The latest unlikely Leicester City adventure seems certain to be extended after Riyad Mahrez maintained their glorious start to Champions League life.
The Algerian’s goal before half-time settled a tense, closely-fought encounter with FC Copenhagen to leave Claudio Ranieri’s men on the brink of a place in the second round and knockout football in the European Cup.
That the Premier League champions should be so close to hitting their target just halfway through their first ever group campaign is the latest minor miracle in the current fairytale capital of European football.
The latest victory was not a pretty one but it was secured by two moments of inspiration from stars of last season’s triumph.
First Riyad Mahrez, who so often orchestrated magical moments last term, finished off a fine team goal to give Leicester the lead five minutes before half-time.
Then Kasper Schmeichel, the Leicester goalkeeper playing against the champions of his home nation, pulled off a fabulous save in the dying moments to seal victory.
With nine points secured and a home tie to come against a Club Brugge side they beat comfortably in Belgium, Leicester stand within touching distance of another huge step.
While their Premier League title defence has stuttered, Ranieri and Co are feasting at Europe’s top table and last night’s victory came against a side previously unbeaten in 23 games.
Copenhagen made a confident start and tested Kasper Schmeichel, the Denmark goalkeeper, in the opening minutes.
Leicester failed to clear their penalty area following a cross and Schmeichel had to get down quickly to deny Federico Santander.
Leicester pressed hard in the early stages but it was the Danish champions who dominated possession with midfielder William Kvist dictating play.
When Leicester’s first opportunity arose it came courtesy of Jamie Vardy’s pace, with last season’s leading scorer racing onto a long ball and reaching the byline.
But his cross was headed straight into the air by strike partner Islam Slimani with a second cross by Riyad Mahrez dealt with well by the visitors.
Vardy made a similar run moments later and this time opted for a shot at goal, but his effort from the edge of the penalty area deflected behind for a corner.
Vardy was finding clear chances hard to come by and his first half-opportunity - a shot from the edge of the area after a neat Leicester move, took a big deflection off Mathias Jorgensen and presented Robin Olsen in the Copenhagen goal.
The Leicester striker remained a willing worker but another powerful run down the left flank ended with a poor cross straight into Olsen’s gloves.
Vardy continued to isolate Copenhagen right-back Peter Ankersen with piercing runs from the centre and the next resulted in a free-kick that was delivered by Christian Fuchs and punched clear by Olsen.
But Vardy continued his left-wing efforts and, the next time he peeled out wide, he helped to lay on the superb team goal that broke the deadlock.
He raced onto a crossfield pass for Danny Drinkwater, found space to cross for Islam Slimani, and the tall striker’s towering header allowed fellow Algerian Mahrez to finish cleverly from close range.
Copenhagen responded well and twice went close to equalising before half-time.
First a dipping shot from 20 yards forced a backpeddling Schmeichel into an important save.
And from the resulting corner, swung to the far post by Ludwig Augustinsson, Erik Johansson headed a fraction wide.
Less than a minute into the second half, another angled Vardy run from the left flank towards goal allowed him to square for Mahrez, who tried a first-time shot in search of his second goal.
This time, though, the sure touch that brought the opener had deserted Leicester’s creative kingpin and his left-footed effort rose over the crossbar.
A moment of inspiration from Mahrez might have brought a second Leicester goal and, in the 49th minute, his instinctive pass with the outside of his left foot released Andy King inside the Copenhagen penalty area.
But the midfielder’s cross towards Slimani was intercepted.
Copenhagen applied a little pressure soon afterwards and forced a corner that could have led to a scruffy equaliser.
Leicester cleared as far as Ankersen, whose long-range drive was flicked goalwards by former Cardiff striker Andreas Cornelius but Schmeichel readjusted well to make a comfortable save.
Mahrez had the opportunity to add another memorable goal to his growing collection just after the hour-mark when he seized on a misplaced pass and skipped across the edge of the Copenhagen penalty area.
But his eventual shot was deflected wide.
There followed a frustrating five minute for Slimani, in which the powerful striker thought he had doubled Leicester’s lead, then should have done precisely that.
First he forced home a header after striking the crossbar with a shot, only to see a linesman’s offside flag after he had started his run a fraction early to meet a cross by Marc Albrighton.
Then he sprinted to stretch the Copenhagen defence and meet a searching pass by Andy King, only to lose his footing and a glorious opportunity as he attempted to turn towards goal.
Copenhagen applied more pressure in the closing stages, with Santander heading just over, but in the final minute it was Schmeichel who secured the points for Leicester with a save that defied belief as he leapt to his right to turn away a shot by Cornelius.
With just three games played, maximum points have guaranteed European football in 2017 in the Europa League, but Ranieri will have his eyes fixed firmly on the final points required to stay in the premier competition after Christmas.
Leicester (4-4-2): Schmeichel; Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs; Mahrez (Amartey 90+2), Drinkwater, King, Albrighton; Slimani (Ulloa 88), Vardy (Okazaki 85).
Subs not used: Zieler, Hernández, Musa, Schlupp.
FC Copenhagen (4-4-2): Olsen; Ankersen (Gregus 86), Jorgensen, Johansson, Augustinsson; Verbic (Falk 66), Kvist, Delaney, Toutouh (Pavlovic 85); Santander, Cornelius.
Subs not used: Andersen, Hogli, Antonsson, Kusk.
Referee: N Rizzoli (Italy)Reuse content