LEICESTER, UK: Jamie Vardy scored twice as a revitalised Leicester City started life without sacked manager Claudio Ranieri by sinking Liverpool 3-1 early this morning to spark their Premier League survival hopes.
Ranieri, 65, was dismissed last Thursday, nine months on from Leicester’s fairytale title win, and fans honoured him with banners, masks and a smartphone light show in the 65th minute.
His former charges were unrecognisable from recent weeks, with Danny Drinkwater also on target as they snapped a run of five straight defeats to climb out of the relegation zone to 15th place.
Vardy’s first-half opener was Leicester’s first league goal in seven games and made them the last team from Europe’s five major championships to find the net in 2017.
While the display will give Leicester’s fans hopes of a late-season rally under caretaker manager Craig Shakespeare, it leaves questions about why things had gone so badly wrong under Ranieri.
Liverpool could have provisionally gone third with victory, but instead they remain fifth, 14 points below leaders Chelsea and a point behind fourth-place Arsenal having played a game more.
Jurgen Klopp’s side, who replied through Philippe Coutinho, have won only one of their last seven league games and look a shadow of the team who looked poised to challenge for the title just weeks ago.
The first sign that Leicester’s players might be about to wind the clock back came on the team sheet, where Shinji Okazaki replaced Ahmed Musa from last week’s 2-1 Champions League loss away to Sevilla.
Save for the presence of Wilfred Ndidi and the absence of the departed N’Golo Kante, it was the team that won the title and there was energy and aggression to Leicester’s play from the off.