Leicester City need just five points to complete a fairytale Premier League title triumph after Leonardo Ulloa scored twice in a 4-0 home victory over Swansea City yesterday.
With top scorer Jamie Vardy suspended, his stand-in Ulloa stepped up with a brace of goals at the King Power Stadium, either side of goals by Riyad Mahrez and substitute Marc Albrighton.
It lifted Claudio Ranieri’s side eight points clear of second-place Tottenham Hotspur, who host West Bromwich Albion this evening, and means that they can claim the title by winning at Manchester United next Sunday if Spurs fail to beat West Brom.
Leicester’s victory had the added effect of ending the title bids of both third-place Manchester City and fourth-place Arsenal, who were held to a 0-0 draw at struggling Sunderland.
Vardy’s dismissal, after he was shown a second yellow card for diving, had been the chief talking point of Leicester’s 2-2 draw with West Ham United last weekend, which had raised the possibility of nerves getting the better of Ranieri’s miracle men.
But they made an ideal start against Francesco Guidolin’s Swansea as Ashley Williams’s careless clearance struck Mahrez, who calmly stroked his 17th goal of the season past visiting goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski.
Ulloa made it 2-0 on the half-hour by heading in Danny Drinkwater’s free-kick and killed the game off in the 61st minute when he toed in a cross from Jeff Schlupp, who had sprinted into the box from halfway.
The fourth goal, in the 85th minute, was the work of Leicester’s substitutes, with Demarai Gray sparking the move by sprinting to the byline on the right and sending a cross into the box.
From Andy King’s back-post header, Gray saw a close-range volley parried by Fabianski, but Albrighton followed in to lift the rebound into the roof of the net.
Leicester’s win definitely sounded the death knell on the title aspirations of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal, whose goalless stalemate at Sunderland did little to help their push for a top-four finish.
Sunderland left-back Patrick van Aanholt came closest to breaking the deadlock at the Stadium of Light with a first-half free-kick that hit the post, while both teams had penalty appeals for handball turned down.
Arsenal, for whom Jack Wilshere made his first appearance of the season after recovering from a broken fibula, remain fourth, five points above Manchester United, but having played a game more.
“We created less, but could still have scored. We should have been in front in the first half,” Arsenal manager Wenger told the BBC.
“It leaves us having to win the next game, as always. We fight against teams who fight not to go down, so we prepare to fight again next Saturday.”
The point was of much greater use to Sam Allardyce’s Sunderland, who climbed out of the relegation zone on goal difference at the expense of Norwich City.
“With four games to go it is in our hands now,” said Allardyce, whose side had won 3-0 at Norwich in their previous game.
“Our performances are good – excellent last week and very good today. Hopefully we can get enough points to stay out of trouble.”