Sunday, April 24, 2016 9:03 pm
Leonardo Ulloa proved an able deputy for Jamie Vardy as Leicester City took a huge step towards the Barclays Premier League title with a nerveless 4-0 win over Swansea City.
On the same day, Arsenal dropped points away to Sunderland and would now need to watch their back against Manchester United to have the hope of a top-four finish.
Claudio Ranieri’s side were without their top scorer Vardy after his dismissal in last week’s draw with West Ham United, but Riyad Mahrez’s early opener, a brace from Ulloa either side of half-time and a late Marc Albrighton strike ensured they got back to winning ways and piled the pressure on Tottenham Hotspur once more.
Mahrez is hot favourite to be named PFA Player of the Year later on Sunday, and it was the Algerian’s 17th BPL goal of the season that set Leicester on their way, as he capitalised on an error from Ashley Williams to open the scoring after 10 minutes.
Ulloa – who was forced off late on with a knock to the back – then powered Danny Drinkwater’s free-kick past the helpless Lukasz Fabianski on the half-hour mark, and the Argentinian’s second 15 minutes after the restart sent the King Power Stadium into raptures before substitute Albrighton rifled in a fourth late on.
Victory puts Leicester eight points clear of second-placed Spurs, who can again cut the gap to five by beating West Bromwich Albion at home on Monday.
Should Spurs drop points, though, Leicester would seal a remarkable maiden top-flight title by winning at the home of 20-time champions Manchester United next Sunday.
It was Sunderland that got the result they wanted at Stadium of Light, a crucial point that pushed them out of relegation.
Arsenal were lucky to escape with a point but they now have to watch their backs to remain in the top four.
Sam Allardyce’s men moved above Norwich City into 17th place on goal difference after a spirited performance against the Gunners in which they created several chances to win the match.
Arsenal, for whom Jack Wilshere made a first appearance of the season, started strongly but struggled to break down a resilient home side who were happy to sit deep for much of the first half.
It was Sunderland who came closest to breaking the deadlock as Patrick van Aanholt hit the woodwork with a free-kick, before Per Mertesacker and DeAndre Yedlin both escaped appeals for penalties after blocking shots with raised arms inside the area.
Sunderland sensed a potential upset and showed more attacking intent in the second half, with Petr Cech saving well from Wahbi Khazri and Jermain Defoe in particular, before Arsene Wenger introduced Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck in a bid to find a winner that would have gone a long way towards guaranteeing a top-four finish.
Arsenal controlled the early stages and Alex Iwobi came close to an opener with only four minutes played, firing narrowly wide of Vito Mannone’s right-hand post after combining well with Alexis Sanchez.
Sunderland seemed to have shaken off some early nerves and came inches from taking the lead, with Van Aanholt clipping the crossbar with a curling free-kick.
Sanchez had Mannone at full stretch from a similar distance and the former Arsenal goalkeeper denied Iwobi from the resulting corner, clawing the ball away from goal as the Nigeria forward looked to turn home.
Defoe, left isolated for much of the half, was frustrated when he fired Hector Bellerin’s poor clearance straight into Mertesacker’s raised arm from point-blank range, only for referee Mike Dean to wave away his appeals for a penalty.