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Leicester boss Ranieri urges Foxes to ‘fight’ after defeat by Everton

Date Posted,December 26, 2016

Leicester City unveiled ­thousands of Jamie Vardy masks to protest at the FA – but their own split ­personality must be the main concern.

The Foxes were so frustrated by their failure to overturn Vardy’s straight red card at Stoke that they printed 30,000 masks of their star striker’s face (taking his place in the stand and Leicester fans, top).

It was a deliberate statement to illustrate their anger at the FA, whose chairman Greg Clarke was in the stands here yesterday. But it was on the pitch where Leicester really needed their lethal hitman.

Manager Claudio Ranieri acknowledged that, while last season was perfect en route to an incredible title triumph, this campaign has become a ­relegation battle.

A settled 4-4-2 side which virtually picked itself last term has disappeared and Ranieri has once more become the Tinkerman, even dropping Riyad Mahrez yesterday.

Leicester handed out 30,000 Jamie Vardy masks in protest against the FA (Photo: Plumb Images)
Kevin Mirallas of Everton celebrates after scoring the opening goal
But Everton were too good on the day (Photo: Getty Images)

The Foxes boss was not helped by the absence of the suspended Vardy, Robert Huth and ­Christian Fuchs.

And after 45 minutes of ­forgettable stalemate, Everton took the lead when Kevin Mirallas fired in via a deflection off Marcin Wasilewski from a long ball by Joel Robles.

The hosts then pressed for an equaliser as Ranieri threw on Danny Drinkwater, ­Leonardo Ulloa and Mahrez.

But the Italian’s decision to haul off the lively Demarai Gray went down badly with fans who jeered him.

Romelu Lukaku then added to Leicester’s woes when he netted his 10th goal of the season in ­stoppage time.

Ranieri, whose side slipped to 16th with just 17 points, said the Foxes are s­truggling to put together a run of results to halt their downturn.

“In the first six months of 2016 everything was right,” he said. “Now things are not so good, but we have to continue to battle.

“This season has been up and down. We get a good result and then immediately after comes a defeat. We can never get the confidence to kick-start our season.

“We wanted to give our fans a present on Boxing Day, but we have ended up disappointing them.

“Their first goal was from a long kick from the goalkeeper and, after that, they were much better than us and took control.

Everton's Romelu Lukaku scores their second goal
Lukaku scores Everton’s second (Photo: REUTERS)

“But we have to fight, I want my players to concentrate on the little details. We have a match next against West Ham on Saturday and it is very important to reach 20 points by the end of 2016.”

Leicester were brilliant in beating Manchester City 4-2 in their last home game but wretched here.

In fact Everton, who lost at home to Liverpool last time out, did not have to work too hard to secure their first away win since September.

Blues boss Ronald Koeman was delighted to have put behind him the misery of the ­Merseyside derby.

“Defensively we were outstanding,” he said. “Romelu’s goal killed the game. He is strong and fast and if he gets one against one against the goalkeeper he usually scores.

“But it was important to have a clean sheet today. We showed aggression – which can win us games.”

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