Claudio Ranieri fought against the emotion he felt as his new Fulham team drew 1-1 with Leicester, where he memorably won the Premier League.
The Italian had been on course for an encouraging victory over his former team when Aboubakar Kamara gave Fulham a deserved first half lead, but amid further chances for both, Leicester’s James Maddison scored a classy equalising goal in the 74th minute.
It had been approaching two years since Ranieri had been sacked by Leicester, where he is regardless fondly remembered for overseeing the club’s and his greatest personal success, and his familiarity with their players also came as his name was chanted by both sets of fans.
Until Maddison’s curling finish Fulham had been on course to climb out of the bottom three. They instead sit 20th, but ahead of Saturday’s visit to Manchester United will take encouragement from another evening in which they demonstrated that under Ranieri they have improved.
“It was a very emotional match this evening for me with both the Leicester fans and Fulham fans singing my name,” the 67-year-old said.
“(But) the emotion is just at the beginning. When the game started, I was concentrating on my team.
“I said hello to some players. I was so concentrated on my job.
“The draw is right. They created one great chance at the beginning and Sergio Rico made a fantastic save. In the second half we started much better and had other chances, but they suddenly made a fantastic combination and scored.
“Then both teams had chances. A draw is okay. One point is better than nothing.
“We had the final chance (through Denis Odoi in stoppage time). If he shot better, or passed the ball to (Aleksandar) Mitrovic in the middle, but we continue to progress.
“I’m very happy with our performance. We made some mistakes, but even the big teams make mistakes. At this moment, when we make mistakes, the big opponents score goals. But soon we will win a game.”
It was Claude Puel substitutes, Shinji Okazaki and Demarai Gray, who impressively combined to create Maddison’s equalising goal.
The Leicester manager said: “It was a good goal. It’s a good thing, a good thing, but all the team were in difficulty and it was important to come back into the game.
“We didn’t put on the pitch enough quality, but we found all the time a fighting spirit and a desire to come back into the game. It’s a fantastic feeling because we know we had difficulties
“Maddison plays high up the pitch and gets some opportunities to score and create chances.
“It’s not the first time our substitutes have come on and influenced the match.
“Of course Fulham can stay up. They have a good squad and now they have confidence.
“If they stay with this good mentality and this desire, it’s difficult to find a solution against them. Our second half we were poor in play, but because they defended very well after their goal.”