signing Slimani.
Marc Albrighton switched play with a glorious crossfield pass, Riyad Mahrez shaped an inviting cross to the back post and Slimani outmuscled Felipe to plant a diving header past Iker Casillas.
It was the Algeria international’s third goal in four appearances for Leicester and the sixth goal he had scored past Casillas in 2016 alone.
Layun flicked the side-netting at the other end with a free-kick, but half-time arrived without Porto having gone close.
Mahrez threatened to extend Leicester’s lead shortly before the hour with a zipping low drive that Casillas had to turn around his left-hand post.
Nuno made a double change moments later, sending on Hector Herrera and Diogo Jota for Andre Andre and Adrian Lopez, and the entrants enlivened the visitors’ attacking efforts.
Both players tested Schmeichel shortly after entering the fray, Jota with a deflected shot and Herrera with an ambitious long-range strike that the diving Dane turned behind for a corner.
There was one big scare when Schmeichel came to punch a cross and missed, but substitute Jesus Corona’s volley flicked off Albrighton, struck the right-hand post and rebounded to safety.