LEICESTER’S grief-stricken players beat Cardiff 1-0 on an emotional day as they returned to action for the first time since the death of owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in a helicopter crash.
Thai billionaire Vichai was among five people killed when his helicopter crashed outside Leicester’s King Power Stadium following last weekend’s match against West Ham.
The horrific accident triggered a week of mourning in Leicester and throughout the world of football.
Vichai was adored in Leicester after his eight-year reign peaked in 2016 when the 5000-1 outsiders became Premier League champions in astonishing style.
With his funeral under way in Bangkok, Leicester headed to Cardiff for a match that served as a chance to honour their late owner and begin the healing process.
Most Leicester fans wore white T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan ‘The Boss’ and a picture of Vichai on the front, and on the back “Khun Vichai, You Will Be Forever In Our Hearts”
The players warmed up in similar T-shirts over their training gear. A giant Thai flag with both clubs’ crests on it and in giant lettering “RIP Vichai” was passed from the home fans to the visiting supporters.
Three minutes into the match, Leicester’s fans broke into a rendition of ‘When You’re Smiling’, the anthem that sound-tracked happier days during the club’s title triumph.
During the match itself, England defender Harry Maguire was injured and had to be substituted after only 27 minutes after taking a knock in a tussle with Callum Paterson, and replaced by Jonny Evans.
Cardiff were inches away from taking the lead on the half hour when a free kick from Victor Camarasa hit the bar.
But after that, Leicester settled into the game. Wilfred Ndidi sent a free header wide from James Maddison’s corner while Maddison and Jamie Vardy were foiled by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge.
The decisive moment came 10 minutes into the second half when winger Demarai Gray steered home a neat volley with his left foot beyond Etheridge after a precise low cross from Ben Chilwell.
Gray raised his eyes and his arms to the heavens as if to thank Vichai, and all of Leicester’s players, including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, raced to the corner of the ground where their fans were in celebration.
The scorer was not spared any sentiment however, and was promptly booked for taking his shirt off to reveal a T-shirt that read ‘For Khun Vichai’.
On the hour mark, Leicester fans delivered another tribute to their late owner when they sang ‘There’s Only One Vichai’, waving their scarves aloft.
After the final whistle, Leicester’s players and staff stood to applaud their fans for several minutes, taking in the chants of “Vichai” and “Champions of England, you made us sing that”.
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