Foxes' European hunt continues
'Dragon Slayer' Slimani once again proves the scourge of Porto
LEICESTER CITY 1
(Islam Slimani 25)
The fairy tale continues.
Only this time, it's unfolding on an even bigger stage.
Never mind that their Premier League party has ended, but Leicester City may be onto something special in Europe.
The Foxes cast aside their domestic woes to register a solid performance yesterday morning (Singapore time), securing a 1-0 win over Portuguese outfit Porto in their home Champions League match debut.
The result saw them nicely perched at the top of Group G, ahead of Copenhagen, Porto and Club Brugge.
It's now two wins and two clean sheets out of their opening two matches for Leicester in a competition which they were not expected to make waves.
But, with splendid home form and matured displays like this, Claudio Ranieri's men may be set for a longer run in the competition than most are anticipating.
It has been more than a year since they last suffered a defeat at home in the Premier League - a 5-2 reverse against Arsenal last September.
The show against a more experienced Porto side demonstrated just why the Foxes are turning the King Power Stadium into a fortress.
The counter-attacking strategy which handed Leicester their surprise title triumph last season had the Portuguese outfit kept on a leash for most of the game.
An inch-perfect cross by Riyad Mahrez was met by a superbly timed Islam Slimani header at the far post to give the hosts the lead in the 25th minute.
They then comfortably held the visitors at bay, as they also threatened to kill off the contest with their trademark counter-attacks.
Not until a frantic final 10 minutes when Porto finally managed to crank up the pressure that Leicester looked troubled, but they held on.
It was a performance which had Ranieri praising his charges for their "resilience" and "concentration".
It was also one which reminded everyone why Leicester's approach is perfectly set up for the Champions League, where possession football is fast looking like a thing of the past.
With an organised backline that stays deep and a quick, industrious offence capable of springing raids in a flash, Leicester operate with a cautious system that has in recent years reaped rewards for underdogs with lesser resources.
Six years ago, Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan adopted a soak-and-strike strategy to go all the way, beating Barcelona in the semi-finals and Bayern Munich in the final.
Last season, Diego Simeone's well-drilled Atletico Madrid side fell only at the final obstacle, where they were beaten by Real Madrid in a penalty shoot-out.
With six points on the board, progress to the Champions League knock-out phase is looking a distinct possibility for Leicester.
In the subsequent home-and-away format, their hit-and-run tactics will turn into an even more formidable weapon.
On the domestic front though, things are not looking so bright. With just two wins (both at home) in six games, they sit 12th on the table, with a points tally closer to the relegation zone than the top four.
Just over a week ago, they were knocked out by Chelsea in the League Cup third round.
But in the new territory that is the Champions League, they somehow are keeping the dream alive.
The victory over Porto saw them become the first English team to win their first two matches in the competition.
Not even Manchester City enjoyed such success when they took part in the Champions League (in its current format) for the first time, although City would argue that they were drawn into a tougher pool comprising Napoli, Bayern Munich and Villarreal back during the 2011/12 campaign).
Ranieri would probably be the first to admit that winning the Champions League is impossible.
But then again, that's what most people said about their title-winning chances last season.