LONDON: Claudio Ranieri admitted, for the first time, this past week that Leicester might win the Premier League. It was the Italian manager’s well-judged attempt to inject a little extra confidence into his team after a difficult week and the impending suspension of top scorer Jamie Vardy.
Just like every other trick of Ranieri’s trade, this one worked to perfection. It took the title favourites only half an hour to seize a decisive two-goal lead in what proved a 4-0 victory over Swansea.
Riyad Mahrez struck his 17th goal of the season by punishing a bad mistake from central defender Ashley Williams then Leo Ulloa – deputising for Vardy – headed a second. Ulloa and substitute Marc Albrighton doubled the Foxes’ advantage, just for security, in the second half.
Ranieri can thus win his first league title after four second-place finishes in three different countries. His Chelsea were second to Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ in 2004 and in 2009 and 2010 he was an Italian runner-up with Juventus and then Roma. Four years later, in France, Ranieri’s Monaco finished second to Paris Saint-Germain.
Now Leicester and Ranieri have turned the pressure back on pursuers Tottenham, whom they lead by eight points. Spurs host West Bromwich tonight knowing that time and games are running out. Asked if he had a message for Spurs’ boss Mauricio Pochettino, Ranieri said: “Mauricio, you can wait. Wait for one more year.”
Blacks Cats move up
Sunderland edged out of the Premier League relegation zone with a deserved point from a goalless home draw against Arsenal whose failure to win could prove costly.
The Gunners occupy the final Champions League qualifying spot but, though possessing five points more than Manchester United, have played an extra game.
Both sides had penalty appeals denied, Sunderland’s for handball against Per Mertesacker. For Arsenal Mesut Ozil went close with a free kick but the visitors needed a string of saves from Petr Cech to save a point.
Ozil was substituted seven minutes from the end by England midfielder Jack Wilshere, making his first appearance in 10 months after recovering from a broken leg.