Leicester City celebrated their first ever Champions League match by romping to victory away to Belgium’s Club Brugge.
Marc Albrighton scored with the Foxes’ first shot after a defensive error from right-back Luis Hernandez’s long throw.
Riyad Mahrez curled in a masterful free-kick for 2-0 before half-time.
Mahrez smashed in a penalty after Jamie Vardy was brought down by the keeper before Brugge’s Jose Izquierdo hit the post, adding to his bad miss at 0-0.
There will be more difficult games than this, but the Premier League champions displayed a maturity and composure that suggests potential to achieve plenty more success at the elite level of European club football.
This was only the ninth European match in Leicester’s history, and their first win since a victory over Glenavon of Northern Ireland in the preliminary round of the 1961-62 Cup Winners’ Cup – when 1966 World Cup winner Gordon Banks was in goal.
Danny Drinkwater went close with a dipping volley struck on the turn with the ball almost at ground level from outside the box, while Robert Huth might have added a fourth from another of Hernandez’s several long throws.
Debutant and club record signing Islam Slimani should have made more of a terrible Benoit Poulain back pass, and was booked for shoving Bjorn Engels in the back, with the Belgian defender forced off with what looked like a dislocated shoulder.
In the night’s other match in Group G, Portuguese club FC Porto drew 1-1 at home to FC Copenhagen of Denmark.
“It’s impossible to win the Champions League,” Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said on Tuesday. “There are so many big teams. To win it we have to write another fairytale.”
Eight years ago this September, Leicester supporters might have been looking forward to a decent run in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy after beating Hartlepool in the first round (they eventually lost to Rotherham in the Northern Section quarter-finals).
Now they are in with a very good chance of making the Champions League knockout stages. But even if the Foxes do not make it out of the group, the fact they have made it to Europe’s elite competition – and as champions of England – remains remarkable.
The scores of fans revelling under the historic gabled roofs of Brugge’s sun-drenched squares may not have been able to explain how this moment had arrived, but there was plenty of infectious optimism. That same feeling was nurtured by Ranieri as he willed them to “keep dreaming” after last season’s shock Premier League title win.
The away allocation was only 1,400 and although many others travelled despite not having tickets, they had been told they would be refused entry if they tried to buy tickets for the home section.
This was Brugge’s first game in the Champions League proper for 11 years but it was not a sell-out. Before the game the expectation was 9,000 of the 29,000 seats at the Jan Breydel Stadium would be empty. The Foxes will not mind, with away days in Porto and Copenhagen to come.
Start as you mean to go on?
Albrighton’s opener was the perfect start to what promises to be an intriguing campaign, but more than one slice of luck went Leicester’s way in the early stages.
Moments before Albrighton profited from a mix-up between keeper Ludovic Butelle and midfielder Hans Vanaken, Brugge should have gone ahead themselves.
Wes Morgan was totally caught out by the pace of Izquierdo running on to a Vanaken through ball but the Colombian striker was wasteful, shooting wide with Kasper Schmeichel exposed.
The lead gave Leicester licence to adopt the formula that brought them so much success last season – sitting back and playing on the counter.
Former Belgium goalkeeper Michel Preud’homme led Brugge to their first league title in 11 years last season, but one win from their last five matches leaves them 10th in the early table of the new campaign.
They never really threatened to break Leicester down once they had gone behind, and in truth the margin of victory could have been wider still as the Foxes picked them off.
Match ends, Club Brugge 0, Leicester City 3.
Second Half ends, Club Brugge 0, Leicester City 3.
Ruud Vormer (Club Brugge) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Ruud Vormer (Club Brugge).
Luis Hernández (Leicester City) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ludovic Butelle (Club Brugge) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City).
Attempt saved. Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Marc Albrighton with a through ball.
Attempt blocked. Jelle Vossen (Club Brugge) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Attempt blocked. Ruud Vormer (Club Brugge) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Offside, Leicester City. Demarai Gray tries a through ball, but Ahmed Musa is caught offside.
Foul by Ricardo van Rhijn (Club Brugge).
Daniel Amartey (Leicester City) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leonardo Ulloa (Leicester City).
Attempt missed. Demarai Gray (Leicester City) right footed shot from the right side of the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Christian Fuchs following a fast break.
Corner, Club Brugge. Conceded by Marc Albrighton.
Attempt missed. Robert Huth (Leicester City) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Marc Albrighton with a cross following a corner.