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Champions League

Leicester City On The Verge of UCL Knockout Stages

Leicester City Champions League
LEICESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 18: Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel celebrates the win with Wes Morgan of Leicester City after the UEFA Champions League match between Leicester City FC and FC Copenhagen at The King Power Stadium on October 18, 2016 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)

A deft flick from Riyad Mahrez and a stunning 90th minute save from Kasper Schmeichel all but guaranteed that Leicester City’s incredible fairytale will continue into the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League.

With the 1-0 victory over FC Copenhagen, the Foxes remain perfect in the group G, taking a five point lead over their opponents into the turnaround.

All 64 teams that have won their opening three matches of the Champions League group stage have gone on to progress to the next stage (either the Round of 16 or the old second group stage).

Despite being sloppy and predictable for much of the first half, Leicester City took the lead five minutes before the break. Islam Slimani nodded a long cross back into the center for Mahrez to finish with the outside of his boot after he had cut inside the Copenhagen center-back.

The Algerian international has been involved in four of Leicester City’s five UEFA Champions League tallies with three goals and an assist.

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Copenhagen should have drawn level just before halftime. Andreas Cornelius escaped the attentions of Robert Huth on a corner, only to direct his free header wide of the far post.

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The Danish side looked to have stolen a point right at the death when Cornelius’ effort from 12-yards appeared destined to nestle into the far corner, but Schmeichel palmed the ball to safety at full stretch to ensure all three points stayed at the King Power Stadium. It was a save that will feature on every highlight reel and go down into LCFC folklore.

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The loss ended a 23-match unbeaten run for FC Copenhagen in all competitions dating back to last season.

Copenhagen- as expected when you play Leicester City- where the better side in possession, but its play lacked a cutting edge.

Other than the two golden opportunities for Cornelius, the visitors were reduced to long range efforts.

In the 23rd minute, Federico Santander found some space at the top of the box but his drive was easily saved by Schmeichel.

Seven minutes rom time, William Kvist found space in a similar position, but rolled his shot tamely at the Dane.

The Danish champions also fashioned seven corners but were unable to make their set-piece opportunities tell.

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Leicester City started the match looking for long balls into the channels for the likes of Jamie Vardy to sneak in behind the shoulder of the outside backs. It’s been the Foxes bread and butter under Claudio Ranieri, but every single ball was lumped from the back-line towards Vardy making it very easy for Copenhagen to defend.

The tactic created two chances for the England striker. Vardy got on the end of one such long ball in the 18th minute, spun and hit a rasping drive that took a deflection off a defender and skipped just wide for a corner.

Just after the half-hour mark, a clearance from another ball hoofed forward was cleared right to Vardy about 25 yards from goal. Vardy set himself up for the volley, but didn’t get enough venom behind his strike, which flew to Robin Olsen in the Copenhagen goal.

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Mahrez drifted in and out of the first half. Chasing down the long ball meant his starting positions where much further infield. He needed to be though, when he cut across the face of the center back to score the game’s only goal.

The English champions looked much better after the break. Their build-up was a more eclectic mix and even when they did go route one, it was much more effective because more players were jumping into the attack to get on the end of knock-downs and provide second and third options.

Mahrez was also starting wider allowing him to get the ball and either feed it into the channels or use that space to take on defenders.

With more players in the attack, Leicester City were also able to pressure higher and win the ball back quicker meaning Copenhagen didn’t enjoy as much possession as they did in the first 45 minutes.

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Slimani should have reaped the rewards of Leicester’s improved play when his goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside in the 67th minute.

The lack of time on the ball for Copenhagen meant chances were at a premium, but Leicester City still needed the heroics of Schmeichel right on full time to put the English side on the cusp of qualifying for the Round of 16.

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