BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – Japan international striker Shinji Okazaki opened his account with Premier League club Leicester City on Saturday, netting the winner as the Foxes came from 2-0 down to beat second-tier Birmingham City 3-2 in a preseason friendly.
Leicester started brightly but two goals in the space of a minute midway through the second half, an unstoppable free kick from David Cotterill and a screamer from Demarai Gray, put Birmingham in the driver’s seat.
But just before the hour mark, Robert Huth arrived at the far post to convert a corner that was flicked on by Andy King and Danny Drinkwater slotted home to equalize from close range after Riyad Mahrez’s curling free kick, won by Okazaki three minutes after he had entered the game, came back off the woodwork.
Okazaki then completed the comeback with seven minutes left, the former Mainz hitman connecting with Mahrez’s cross to score with a trademark diving header and wrap up an unbeaten preseason for Claudio Ranieri’s side.
“This is just the start,” said Okazaki whose goal boosted his chances of starting Leicester’s Premier League opener next weekend at home to Sunderland.
“I thought a quick ball would come in (from Mahrez) and my aim was achieved. I think I impacted enough to give myself a chance of even one or two minutes of playing time in the next game.”
Okazaki’s nose for a goal was not lost on Ranieri and the coach said he felt the striker was readying himself for a piece of the action against Sunderland. The Italian also hailed the fighting spirit of his players after their rousing comeback.
“It started very well. I think in the first 20 minutes were our best of pre-season. But suddenly we conceded two fantastic goals,” Ranieri told lcfc.com.
“When you watch the two goals you can only clap the two players who scored them. After this we slowed down our tempo like we didn’t believe it was possible for it to be 2-0 to our opponent.
“In the second half we played very well and played on the floor with a quick tempo how I like.”
The Italian added, “They have good character, good spirit and they are fighters. That is what I want. First of all a team like Leicester has to fight, then we can play as well.
“For me the first thing that’s important is we fight. When you are a fighter then you can move, win and grow. We have to do that on the pitch.”
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