‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ could be Claudio Ranieri’s motto for the second half of the season after Leicester City earned a 1-0 win at Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday to put the heat back on Premier League leaders Arsenal.
Their chances of taking the title may still be minimal — just two percent according to a statistical report in the Leicester Mercury — but Robert Huth’s late header made a top-four finish look a lot more likely.
Leicester had gone three league games without a goal, dropping behind Arsenal and prompting fears that a slide had started, but their fighting spirit shone through at White Hart Lane.
Striker Jamie Vardy and winger Mahrez have netted 28 goals between them this season but both were off the park when Huth headed an 83rd minute winner, which ended a run of 374 minutes without a goal.
The win left Leicester behind Arsenal — who played out a 3-3 thriller at Liverpool — only on goal difference and three clear of third-placed Manchester City.
The gap to Spurs in fourth is now seven points.
Ranieri said it was important that his side showed they can score even when their top two danger men fail to hit the net.
“We created a lot of chances not only with Mahrez and Vardy, but a lot of players can make a goal and that is important for the team, for the confidence to continue in this great moment for us,” said Ranieri.
Ranieri, who says he still laughs when people ask him if Leicester can win the league, suggested that 79 points might be enough to claim the title.
They now sit equal with Arsenal on 43 points.
“Always I want something more … If we make 79 I am very happy,” he added.
NO VARDY CONCERNS
It was the second of three matches against Spurs in 10 days, after a 2-2 draw on Sunday in the FA Cup forced a replay, which Leicester host next Wednesday.
Vardy, who missed Sunday’s match because of a minor groin operation, had few chances against Spurs and extends his run without a goal to five matches.
Ranieri had no concerns, however, and said the forward’s recent performances had been hindered by injuries.
“In the last month and a half, I have not seen Jamie at training because always there was a little problem. Now … slowly he can start to retrain with us and improve his condition.”
The Italian also heaped praise on his defence and in particular goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, who made a series of remarkable saves to keep his side in the match.
“The first 15 minutes were unbelievable, they press a lot and we want to press them but it wasn’t possible … Kasper made some fantastic saves and it is the third clean sheet in a row (in the Premier League),” said Ranieri.
Leicester drew 0-0 with Bournemouth and Manchester City in their previous two league games.
A frustrated Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said Spurs had been the better side but hailed Leicester’s spirit.
“We need to give them full credit because in the way that they play and believe and fight on the pitch, it is unbelievable,” he said.
“I’m disappointed because I think we played better … All the stats are positive for us but then football is about scoring and we didn’t score.”