Football: Spot-on Ulloa's late rescue act

Leonardo Ulloa celebrating after scoring the last-gasp equaliser for Leicester from the penalty spot in the 2-2 draw against West Ham at the King Power Stadium yesterday.
Leonardo Ulloa celebrating after scoring the last-gasp equaliser for Leicester from the penalty spot in the 2-2 draw against West Ham at the King Power Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: REUTERS

Foxes force late draw against Hammers as title race gets tighter after dramatic result

ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE

Leicester City 2

West Ham United 2

LONDON • Leicester City's Premier League title challenge was plunged into chaos as Leonardo Ulloa ensured a dramatic 2-2 draw against West Ham after Jamie Vardy was controversially sent off yesterday.

Claudio Ranieri's leaders looked destined for a damaging defeat at the King Power Stadium after late goals from Andy Carroll and Aaron Cresswell put the Hammers ahead following Vardy's dismissal for diving.

I WON'T JUDGE THE REFEREE

The sending-off changed our match. I judge my players, not the referee, the referee is not my matter. Our performance was fantastic, this is our soul, we play every match with this, blood, heart and soul, it was magnificent.

CLAUDIO RANIERI, Leicester manager, on Jamie Vardy's expulsion after Jonathan Moss booked him a second time for diving.

I FEEL FOR THE REFEREE

The game went that way, hard for the referee with the crowd. I feel for him, although it was not a penalty. On the one hand, Leicester is right, it is not a penalty, they have been doing this all year.

SLAVEN BILIC, West Ham manager, on Wes Morgan's bundling over Winston Reid in the box that resulted in a penalty.

Referee Jonathan Moss' decision to give Vardy, who had opened the scoring, a second booking incensed the Leicester fans and they were even more irate when he awarded West Ham the penalty that substitute Carroll converted to equalise. But with just seconds left, Moss made another crucial decision and this time it went Leicester's way as he gave a soft penalty that substitute Ulloa drilled home.

"I was so happy for the team because we didn't deserve to lose," Ulloa said after scoring with virtually the last kick of the game. "You have to deal with pressure and I'm glad it went in."

It summed up the astonishing nature of the finale that Moss was still booed off despite his late gift to Leicester, whose lead at the top will be cut to five points with four games left if Tottenham win at Stoke today.

Vardy's suspension on Sunday against Swansea just adds another twist to an incredible title race.

Right from the opening minutes it was clear Leicester's astonishing march towards the title was about to become even more enthralling. When Cheikhou Kouyate met Dimitri Payet's free kick with a powerful header, a goal seemed certain, yet Kasper Schmeichel somehow got a fingertip on the ball to push it onto a post. It then bounced along the goal-line before rebounding off the other post and back in the arms of the Leicester goalkeeper.

Leicester took the lead in the 18th minute. Schmeichel caught the ball from a West Ham attack and within seconds had launched a throw out to Riyad Mahrez on the right flank. Mahrez quickly shifted possession onto N'Golo Kante and, with West Ham left out of position by the speed of the break, the France midfielder measured a pass to Vardy, who took one touch just inside the penalty area before driving into the far corner for his 22nd league goal.

But Leicester's fortunes took a turn for the worse in the 56th minute when Vardy chased a through ball into the penalty area and appeared to deliberately nudge his legs into Angelo Ogbonna before throwing himself to the turf in pursuit of a penalty. Moss saw it as a dive and gave Vardy a second booking to the disbelief of the forward.

The hosts seemed to have weathered the storm until the 83rd minute when Moss once again took centre stage. As they contested a corner, captain Wes Morgan tussled with Winston Reid and Moss pointed to the spot for a penalty that Carroll crashed by Schmeichel.

Two minutes later, defender Aaron Cresswell curved a sublime strike into the top corner, but the drama was not over.

After spending the afternoon as public enemy No. 1 to the Leicester fans, Moss awarded a soft stoppage-time penalty for Carroll's challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp and Ulloa held his nerve to rifle home the spot kick.

"It is a bit disappointing, there were some dodgy decisions," Reid said. "Take your pick. At the end of the day he (Wes Morgan) has pulled me, some are given, some aren't."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 18, 2016, with the headline 'Spot-on Ulloa's late rescue act'. Print Edition | Subscribe