Football

Ranieri: 'We are still the underdogs'

Ranieri pleased with Vardy ending drought but believes Sevilla remain the favourites

Down but not out.

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri insists Jamie Vardy's goal has given them a lifeline against Sevilla.

The Foxes clung on to a 2-1 defeat in Spain yesterday morning (Singapore time) as Vardy's second-half strike ensured they go back to the King Power Stadium on March 14 with a chance of reaching the quarter-finals.

Kasper Schmeichel saved Joaquin Correa's early penalty before Pablo Sarabia opened the scoring and Correa atoned for his error to make it 2-0 in the second half as Sevilla threatened to run riot.

Schmeichel made a string of saves to keep the hosts from wrapping up the last-16 tie as the Foxes were outplayed before Vardy netted his first goal in 748 minutes and Ranieri knows they remain in the tie.

He said: "We didn't give up and then we went back and scored a goal that was important for three things: it gave strength to us, Vardy goes back to scoring goals, and it reopens the match in the second leg.

"We know they are better than us, a very high-quality team, a lot of experience.

"But we have a very big heart, very big effort, we helped each other and I think we deserved this goal.

"It's a defeat. The first half was very tough, we were a little scared.

"Nobody wanted to show for the ball and Kasper kept the team alive, saving the penalty and some shots, and slowly we got better. The second half was much better and we believed we could do something good.

"Always I said when there is pressure, I am in the right balance. I don't feel the pressure.

"I feel my pressure, I want always the maximum from myself and from my players.

I can categorically confirm that every single person is behind Claudio (Ranieri). He’s a great guy and he’s the same as us, he doesn’t want to be in this position. Jamie Vardy

"But my players need support in this bad moment. We fight every time, this night a little more. And, when you give everything, I think also the luck comes to you."

Sevilla hit the post and the crossbar in the second half through Vitolo and Adil Rami but failed to find the killer third and Vardy stunned the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium when he converted Danny Drinkwater's cross in the 73rd minute.

Despite the away goal, Ranieri believes Sevilla, third in La Liga, remain favourites to reach the last eight.

"I think we are still the underdogs because they have high quality but we try to do our best, if we lose it's because Sevilla made a fantastic performance," he said.

"We have to continue in this way and keep going.

"Now we know our focus is on the Liverpool match. It could be a turning point, but it's important to make another good match against Liverpool."

Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli was frustrated and felt his side should have put the tie out of sight.

"We were far superior in the development of the game, with 10 clear, scoring chances," he said.

"They did very little, but succeeded in the end. I think we deserved a bit more.

"We had all sorts of chances but hit the post and crossbar. Our opponents only had a few chances, but now we have to go to Leicester for the win.

"We wanted to confuse our opponents a bit by getting our forwards to change positions.

"Still, it was possible to create many chances against a team that sat very deep. That's not easy." - PA SPORT

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