Leicester City extended their unprecedented debut in the Champions League into the knockout stages of the tournament with one game to spare following a 2-1 victory over Club Brugge.
The Foxes needed just a draw for a point to move into the last 16, yet secured three to ensure they will finish top of Group G.
After five minutes, a smart finish into the top corner by Shinji Okazaki, from a fine cross by Christian Fuchs, set Claudio Ranieri’s side on their way.
Riyad Mahrez doubled the lead from the spot – his fourth goal in five Champions League games – after Marc Albrighton was fouled by Dion Cools in the area.
Club Brugge’s Jose Izquierdo then hit a wonderful strike past Foxes keeper Ron-Robert Zieler into the top corner following a 40-yard run to keep the game in tense contention until the end.
Leicester was virtually a different team from the side who has struggled in the Premier League following a poor run of results since the start of this season that saw them languish at 14th, near the relegation zone.
This was a keenly noted by manager Claudio Ranieri, who, while hailing his team’s “unbelievable” achievement in Europe, demanded his players now show the same level of performance domestically in order to climb well clear of the relegation zone.
“It’s unbelievable. Top of the group, very happy, very proud for my players, very happy for the chairman, for the fans, for everybody. Another journey to the knockout – unbelievable,” Ranieri said after the match.
“Our job is done [in the Champions League]. I don’t know which team we play, it will be a fantastic team, and we are very happy. But now we have to go back (to the Premier League).”
“In the Premier League we are very close to the relegation zone and we must play at the same level as the Champions League because when we want to do something, we achieve something. We must concentrate on the Premier League now.”
Nonetheless, Leicester City will be the second English team this season, after Arsenal, to secure a place in the draw for the knockout stages on 12 December.
However, Tottenham Hotspur was knocked out of the tournament after a 2-1 defeat to Monaco, despite the many heroics of their keeper Hugo Lloris.