Ulloa rescues 10-man Leicester in controversial draw

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Leonardo Ulloa.

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.

Referee Jonathan Moss’s decision to give Vardy, who had opened the scoring in the first half, a second booking incensed the Leicester fans and they were even more irate when he awarded West Ham the penalty that Carroll converted to equalise.

But with just seconds remaining, Moss made another crucial decision and this time it went Leicester’s way as he gave a soft penalty that substitute Ulloa drilled home to leave the Foxes eight points clear of second placed Tottenham.

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 remaining if Tottenham win at Stoke on Monday.

Vardy’s suspension next week 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 grateful arms of the Leicester goalkeeper.

If Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has patented his brand of ‘heavy metal’ football, then it can’t be long before Leicester’s frenzied approach, undoubtedly effective but at times as subtle as hardcore techno, gets a label of its own.

Thundering into tackles and moving the ball at breakneck speed, Leicester embarked on a blistering counter to take 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 hopelessly 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 for virtually the first time all season, 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.

Suddenly, there was a genuine sense of anxiety in the stands as Ranieri’s men were penned deep inside their own half.

They 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 needlessly bundled over Winston Reid and Moss pointed to the spot for a penalty that substitute Carroll crashed by Schmeichel.

If they were nervous before that, there was no mistaking the panic as Leicester were confronted by a serious test of their mettle and they cracked in the 86th minute.

Michail Antonio was allowed to get to the byline and deliver a cross that was only partially cleared to Cresswell, who had been left unmarked to bend a sublime strike into the top corner.

Several of Ranieri’s players fell to their knees, with Danny Simpson burying his head in frustration, but the drama wasn’t over.

After spending the afternoon as public enemy number one to the Leicester fans, Moss atoned for his perceived mistakes in stoppage-time when he awarded a soft penalty for Carroll’s challenge on Jeffrey Schlupp and Ulloa held his nerve to rifle home the spot-kick.

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Villa relegated as Aguero treble takes Man City third

Sport360 staff 16/04/2016

Aston Villa’s long-expected relegation from the Premier League was finally confirmed with a 1-0 loss away to Manchester United on Saturday as teenage rising star Marcus Rashford scored his seventh goal in 12 games.

The 18-year-old striker, also on target in United’s FA Cup quarter-final replay win over West Ham United in midweek, struck in the 32nd minute when he turned in Antonio Valencia’s low cross.

Defeat left bottom-of-the-table Villa 15 points shy of safety with only a maximum of 12 on offer to the Birmingham club in their four remaining league matches this season.

Villa, under the caretaker charge of Eric Black after former manager Remi Garde was sacked last month, have won just three times in 34 league games this campaign and Saturday’s loss saw them drop down to the second-tier of English football for the first time in 29 years.

Saturday’s late-kick-off then saw City pull four points clear of United and leapfrog Arsenal into third place, with Sergio Aguero scoring a hat-trick in a 3-0 win away to fallen champions Chelsea that came just days after Manuel Pellegrini’s men reached the semi-finals of the Champions League.

Aguero finished a quick counter-attack to give City a 33rd-minute lead at Stamford Bridge and doubled their advantage early in the second half with another breakaway goal after good work by Kevin de Bruyne and Samir Nasri.

Such has been Chelsea’s slump in form this season they are now 10th in the table and a bad day for the Blues got worse when goalkeeper Thibault Courtois was sent off late on for bringing down Fernandinho in the box when one-on-one with the Brazilian.

Argentina star Aguero completed his treble from the ensuing 80th-minute penalty.

Earlier, Sunderland gave themselves hope of yet another escape from relegation, with a 3-0 win away to fellow strugglers Norwich City.

Victory at Carrow Road left the north-east side still in the bottom three but just one point adrift of Norwich and with a game in hand over the Canaries.

Fabio Borini’s first-half penalty and strikes from Jermain Defoe and Duncan Watmore after the interval saw Sunderland to a first win in seven matches.

Newcastle United, Sunderland’s north-east rivals, bolstered their hopes of top-flight survival with a 3-0 win at home to Swansea.

Jamaal Lascelles headed in Andros Townsend’s corner four minutes before the break and Moussa Sissoko made the game safe for the Magpies eight minutes from time, as they marked manager Rafael Benitez’s 56th birthday in style.

Townsend rounded off the scoring in the 89th minute.

Newcastle remained in the relegation zone but victory saw them move to within three points of Norwich.

Watford, promoted last season, cemented their place in the Premier League with a 1-0 win away to West Bromwich Albion, that saw goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes twice save second-half penalties from Saido Berahino.

Those stops helped Watford maintain a lead established through Ben Watson’s 27th-minute goal at the Hawthorns.

Southampton moved to within a point of a top six place after a 1-1 draw away to Everton.

Ramiro Funes Mori put Everton ahead in the 68th minute but their lead lasted just eight minutes, with Sadio Mane equalising for the Saints.

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VIDEO: Leicester Premier League title win 'could be a film' says former Blue Emile Heskey

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Claudio Ranieri is closing in on a first league title.

Leicester-born Heskey, who spent well over a decade with his home town club and won two League Cup medals, freely admits that the Foxes were relegation candidates at the start of the season.

But he feels Ranieri’s men are now on the brink of closing out what would be a remarkable season for the Midlands outfit.

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