Hull - Leicester's
Premier League title defence got off to an embarrassing start as the
champions crashed to 2-1 defeat at troubled Hull in the season opener on
Just three months after their astonishing title triumph, Claudio
Ranieri's side were brought back down to earth by a team whose
preparations for the new campaign were marred by the resignation of
manager Steve Bruce and their failure to sign a single player.
Adama Diomande gave Hull a first-half lead before Riyad Mahrez
brought Leicester level with a penalty shortly after the interval.
Robert Snodgrass drove in the winner 12 minutes into the second half
as a team in crisis on and off the pitch became the first to beat the
defending English champions on opening day since Manchester United
defeated Arsenal in 1989.
Hull have approached the season in a state of turmoil, with no
permanent manager following Bruce's resignation on July 22, and a thin
squad stretched to its limits by injuries.
Caretaker manager Mike Phelan went into the game with just 13 fit
senior players, and named a substitutes' bench consisting largely of
untried youngsters, including three teenagers.
Hull's supporters have blamed owners Assem and Ehad Allam for a lack
of investment in the squad, and graffiti calling for them to sell the
club was found daubed on the outer walls of the stadium on Saturday
As stewards hastily tried to paint over the vandalism before
kick-off, supporters gathered outside to display banners and chant for
the Allams to leave.
A Chinese consortium, led by businessmen Dai Yongge and Hawken Xi
Liu, has expressed an interest in buying the club, and its key figures
were at the match to watch the Premier League season begin.
Leicester were sharper for the opening 30 minutes, but were unable to
capitalise on the chances they created, with Jamie Vardy a particular
Vardy, who scored 24 league goals
last season, miskicked horribly after new signing Ahmed Musa had darted
down the left to roll the ball back to him 16 yards from goal.
After Danny Drinkwater had screwed wide from Mahrez's inviting
right-wing cut-back, Vardy was then thwarted by some dogged Hull
Christian Fuchs got clear after playing a one-two with Musa and, when
goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic raced out to block, the ball ran loose to
Vardy – but Jake Livermore threw his body in the way of the shot.
Vardy, part of the England team beaten in the last 16 by Iceland at
Euro 2016, then skied an easy chance after Musa had dashed past the
flat-footed Curtis Davies.
Hull rode the pressure, though, and took the lead in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.
Kasper Schmeichel clawed out Davies' near-post header from a Snodgrass corner, but Diomande's overhead kick flew into the net.
Leicester responded immediately after half-time, winning a penalty
within 20 seconds of the restart as Tom Huddlestone was judged to have
clipped Demarai Gray inside the area.
Television replays suggested the contact may have been outside the
area, but Mahrez sent Jakupovic the wrong way with a cool spot-kick.
However, spluttering Leicester were only level for 10 minutes.
Ahmed Elmohamady was quick to intercept a Schmeichel throw, and raced
down the right to create space for a cross that Danny Simpson
half-cleared, before Snodgrass drove in the loose ball.
Ranieri's response was to throw on Shinji Okazaki and Daniel Amartey
in a bid to find an equaliser, and Mahrez almost delivered with a
25-yard free-kick that Jakupovic shovelled away.
Snodgrass almost caught out Schmeichel with a free-kick from wide out
on the right, which the goalkeeper had to beat away at his near post.
By the time the match entered its closing stages, the Hull fans were
singing 'Can't Help Falling In Love With You' and chanting 'We are top
of the league'.