Football: Vardy brace crowns Leicester title party

Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring the third goal for Leicester City.
Jamie Vardy celebrates after scoring the third goal for Leicester City.PHOTO: REUTERS

LEICESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Jamie Vardy scored a brace and missed a penalty as new Premier League champions Leicester City comfortably defeated Everton 3-1 on Saturday ahead of their trophy presentation ceremony.

Vardy, banned for Leicester's two previous games, struck in each half at a jubilant King Power Stadium, with Andy King also on target, and would have had a hat-trick had he not blazed a second-half penalty over the bar.

But personal milestones were of secondary importance on a day when players, staff and supporters of the modest east Midlands club, who narrowly escaped relegation last season, united in joyous celebration of their 5,000-1 title triumph.

Fans were treated to a pre-match performance by renowned Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who prompted roars of approval from the flag-waving home support by removing his jacket to reveal a blue Leicester shirt as he sang.

Steve Worthy, a lifelong Leicester fan, was due to present the trophy to captain Wes Morgan following the game after winning a competition arranged by league sponsors Barclays.

 
 

The 25kg trophy has been decorated with ribbons of blue, for Leicester, and yellow, representing the royal house of Thailand, home country of club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Leicester play their final game of the season next Sunday at outgoing champions Chelsea, the former club of inspirational manager Claudio Ranieri, before an open-top bus parade in Leicester on May 16.

Second-place Tottenham Hotspur's 2-2 draw at Chelsea last Monday, which gave Leicester the title, sparked a week of celebrations in the city and fans arrived at the stadium several hours before kick-off on Saturday to drink in the moment.

Supporters formed a snake-like queue for blue team jerseys stamped with a gold and white "Premier League Champions 2015-16" sleeve badge, while souvenir scarves, flags and programmes were eagerly snapped up from stalls around the ground.

Bright sunshine gave way to heavy spring downpours as kick-off approached, but the atmosphere inside the stadium remained fervent.

 
 

The sell-out 32,140 crowd witnessed a stirring pre-match performance by Bocelli, who fulfilled a promise to Ranieri by singing 'Nessun Dorma' and 'Time to Say Goodbye'.

Everton's players gave their opponents a guard of honour as they emerged onto the pitch and it took Leicester less than five minutes to go ahead as Vardy converted King's lofted cross for his 23rd goal of the campaign.

King made it 2-0 in the 33rd minute, sweeping home right-footed after Riyad Mahrez's jinking run into the box was halted by Leighton Baines.

Vardy added a third 20 minutes after the interval, drilling a penalty past Joel Robles after he had been fouled by Matthew Pennington.

It would have been a hat-trick, but after Jeff Schlupp had been poleaxed by fellow substitute Darron Gibson, Vardy blazed his second penalty into the stand, prompting a shake of the head and a rueful smile.

Kevin Mirallas replied late on for Roberto Martinez's Everton, who slipped one place to 12th in the table.

Vardy now has 24 goals for the campaign, one behind Tottenham's Harry Kane in the race for the Golden Boot, while Leicester lead Spurs by 10 points ahead of the London club's meeting with Southampton on Sunday.