Mahrez puts Leicester on brink of knockout stages

Riyad Mahrez, recalled to the starting line-up having begun Saturday's 3-0 Premier League loss to Chelsea on the bench, was in the right place to capitalise on Islam Slimani's header and break the deadlock in the 40th minute.

Riyad Mahrez_Leicester City_cropped

Riyad Mahrez is congratulated by Jamie Vardy after scoring against Copenhagen.

A solitary goal from Riyad Mahrez ensured Leicester City maintained its 100 per cent Champions League record with a 1-0 win over Copenhagen at the King Power Stadium to leave it on the brink of the knockout stages.

Mahrez, recalled to the starting line-up having begun Saturday's 3-0 Premier League loss to Chelsea on the bench, was in the right place to capitalise on Islam Slimani's header and break the deadlock in the 40th minute. His mid-air flick proved enough to secure Claudio Ranieri's side a third straight win in its debut campaign in the competition and it sits five points clear at the top of Group G having yet to concede a goal in Europe.

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Leicester - which saw Slimani have a second-half effort ruled out for offside - now has one more point in Europe than it does after eight games of its title defence in England.

Porto beat Club Brugge 2-1 in the pool's other contest and Leicester will now head to Denmark for the return fixture on November 2 knowing a win will secure it a place in the next round. Copenhagen suffered its first loss in any competition since May 22, meaning its astonishing unbeaten run comes to an end at 23 games, and it is now level with Porto on four points.

The visiting supporters caught the eye before kick-off by releasing red flares inside the stadium, with their colourful display unlikely to go unnoticed by UEFA. On the pitch, Copenhagen's players started just as brightly and Federico Santander's effort from a tight angle drew a smart save from the legs of Kasper Schmeichel.

At the other end, Jamie Vardy scuffed an ambitious volley straight at Robin Olsen as he looked to end a goal drought that stretched back to a Premier League fixture against Liverpool on September 10.

Vardy did have an influential role in Leicester breaking the deadlock, though. The England international's deep cross from the left found Slimani at the far post and he nodded back inside for Mahrez, who cleverly turned the ball beyond Olsen from just outside the six-yard box.

Copenhagen almost drew level shortly before half-time when Andreas Cornelius escaped the attention of Robert Huth at a corner, but his flicked header drifted wide of the right post. The same player also threatened an equaliser early in the second half but, while this time finding the target, his back-heeled flick lacked the required power to get beyond Schmeichel.

Leicester believed it had doubled its advantage in the 67th minute when Slimani scored at the second attempt, the striker having seen his initial effort from Marc Albrighton's cross kept out by a combination of Olsen and the woodwork. The referee's assistant quickly cut short the celebrations by flagging for offside, although replays suggested it was a tight call by the official.

The decision would have proved costly were it not for Schmeichel's reflexes, the Denmark international producing a superb save to deny countryman Cornelius from grabbing a 90th-minute equaliser.


Key Opta stats

- Riyad Mahrez has been involved in four of Leicester's five Champions League goals this season (three goals, one assist).
- Leicester are only the fifth team in Champions League history to win their opening three games in the competition (AC Milan – 92-93, PSG – 94-95, Juventus – 95-96 and Malaga – 12-13).
- Indeed, Leicester are one of only three teams to keep clean sheets in their opening three Champions League games (Parma – 97-98 and Malaga – 12-13).
- On each of the previous 64 occasions when a side has won their opening three Champions League group stage games they have gone on to progress to the next stage (including second group stage).

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