SUNDERLAND, England: Premier League leaders Leicester City moved even closer to the title by winning 2-0 at relegation-threatened Sunderland yesterday.
England international Jamie Vardy put them ahead in the 66th minute and he added his second – and 21st of the season – in added time. With five games left, Claudio Ranieri’s unfashionable side need a maximum of nine more points to become English champions for the first time.
Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela struck in six second-half minutes as Tottenham Hotspur swamped Manchester United 3-0 to keep Leicester in sight.
A game delayed half an hour by United’s late arrival due to traffic congestion burst to life in the 70th minute with three rapid-fire goals that allowed Spurs to trim Leicester’s advantage back to seven points.
Spurs’ display showed that Mauricio Pochettino’s side will not give up without a fight.
Pochettino had not beaten United in six previous attempts, first with Southampton and then Tottenham, and Spurs had not scored against them in three games under him. Both trends were reversed in stunning fashion.
The result, Spurs’ first home league win over United in 15 years, had the additional effect of securing Leicester’s place in the Champions League and United’s hopes of joining the Foxes at Europe’s top table are fading.
Louis van Gaal’s side finished the weekend four points below fourth-place Manchester City in fifth place, raising the stakes ahead of Wednesday’s FA Cup quarter-final replay at West Ham United.
United’s late arrival prevented them from warming up fully and there was ironic applause when they finally trotted out for the warm-up, five minutes after the scheduled kick-off time.
Divock Origi came off the bench to score twice as Liverpool beat Stoke 4-1 at Anfield for their biggest home win this season.
Sunderland remain in the bottom three, four points behind Norwich City, who they play next Saturday.
“It was tough, we knew it would be, but we ground it out,” Vardy said. “We know it’s a step closer but you never know what can happen. The main thing now is we’ve got to take it into the next week.”
Since beating Sunderland 4-2 in his first match in charge last August, Ranieri has stayed true to his beliefs – taking nothing for granted.
“Of course nobody could have believed it,” he said of imagining a title success on that first day of the new campaign.
“It’s amazing and I want to thank everyone (of our fans). We moved Leicester to Sunderland.”
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was disappointed with the way his team conceded two goals to Vardy, after warning his defenders of precisely that outcome.
“We switched off once and allowed Jamie Vardy to do what we said was his main strength,” he said.
That was the moment midway through the second half when experienced defender Younes Kaboul failed to deal with Danny Drinkwater’s long ball. Vardy latched onto it and went on to beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone.
Substitute Jack Rodwell then missed Sunderland’s best chance to equalise and despite being thwarted once by Mannone, Vardy went round him to seal victory in stoppage time.
In a quiet first half each team had a strong penalty appeal dismissed and Kasper Schmeichel’s save from Sunderland striker Fabio Borini was the only one of note by either goalkeeper.