Leicester edged closer to claiming their first ever English Premier League title with a 1-0 victory over Newcastle at the King Power Stadium on Monday night.
A Shinji Okazaki bicycle kick in the first half stretched the Foxes lead at the top of the table to five-points, and ensured Rafael Benitez Newcastle debut ends in defeat.
Ranieri’s men who were not at their best, created just one chance in the first half, which ended at the back of the net, as a pinballing series of clearing attempts in the box was bicycled home by the Japanese international.
Newcastle came close through Ayoze Perez, Jack Colback and Moussa Sissoko, but their confidence waned as the game wore on.
The Foxes’ are 12 points clear of Manchester City and 11 ahead of Arsenal, leaving many to believe the title is a two-way fight between the leaders and second-placed Tottenham.
Speaking after the game, Leicester manager, Ranieri said: “It wasn’t the best performance from us but we showed fantastic spirit. We defended very well. It wasn’t nervy in the second half, the team was so close and compact.
“I feel now that I am just concentrating on the next game against Crystal Palace. We are so strong, we think only one game at a time. Step by step, that is our philosophy.
“Their players showed Rafa their attitude and the Newcastle players are very good. I am sure that they will be safe.”
Newcastle remains in 19th place with 24 points and a key match-up Sunday with Sunderland in the Tyne-Wear Derby, with their manager, Rafael Benitez – who took over on Friday, insisting his players are convinced they can now win games.
“I wasn’t happy with the goal because there were too many balls bouncing in the box. I would like to think about the positives. We reacted well and were pushing well.
“I thought that we could get a result and I was convinced we could do it. But they worked really hard and are pushing and their tempo is not easy for any team.
“We know our next game against Sunderland is a derby and it will be important for everyone but I have a feeling the fans are really good and they are the number 12 for the next game. We have plenty of things to do and they need to rest and work hard.”
Leicester go to Crystal Palace on Saturday at the end of the five-game run which coach Ranieri had labelled as key to their chances, having won 10 points from 12.