February 22, 2017 / 11:45 PM / 7 months ago

Ranieri hails Leicester character as Vardy provides hope

Juventus coach Claudio Rainieri leaves the pitch after the first half of a friendly soccer match against South China at Hong Kong stadium May 22, 2008. REUTERS/Victor Fraile

SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - Leicester City coach Claudio Ranieri believed his side earned their own luck after they battled to a 2-1 Champions League defeat by Sevilla on Wednesday thanks to Jamie Vardy’s late goal after being outclassed by the Spanish side.

Only a string of saves from inspired goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, including one from the penalty spot, prevented a first-half deluge for the struggling English champions and Sevilla also hit the woodwork twice after the break.

Sevilla looked to be in charge of the tie when Joaquin Correa added to Pablo Sarabia’s first-half header to put this hosts 2-0 ahead but Vardy made the most of Leicester’s only real chance to keep them in touch.

“We know they are a better team than us with more quality and experience but we had more heart and we showed character. When you play with character sometimes luck is on your side,” Ranieri told reporters.

”The first half was very tough and Kasper kept the team alive, the second half was much better from us and we believed we could do something good. We played well for a spell and then they scored again.

“We scored a goal that was important for three reasons: it gave us strength, it got Vardy back among the goals and for a striker your confidence depends on scoring, and it kept us in the tie.”

Vardy’s goal, the England international’s first since December, means a 1-0 win in the second leg would take Leicester through to the quarter-finals.

They have endured a dismal season in the defence of their Premier league title, lying 17th in the standings and just one pint above the relegation zone.

Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli did not hide his disappointment at his side’s failure to make their dominance count and kill off the tie.

“We leave here with a strange feeling because of their goal but that shouldn’t change how we feel about our performance. It was difficult to imagine we could dominate a game like that in the Champions League,” he said.

Sampaoli praised Schmeichel’s performance.

“The only option we have is to maintain our philosophy in the second leg when the whole ground will be supporting its team intensely,” he said.

“We dominated the first half and had six chances, we were less dominant in the second but still had more chances and they scored with their one opportunity and are alive because of that. I feel dizzy about how tight the tie still is.”

Editing by Ed Osmond

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