- Associated Press - Saturday, August 13, 2016

HULL, England (AP) - Leicester opened its title defense with a shock 2-1 loss to newly-promoted Hull on the first day of the Premier League season on Saturday.

Having sprung one of soccer’s biggest surprises by winning the league last season, Leicester was on the receiving end of an upset after Robert Snodgrass rifled home Hull’s winner in the 57th minute.

Despite facing a side that was already mired in difficulties off the pitch, Leicester became the first champion to lose its opening league game of the following season since the Premier League began in 1992-93.

Hull is still without a manager after Steve Bruce left in July, and a club that only secured promotion through the Championship playoffs has been badly hit by both injuries and protests by fans against its owners.

“I thought the players had it in them to produce something,” Hull’s caretaker manager Mike Phelan told Sky Sports. “Obviously character’s a big issue when a lot of things are not going your way in preseason… a lot of the time it was fingers crossed to make sure that we had enough players to get out onto this field today.

“But all credit to the football players. They showed a lot of the determination… At this level, you have to master the ball, you have to take the ball and play with confidence, character and courage. And I thought everything came out today.”

Along with the missed chances, Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri pointed to a lack of teamwork from his side.

“We made a lot of effort but not as a team, and they defended very well and they tried to play counter-attack and played well,” the Italian said.

“They played better, we tried to do our best. The effort was amazing, but individual effort - not as a team. And I think this is the key of the match.”

Despite the backdrop to its top-flight return, Hull took the lead in first-half stoppage time with an acrobatic shot by Adama Diomande.

Leicester equalized with a penalty converted by Riyad Mahrez almost immediately after the re-start, but Snodgrass restored Hull’s lead for good in the 57th minute with a powerful low shot from inside the area.

It was a particularly frustrating afternoon for England striker Jamie Vardy, whose 24 Premier League goals propelled Leicester to the title last season but who missed a string of first-half chances on Saturday.

He began by completely miskicking an inviting cut-back from Ahmed Musa on the Nigerian forward’s debut in the 20th minute. Mahrez then pounced on the loose ball but the Leicester playmaker could only send a rising shot into the side netting.

Leicester nearly made the breakthrough when Christian Fuchs worked a one-two with Musa for a close-range shot that was parried by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic. Vardy met the rebound with a shot that was charged down and Mahrez followed up with a short run and a curling drive that flew wide of the post.

The chances kept coming for the champions, who missed yet another chance two minutes before the break. Musa intercepted a sloppy pass and burst forward before sliding the ball to Vardy - who sent his shot skyward.

Just as it looked likely to finish level at the break, Hull took the lead against the run of play. A header from Curtis Davies was just tipped away by Kasper Schmeichel but Diomande leapt into the air to hook the ball into the far corner of the net.

Leicester’s luck changed within seconds of the restart, with the visitors gifted an equalizer after a clumsy challenge by Tom Huddlestone on Demarai Gray on the edge of the area. Mahrez blasted his spot-kick straight down the middle as Jakupovic dived.

Snodgrass replied by scoring Hull’s winner with a fine left-foot shot on the bounce, following a partial clearance by a Leicester back line that lacked composure without suspended central defender Robert Huth.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide