The Dragon Slayer returned to haunt Porto with a header in Leicesters first home Champions League game in the clubs history
The script had been written for Islam Slimani and Leicesters club-record signing followed it to the letter as the Algerian continued his remarkable scoring record against Porto to give Claudio Ranieris side a historic victory that puts them in a commanding position at the top of GroupG.
Two games into the Champions League and Leicester have six points on the board, with Slimanis first-half header condemning Porto to yet another defeat on English soil. Porto have lost 15 of their 17 matches in England and they could have been forgiven for thinking there was little chance of that winless run improving with Slimani on the pitch.
Nicknamed the Dragon Slayer during his time with Sporting Lisbon Porto are known as the Drages Slimani took his tally to six goals in his past four games against them with a superb header. The sequence includes a goal against Porto earlier this season and it was no surprise that the man who arrived on transfer deadline day in a 29m deal left to a standing ovation when he was withdrawn eight minutes from time.
Presumably this is what Ranieri had in mind when he talked beforehand about continuing the fairytale. It was not straightforward for the Premier League champions by any means and there were some nervous moments to endure in the closing stages, no more so than in the 83rd minute when Jess Corona, the Porto substitute, hit a right-foot volley that deflected off Marc Albrighton and cannoned off the post.
Leicester defended resolutely throughout and were able to soak up the late pressure and hold on to a victory greeted with huge cheers at the final whistle. There was relief as well as pride in those celebrations at the end of a momentous occasion for a club hosting their first Champions League match only seven years after they won the League One title.
Ranieri was keen to preach the importance of remaining calm but there is no getting away from the fact Leicester have put themselves in a wonderful position. Another four points from their final four fixtures could be enough to secure a place in the knockout stage and with the visit of Club Brugge to come they lost 4-0 at Copenhagen after being beaten by Leicester 3-0 in their opening game it is easy to plot a path to the last 16.
For Ranieri, there was satisfaction to be taken from not only a win but a clean sheet, especially on the back of their 4-1 hammering at Manchester United on Saturday. The Leicester manager spoke about how strong and attentive his players were when defending corners the source of three of the four goals they conceded at Old Trafford and also expressed his delight with Slimanis contribution.
It was the strikers seventh goal in total against Porto six of them arriving this year and was created by Riyad Mahrez, his Algeria team-mate. I was very confident with Slimani because he often scored against Porto when he was a Sporting player, Ranieri said. I spoke with Riyad and Islam and said: Come on guys, make something good tonight. They made the pass and the goal and after that we defended very well.
There was a special atmosphere under the floodlights in the first European fixture to be played at this stadium and Ranieri talked about how his players fed off the energy of the supporters. It was a game played at a frenetic pace four yellow cards were brandished inside 31 minutes and there were shades of the title-winning Leicester in the way they counterattacked with such speed.
Slimanis goal came from a much more measured approach and involved a neat buildup on the left, where Danny Drinkwater, Christian Fuchs and Albrighton exchanged passes before the latter, with a raking diagonal ball, picked out Mahrez on the right. The inswinging cross Mahrez delivered was almost impossible to defend and Slimani, getting ahead of Felipe, his marker, headed home emphatically from inside the six-yard box.
From that point on the emphasis for Leicester was on being disciplined and organised. Drinkwater and Daniel Amartey worked tirelessly in central midfield and used the ball intelligently, Vardys pace gave Leicester the chance to stretch Porto at times and at the other end of the pitch Kasper Schmeichel, returning after a three-match absence, made some important saves.
Porto began to push harder in the final quarter of an hour in particular and Schmeichel did well during that period to claw the substitute Hctor Herreras 30-yard shot around the post. Then came that Corona volley that flashed past Schmeichel and hit the woodwork. The home fans breathed a sigh of relief and moments later the three points were theirs.
I am very happy, its the first match at home in the Champions League in 132 years, and it was important to win against Porto, Ranieri said. We showed very good character, attitude and personality. But now its important to clean our minds and go back to the Premier League.