Wednesday , April 24 2024

amie Vardy ends goal drought to put Foxes 7 points clear at the top As Tottenham Beat Manchester United 3-0

Jamie Vardy hadn’t scored for Leicester since Valentine’s Day. So when he bore down on goal with little more than 20 minutes to go and the scores level, an element of hesitation in his play could have been understood.

But that would be to misunderstand Vardy. He took one touch to control the ball and move into the area. His second was a finish of total accuracy into the far corner, leaving Vito Mannone helpless.

In an instant the anxiety amid this taught encounter against a Sunderland team scrapping for their Premier League lives was lifted. To that point they had proved stubborn opponents carrying enough attacking potency to possibly derail Leicester’s passage to the title.

But Vardy broke their spirit and organisation. Though Sunderland flirted with an equaliser, with Jack Rodwell culpable of a terrible miss in the 82nd minute, their defence became fragmented. Leicester began attacking at will and in stoppage time Vardy had a second, converting another breakaway with supreme confidence.

He moved to 21 Premier League goals, the first Leicester player to breach the 20-mark since Gary Lineker in 1985. Lineker got 24 in total and that appears in reach for Vardy.

In the film about his life, this will be a standout scene; the match that finished with Claudio Ranieri walking onto the pitch looking tearful, Sunderland supporters applauding their conquerors with warmth, and Leicester’s fans singing with utter conviction about winning the league. Now, we all believe them.

This win, combined with Manchester United’s defeat at White Hart Lane, confirmed Leicester’s place in nest season’s Champions League. In neat symmetry, a 0-0 draw in this corresponding fixture last season confirmed Leicester’s Premier League safety. This campaign, they will finish in the top four at least.

But the producer behind Vardy’s blockbuster is waiting until the summer to complete his script and it is little wonder why. In the offing is a feelgood climax to make Hollywood blush.

Goalscorer Vardy is embraced by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel after the Danish stopper kept his fifth straight clean sheet

Three more wins and the title is theirs. Just 270 minutes of football. Maybe less. The numbers are getting smaller. Champions go to places like Sunderland, to teams fighting every inch to stay in the division, and come away victorious. It may not be pretty, it may require a little luck, but leaving with three points is all that matters.

United did it time and again. Chelsea too. Even Arsenal when they possessed the requisite backbone. That is what Leicester did here.

Tottenham are doing their damnedest in pursuit, a thumping win over United equally worthy of champions. But that may not matter. The gap remains seven points and Leicester in this mentality do not look like conceding any ground.

At the Stadium of Light, that attitude was personified by Vardy. So often Leicester’s match-winner this season, he has turned provider in recent weeks and not scored since converting a penalty at Arsenal on February 14, seven games ago.

In the 66th minute, he found the net. It is a goal we have seen many times before, but never possessing such significance. Danny Drinkwater collected in midfield, nutmegged Lee Cattermole and flighted a long ball over the top to Vardy, who had pulled away from Younes Kaboul.

For some reason the Sunderland defender seemed to halt his run, perhaps in hope that Vardy may be offside and in knowledge he would never catch up. The flag did not come, and Vardy raced away, celebrating seconds later.

Given Leicester’s supreme resilience in recent weeks – it is 490 minutes since they last conceded – that would have been enough to claim victory, but in added time Vardy made it 2-0.

The ball broke to substitute Demarai Gray and Vardy sparked into life. Gray poked a pass over the top, Vardy out-muscled Patrick Van Aanholt, touched the ball around an onrushing Mannone and slotted the ball into the open net.

For Sam Allardyce, this was a first defeat in five but one that leaves them 18th, four points from safety. Four draws prior to this game were less than performances merited but have hamstrung survival hopes.

Sunderland will go to Norwich next weekend knowing victory is a must. Rodwell wasted their best chance here, a glorious opening with eight minutes to go. Van Aanholt hit a shot that deflected of Jermain Defoe into his path. But Rodwell skied over when it was easier to hit the target.

Simple game, football. Get the ball into the box, play the players in the positions that bring the best out of thTottenham midfielder Dele Alli wheels away to celebrate after scoring the opening goal against Manchester United at White Hart Lane em. Tottenham did that, Manchester United didn’t.

Tottenham are still in title contention, United fading from relevance in the narrative of the season, and quite possibly from the Champions League.

This was a mighty victory and if the scoreline did not entirely reflect the game – United having more possession than it might suggest – it was certainly the response that was required after Leicester’s win at Sunderland.

Tottenham went into this game 10 points adrift and, had they lost, the title race would have been as good as over. Instead, it lives again. There may be a significant margin at the top, but there is hope. Increasingly, for United, hope is fading.

At one stage they had four forwards on – all out of position. Ashley Young, without a goal all season, was the central striker. Anthony Martial, a goalscorer, was wide. Jesse Lingard, a wide player, was at number 10.

Within four minutes, Tottenham were home and hosed. Erik Lamela swung in a cross from the left which Toby Alderweireld met with a fine header, rising higher than the nearby Michael Carrick and Marcos Rojo – indeed higher than anyone in the area.

The third, the goal that gave the scoreline a taint of humiliation for United, took just two minutes to arrive. Eriksen headed the ball on to Danny Rose on the left, he crossed and Lamela hit a low shot, first time.Lamela (right) loses his marker but sees an earlier effort in the game go over the crossbar as the home crowd watch on in disbelief  

Leicester won’t appreciate having their lead cut from 10 to seven points, but they will welcome this is another way: United’s defeat means Claudio Ranieri’s team are the first Premier League side into next season’s Champions League. United won’t be joining them in the draw at this rate.

The news from Sunderland appeared to have taken the wind from Tottenham’s sails, despite the best efforts of the club to keep it a secret.

Usually, earlier results are announced to the crowd. Not here. The revelation that Leicester had won 2-0 at the Stadium of Light to ensure Tottenham started the game 10 points adrift was kept back until half-time, and then mumbled into a microphone, as if in the hope it would go undetected.

The mood suggested that was impossible. White Hart Lane was subdued before kick-off, the team subdued when the action began.

Indeed, for close to half an hour, Tottenham could barely get out of their half. Not that Manchester United made the most of it, as has so often been the case this season. They had plenty of possession but failed to test Hugo Lloris.

To be fair, two hours on a gridlocked coach is no way to prepare for a Premier League match, but it wasn’t that United looked rusty or unprepared. They saw plenty of the ball, much of it around Tottenham’s penalty area, but failed to apply sufficient pressure.

A free-kick inside Tottenham’s half summed it. Tip-tap it went, short passes, Tottenham pressing high until eventually United were forced to give the ball back to David De Gea, who punted it upfield for the forward line to contest a header in the centre circle.

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