Football

Brendan Rodgers plays down Leicester City’s title hopes

Foxes manager says he is focusing only on developing team and qualifying for European football, after 2-0 win over Gunners

As the Foxes continue their flying start to the English Premier League, the heavyweights should ignore Leicester at their own peril.

Brendan Rodgers' side defeated Arsenal 2-0 yesterday morning (Singapore time), thanks to goals from Jamie Vardy and James Maddison, to strengthen their hold on a top-four spot.

"I suppose we have thrown a hand grenade right into the middle of the top four," said Rodgers.

"But we're not thinking about the title race. We're thinking about developing a team and improving the players. That is our only focus.

"Our job is to hope to be in the top four. I said when I came here that it would be great to play European football."

"Huge credit goes to the players. They are playing with confidence and with steel."

It was an evenly balanced first half, although Arsenal's looseness in possession frequently handed Leicester opportunities.

This Leicester team have also made a habit of upping their game after the interval, and that was again the case against the Gunners.

Arsenal had a 55th-minute effort from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ruled out for offside after a VAR review and, 13 minutes later, Leicester struck.

Vardy produced a characteristic, confident first-time finish from just inside the box after neat passing in the build-up from a confident Leicester side, clearly enjoying their football under Rodgers.

The goal was Vardy's ninth in 10 appearances against Arsenal and he went close to a second in the 72nd minute, but his low drive was kept out by Bernd Leno. Three minutes later, Vardy turned provider for the Foxes' second, poking the ball back to Maddison whose low strike whistled past Leno.

Rodgers was quick to praise Vardy, who is leading the EPL's scoring charts with 11 goals.

"He is up there with the very top strikers in European football with what he brings to a team, his pressing," said the former Liverpool and Celtic manager.

"We've allowed him to do essentially what he wants to do - how we play, being aggressive and playing quickly obviously suits him. But his finishing ability, how clinical he is, is absolutely phenomenal.

"That's a big testament to his concentration - when the opportunities come he's always ready."

Former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jermaine Jenas said that the Foxes were "exceptional" in their win, highlighting the key role fullbacks Ricardo Pereira and Ben Chilwell played.

"Leicester were exceptional with and without the ball," said Jenas on BBC's Match of the Day.

"They exploited Arsenal's weaknesses in the wide areas. Both fullbacks were pivotal in that, especially Pereira, who was sensational. What a player he is. The way Arsenal set up led to Alexandre Lacazette chasing fullbacks, which was bizarre.

"We are talking about two of the best attacking fullbacks in the EPL at the moment."

Football