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Focus key for Ranieri as Leicester near Premier League title dream

Sunderland 0 - Leicester 2

By Damian Spellman

Published 11/04/2016

Calm and collected: Jamie Vardy slots the first of his double past Vito Mannone to boost Foxes’ bid for the Premier League title
Calm and collected: Jamie Vardy slots the first of his double past Vito Mannone to boost Foxes’ bid for the Premier League title

Leicester boss Claudio Ranieri is refusing to look any further ahead than the next match despite seeing his side edge closer to the Premier League title.

The Foxes maintained their stranglehold on top spot with a 2-0 victory at Sunderland yesterday - which guarantees Champions League football next season - but Ranieri is keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

Asked if it was difficult to hear people saying the title is already theirs, the Italian said: "No, no, no. They can continue to say it.

"But it's important our focus, our concentration is on the next match. I said this to the players: 'Well done, we won, but now we have two matches. The first against West Ham is a very, very difficult match because they are a fantastic team with good players and everything right.

"After, there is Swansea, another difficult match. Now we are happy, but we must focus'."

Ranieri appeared to shed a tear on the pitch after watching his team bank three more points courtesy of Jamie Vardy's second-half double, and admitted he had been moved by what he saw as the team coach arrived.

He said: "It's fantastic when you see a lot of old ladies with Leicester shirts outside the stadium. I said: 'Unbelievable, they came from Leicester to support us'. That is emotional, that is fantastic, that is football.

"I want to say thank you for the support. It's unbelievable. They are amazing. They are dreaming and we want to continue to dream. But to do this, we must be concentrated."

Leicester got their noses in front when Vardy ran on to Danny Drinkwater's 66th-minute pass to beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone before out-muscling Patrick van Aanholt off the ball to double the lead in stoppage time.

Drinkwater said there is still work to be done, but his facial expression suggested the Foxes players now firmly believe the title is theirs to lose.

"We've got a few games left. It's a step but a very big one," he said. "If this puts more pressure on them (Spurs) then perfect but I can't see Tottenham putting too much on this. It's up to them now. The fans here are brilliant, and credit to the lads - we deserved that."

As Leicester's fairytale continues, Vardy thanked the Sunderland fans for showing their appreciation at the end of the match.

"Coming off, the Sunderland fans were clapping us as well which is brilliant," he said. "It was a great game, we knew it would be tough but managed to grind it out. It's a step closer to possibly winning the league. We'll enjoy this for the rest of the day and then get back to training for the next week."

Relegation-threatened Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce said his side's performance was down to the situation they have put themselves in.

"We were nervous because of how big the game is. It's a legacy of not picking up the points when we should have done. That caused us to do the wrong things to try and get back in the game," he said.

"I thought we were very poor after (the opening goal). Jack Rodwell should have scored, you can't get a better chance than that and it would have put it at 1-1, then in the final five you have to throw caution to the wind.

"Norwich was always going to be big. There would be less pressure if we had won but this game was always going to be difficult to win. We are under extreme pressure that we have to make sure we handle."

SUNDERLAND: Mannone, Yedlin, Koné, Kaboul, Van Aanholt, Kirchhoff, Borini (Lens 76), Cattermole, M'Vila (Rodwell 68), Khazri (N'Doye 68), Defoe.

Subs not used: Jones, Larsson, Pickford, O'Shea.

LEICESTER: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez (Gray 81), Drinkwater, Kanté, Albrighton (Amartey 84), Okazaki (Ulloa 62), Vardy.

Goals: Vardy 66, 90

Subs not used: King, Dyer, Chilwell, Schwarzer.

Man of the match: Vardy

Match rating: 7/10

Referee: Anthony Taylor

Belfast Telegraph

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