English Premiership

Leicester held by Burnley in first home game since crash

2018-11-10 20:46
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (Getty)

Leicester - Leicester City rode a wave of emotion on Saturday but were unable to break the deadlock against Burnley in their first home match since owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha was killed in a helicopter crash outside the King Power Stadium. 

Claude Puel's team came agonisingly close to scoring a late winner but Shinji Okazaki's header flashed wide deep into injury time and they were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw. 

Following the match, Vichai's son Aiyawatt, known as Top - accompanied by players and staff plus former managers including Claudio Ranieri - walked around all four sides of the pitch clapping the fans, who chanted "Vichai" in response. 

Under Vichai's ownership, Leicester produced one of the biggest upsets in English football history by winning the 2015/16 Premier League, having started the season as 5 000-1 outsiders for the title. 

On Friday, the club announced plans to erect a statue of Vichai at the stadium. 

"It was difficult with a lot of emotion around the game, during the game and after the game," said Leicester boss Claude Puel. 

"We were unlucky but I was proud of the players' performance because they gave their best in this situation." 

"It was a tough week to prepare this game without training sessions and a long journey to Bangkok," he added. "The players compensated with desire." 

Before kick-off a special tribute video was shown on big screens and a huge banner was unfurled reading: "Khun Vichai, Forever in our Hearts". 

Then the entire stadium fell silent for two minutes to remember Vichai and the four others killed in the crash as well as servicemen and women who have died in battle, on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. 

Fans turned the stands into a sea of white during the silence, holding aloft special scarves dedicated to their former owner, who made their impossible Premier League dream a reality just two years ago. 

Earlier, supporters braved the pouring rain as they made their way through the streets towards the ground holding Leicester flags and wearing club shirts, some with "Vichai" on the back. 

There was a subdued atmosphere but pockets of chanting, including "We love you Leicester, we do", "I'm Leicester till I die" and simply "Vichai". 

Saturday's walk was called the 5 000-1 walk in recognition of their astonishing achievement in winning the Premier League. 

The charismatic Thai had become a beloved figure at the club and in the city - a feat rarely achieved by Premier League clubs' often distant billionaire owners. 

Stories have emerged of his acts of generosity to the club's supporters and players and sizeable donations he made to local hospitals. 

Mourners have turned Leicester's stadium into a shrine, carpeting the ground with floral tributes and messages of thanks. 

"No chairman has done what he's done with Leicester City. I respect all he's done and not just for the football club, also charity-wise," said fan Jake Tilson, 35. "He's a legend." 

"I think football can learn from him and the way he gave to the local community." 

Another supporter, Don Martin, said: "It seems like it's a celebration but it's one of the saddest days for the club. It's recognition for the chairman. 

"I'm confident about the future. Top and the rest of the family will carry on his father's legacy. There is no doubt about that," added the 57-year-old. 

Top, writing in Saturday's special match day programme, said: "We will never be able to repay what he did for us - for me as his son, us as his family, everyone connected to Leicester City and beyond - but we are committed to honouring his memory and upholding his legacy." 

Leicester, currently 10th in the Premier League, returned to action last weekend, beating Cardiff 1-0 away. 

A number of players, including Jamie Vardy and Kasper Schmeichel, and manager Puel then travelled to Thailand to attend Vichai's funeral, meaning preparations for the Burnley game were disrupted.

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Saturday, 24 November 2018
Fulham v Southampton, Craven Cottage 17:00
Everton v Cardiff City, Goodison Park 17:00
West Ham United v Manchester City, London Stadium 17:00
Manchester United v Crystal Palace, Old Trafford 17:00
Brighton & Hove Albion v Leicester City, The American Express Community Stadium 17:00
Watford v Liverpool, Vicarage Road Stadium 17:00
Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur Stadium 19:30
Sunday, 25 November 2018
AFC Bournemouth v Arsenal, Vitality Stadium 15:30
Wolverhampton Wanderers v Huddersfield Town, Molineux Stadium 18:00
Monday, 26 November 2018
Burnley v Newcastle United, Turf Moor 22:00
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