Football: Leicester out in front as Spurs stay in title hunt, Liverpool cruise

Jamie Vardy celebrates with team mates at the end of the match between Sunderland Leicester City.
Jamie Vardy celebrates with team mates at the end of the match between Sunderland Leicester City.PHOTO: REUTERS
Erik Lamela celebrates after scoring the third goal for Tottenham against Manchester United.
Erik Lamela celebrates after scoring the third goal for Tottenham against Manchester United.PHOTO: REUTERS
Divock Origi scores the third goal for Liverpool against Stoke City.
Divock Origi scores the third goal for Liverpool against Stoke City. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Leicester City kept on course for a remarkable Premier League title triumph as they maintained their seven-point lead at the top of the table after both they and second-placed Tottenham Hotspur won on Sunday.

The Foxes, 5,000/1 title shots in pre-season, were indebted to two second-half goals from England striker Jamie Vardy in securing a hard-fought 2-0 win away to relegation-threatened Sunderland, that appeared to leave Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri with tears in his eyes.

Vardy's 66th-minute opener saw him become the first Leicester player to score 20 league goals in an English top-flight season since England great Gary Lineker, while his second, a breakaway effort in the fifth-minute of added-on time, put the result beyond doubt.

"We knew it would be tough, it is normal because Sunderland are fighting to be safe, but I am very happy for the three points," Leicester manager Ranieri told the BBC.

"Our performance was very solid, of course they had the chance to draw but we had three or four chances to finish it early," the Italian added.

 

Ranieri alluded to his tear-stained reaction to Vardy's second goal by saying: "You make this job for the emotion you feel inside but it is difficult for me to tell what kind of emotion." Victory at the Stadium of Light meant Leicester were briefly 10 points in front.

 

Kick-off in Tottenham's match at home to Manchester United later  on Sunday was delayed by 30 minutes after the visitors' bus got caught in traffic on the way to White Hart Lane.

But the change to their pre-match routine could not explain how United conceded three goals in six second-half minutes as Tottenham completed an ultimately comfortable 3-0 won.

Dele Alli broke the deadlock in the 70th minute and, before United knew what had hit them, Toby Alderweireld and Erik Lamela made it 3-0.

Fifth-placed United's defeat guaranteed Leicester a top-four finish and with it, at worst, a maiden Champions League qualifying appearance, although a place in the tournament proper and a first English title now both look increasingly likely.

But with both Spurs and Leicester still having five league games to play this season, Mauricio Pochettino's men remain in contention for what would be north London club Tottenham's first league title since their celebrated 'Double' season of 1960/61, when they also won the FA Cup.

"The performance was perfect in the second half," Tottenham manager Pochettino told Sky Sports.

"We are very pleased. Full credit to the players. It was a fantastic job. Beating Manchester United 3-0, you have to be happy."

Defeat left United four points adrift of local rivals Manchester City in the race for fourth place.

However, defiant United manager Louis van Gaal said: "Every team can lose to everybody so we are still in the race. Of course when you lose a game you have to close the gap again and that is more difficult."

Sunday's other Premier League match saw Liverpool leapfrog Stoke City into eighth place with a 4-1 win that featured two goals from substitute Divock Origi, as the Reds enjoyed their biggest win at Anfield this season.

Alberto Moreno gave Liverpool an early lead but Stoke equalised in the 22nd minute through Bojan Krkic.

Ten minutes later, Liverpool were back in front courtesy of Daniel Sturridge.

Origi, who replaced Sheyi Ojo at half-time, had not been on the pitch for five minute when he scored his second goal in as many games, nodding home James Milner's cross in front of the Kop.

The Belgian then got a fortuitous second goal, his 65th-minute cross going directly into the net.

"It's never easy to play against Stoke but we showed we had a lot of qualities," said Origi.

"I'm never satisfied with my own play, but I'm happy. It's nice to play and score."