Despite Claudio Ranieri’s declaration before his side’s Champions League debut in Brugge that it would be an “impossible” scenario for his team to win Europe’s premier club competition, the guile, composure and maturity that they showed on their first ever Champions League night suggested that the pen was out for the Foxes to add another fairytale to their growing collection. Ranieri’s men cruised to a 3-0 victory in Belgium, the only sign of early nerves coming when Jose Izquierdo bundled his way through on goal only to fire horribly wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal with the contest mere minutes old.
From that point, Leicester played with a verve and a swagger that they had been playing in Europe for years, never looking back after Marc Albrighton tapped their first shot on goal into an empty net after a defensive error following a lethal long throw from stand-in right-back Luis Hernandez, their first European goal since Muzzy Izzet’s strike against Red Star Belgrade back in 2000.
Riyad Mahrez doubled the Foxes lead before the half hour mark with a free-kick fitting for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo in the competition, before the Algerian netted a second-half penalty when Jamie Vardy, a livewire throughout the night, was bundled over by goalkeeper Ludovic Butelle when through on goal.
Their dream debut was only the ninth European match in the club’s history, and their first win in Europe since a win over Glenavon in the 1961/62 Cup Winners’ Cup, and the 1400 or so Leicester supporters present who will have seen the six year transformation from playing Barnsley to playing Brugge, will be wrought with optimism, as will the remainder of Leicester’s fanbase, after a debut night that suggests they can go on to have much more success at the highest level and a win which has given them a real chance at escaping the group early on. The very fact they are in the competition alone, let alone featuring as Premier League champions and subsequent Number One seeds, is staggering. They became only the third English team to win their first ever Champions League game, after Manchester United and Newcastle United achieved the feat in 1994 and 1997 respectively, with only AC Milan and Atletico Madrid recording a wider margin of victory on their debut night- both sides achieving 4-0 wins in their maiden Champions League outings.
But after a sweet taste of victory on a historic night for the Foxes, what did we learn from Leicester’s emphatic victory on the opening night?