Feb 29, 2016

    Ulloa gamble pays off as Foxes squeeze out win


    CLAUDIO Ranieri savoured a gamble that paid rich dividends after Leicester City got their Premier League title challenge back on track by beating Norwich City.

    Ranieri rolled the dice by sending on Leonardo Ulloa in place of defender Daniel Amertey in a bold attempt to break down Norwich's brave resistance in Saturday's encounter, and it did the trick.

    Ulloa slid home an 89th-minute winner to give the Premier League leaders a hard-fought 1-0 victory that gave the Foxes a five-point lead (before yesterday's Arsenal-Manchester United game) at the top of the table .

    "It was a good choice," said the Leicester manager with a wry smile.

    "I tried to make some changes to spread out their defensive line with (Jeff) Schlupp on the left and Riyad (Mahrez) on the right, and after I also put on Ulloa because I needed another goalscorer in the box.

    "Leonardo is happy, everybody is happy because the team are at the top of the league. Everyone would like to play but it is not possible."

    Ranieri was not surprised that his side had to work so hard to claim the three points, and praised Norwich for the way in which they battled for so long.

    "I want to say also well done to the Norwich players because it was a very good battle," said the Italian.

    "It was a tough match but I am very, very happy because it was important to restart after the (2-1) Arsenal defeat.

    "Today, I am happy if I can win 11 matches without playing well. It is not important to play well or not - it is important to take the points. Our fans understood our difficulties and push behind us a lot."

    Norwich manager Alex Neil was understandably disappointed that his side left the King Power Stadium with nothing to show for their efforts.

    "We'll take a lot of heart from this performance because we could or indeed should have got something better than we did," said the Scot.

    Norwich remain above the relegation zone on goal difference alone.

    Neil pointed to the recent 2-2 draw with West Ham and 5-4 home defeat by Liverpool as evidence that his team struggle to close out matches.

    "I think in recent games we've been 2-0 up against West Ham, beating Liverpool 3-1 and then again today (Saturday), we've a had a great opportunity to get a point or maybe even three," he said.

    "When you're 2-0 up at home and you draw two each, that's probably more of a dent to confidence than coming to the league leaders and putting on as good a performance as we did."

    He added: "The disappointing thing is that, right at the end, we failed to deal with a situation which we'd dealt with for 89 minutes, and we've paid dearly for that.

    "We've got a big game on Tuesday (at home to Chelsea) and if we can fight and scrap, create as many chances as we did today, keep the opposition quiet, then we've got a good chance."