Slimani the Dragon Slayer keeps the Leicester fairy tale ending alive

Published September 28th, 2016 - 02:38 GMT
Leicester City's Algerian striker Islam Slimani heads the ball to score his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between Leicester City and Porto at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on Septmeber 27, 2016.
Ian Kington / AFP
Leicester City's Algerian striker Islam Slimani heads the ball to score his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group G football match between Leicester City and Porto at the King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on Septmeber 27, 2016. Ian Kington / AFP

As fairy tales go, Leicester City’s is already up there with the classics. Victory against all the odds last season with the club's own rags to riches hero leading the way was enough excitement for even the most hardened Foxes fan.

But, with Champions League football on the agenda, the story was never going to end there. Enter the Dragon Slayer! Dempsey out for the rest of the MLS season Islam Slimani’s nickname would not look out of place in a Brothers Grimm book, but it is certainly well earned given his exploits against Porto – nicknamed the Dragons – in recent years.

For Sporting he netted six goals in as many games, and there was almost an inevitability to him adding to that tally by the time he nodded in Riyad Mahrez’s in-swinging cross midway through the first half.

The summer signing arrived in the east Midlands with a huge price tag to live up to and, at 28, little time at his peak to prove his worth to a fan base that was understandably wary of a player whose only real prolonged success came in Portugal.

But the Algeria international is already becoming yet another player who the King Power Stadium faithful can fall in love with.

Three goals in his first four starts have seen the heat taken off a still rusty Jamie Vardy, and his presence in the area finally means the likes of Mahrez have a man to aim for in open play as well as when the likes of Wes Morgan and Robert Huth make their way forward for set-pieces.

Though it is his goal-scoring exploits that will catch the eye, the fact that Slimani seems to have bought into Claudio Ranieri’s vision so quickly is what will likely have pleased his manager most since his arrival.

He already seems to have sparked up an understanding with Vardy that most ‘big man, little man’ duos of yesteryear would be envious of while having compatriot Mahrez in the squad will have only aided his integration.

Slimani’s goal was as much as Leicester deserved from a game that it shaded without ever dominating.

Porto’s 4-3-3 formation troubled a Leicester defense that remains fragile when confronted with pace and, though the club was without its own Algerian star Yacine Brahimi, it caused plenty of problems going forward.

Adrian Silva should really have done better having beaten fit-again Kasper Schmeichel to the ball 30 yards from goal in the opening exchanges but could only send his lobbed effort wide of the unguarded net while substitute Jesus Corona came as close as anyone to spoiling the Leicester party with a volley against the post late on.

But, as they did for much of last season, the Foxes held firm and with two wins from two are not only well on their way to the knockout stages but are overwhelming favorites to do so as group winners.

Their upcoming double-header with the only other side to have recorded a victory in Group G – FC Copenhagen – will likely decide the tema's final placing, but they could not be better placed to have a real run at the competition that most supporters never thought they would see their team play in.

The ultimate fairy tale ending would obviously see Ranieri and his squad once again parading through the streets of Leicester, this time with the most famous trophy of them all on board the open-top bus.

In reality, a shot at one of the biggest names in world football over a two-legged tie in the new year would be enough for those who have been here through both the best and worst of times. Such a fitting ending remains very much on.


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