Claudio Ranieri insists Leicester's Champions League hopes are alive

22 February 2017 11:39

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri insists his side's Champions League hopes are still alive after Jamie Vardy's lifeline at Sevilla.

The Foxes clung on to a 2-1 defeat in Spain as Vardy's second-half strike ensured they go back to the King Power Stadium 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 live, 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.

"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 as Vardy stunned the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium when he converted Danny Drinkwater's cross in the 73rd minute.

But despite the away goal Ranieri believes Sevilla, third in La Liga, remain favourites ahead of the second leg on March 14.

"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.

"When we play with this character, also the luck comes on your side. 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.

"It's amazing because we made a very good action on the left, Jamie scored, and you know that the goalscorer needs to score, he needs to get confidence and this goal reopens our confidence."

Schmeichel was Leicester's one-man blockade in the first half and added to BT Sport: "The away goal is massive, that was something we had hoped we could get. Going back to the King Power Stadium, anything can happen. It is a joy to play in these type of games, everyone ran their socks off and worked so hard."

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."

Source: PA