Sunderland 0:2 Leicester City
Jamie Vardy’s 20th and 21st Premier League goals of the season saw City seal victory late on at Sunderland on Saturday, temporarily extending their lead to 10 points…
Claudio Ranieri, newly crowned Manager of the Month for March, named an unchanged starting line-up against a Sunderland side desperately in need of the points.
And City enjoyed a good opening spell, with Okazaki, Kanté and Morgan all threatening Mannone’s goal. Morgan looked to have repeated last week’s goal, but sent his header inches wide of the far post.
A series of misplaced passes then allowed Sunderland back in and got the home crowd fired up, but City were looking solid at the back, and in no mood to concede a first goal in over a month.
There were loud penalty appeals when Okazaki was brought down by a chest-high Yedlin boot, but the ref waved play on, and then Drinkwater fired a volley wide soon after.
Kaboul sent a header inches over the bar for the home side, while Vardy miscued a shot from the edge of the area.
Mahrez, who’d had a subdued half, then made room for himself on the edge of the area, but his attempted curler into the top corner was blocked.
Sunderland had the final chance of the half when Schmeichel did well to block a Borini shot that took a deflection off Morgan.
Sunderland’s desperation was showing in their finishing, with several shots flying high and wide and Borini actually managing to hit one shot into his own face.
Drinkwater forced a couple of saves from Mannone as he pushed forward, and was then the architect of City’s priceless opening goal.
In the 67th minute the England midfielder won a challenge and then sent a perfect ball behind the Sunderland defence. Vardy won the race down the left with Kaboul, took a neat touch and placed a fine finish past Mannone.
Vardy became the first City player since Gary Lineker in the 1984-85 season to score 20 goals in the top flight.
Although there was a scare when Rodwell sent a shot over from close in following a good Sunderland move, it was Mannone who was the busier keeper.
He saved from substitute Ulloa’s angled drive and then managed to get a hand to a low Vardy shot after a fantastic passing sequence down the right.
The Sunderland keeper then prevented another sub strike, beating away Amartey’s fierce effort in time-added-on.
But it was Vardy who would have the final say when he found the energy for one more run down the middle when all around him were flagging. He got to the ball just ahead of Mannone, took it round him and stroked the ball into an empty net to dispel the tension in the away and end and get the party started.
Another difficult hurdle had been cleared, and until Spurs win over Manchester United City stood 10 points clear. Claudio Ranieri left the field in tears, perhaps betraying his emotions for the first time, while the Leicester support staged another: “We’re going to win the League!” sing-in, long after the rest of the ground had emptied.
Ranieri was still sticking rightly to his focus on the next game mantra, but had an emotional afternoon: “It is fantastic when you see before the match, an old lady with a Leicester shirt outside the stadium. I say: ‘Unbelievable. They come from Leicester to support us.’ This is my emotion. It is fantastic. I was on the bus. I saw them, unbelievable, and I want to say thank you for the support. They are dreaming and we want to continue to dream.”
Manchester United’s defeat at Spurs later in the day may have kept Tottenham in the title race, but also confirmed City’s Champions League place next season… unbelievable, Jeff.
Sunderland: Mannone, Van Aanholt, Kaboul, Yedlin, Kone, Kirchoff, Cattermole, M’Vila (Rodwell 68), Khazri (N’Doye 68), Borini (Lens 76), Defoe. Subs Not Used: Pickford, Hones, Larsson, O’Shea.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Kanté, Drinkwater, Albrighton (Amartey 84), Mahrez (Gray 80), Okazaki (Ulloa 62), Vardy. Subs Not Used: Schwarzer, Chilwell, Dyer, King.
Referee: Anthony Taylor. Attendance: 46,531.
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