Leicester on the brink of glory as Jamie Vardy sinks Sunderland

Striker nets twice as the Foxes move to within three wins of an incredible title triumph, but still Ranieri urges caution

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(Image credit: Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Sunderland 0 Leicester 2.

Two second-half goals from Jamie Vardy, his first for the Foxes since February, took Leicester to within three wins of their first Premier League crown on Sunday.

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Nonetheless the message from manager Claudio Ranieri was for everyone at the club to keep their feet on the ground. "We must continue to be concentrated and focused," said the Italian, who saw his side keep their 14th clean sheet of the season and their fifth in consecutive matches. "We have to stay calm, be focused, strong, solid and keep going... [but] today we made some mistakes, we still have to look at what is not right."

They may have made some mistakes but like the champions-in-waiting that they surely are Leicester still ground out a victory and can now look forward to two games at home, against West Ham United and Swansea City before travelling to Old Trafford on Sunday 1 May to play a Manchester United side now looking unlikely to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Sunday's result leaves Sunderland in 18th spot and the Black Cats have a bitter fight on their hands between now and 15 May if they want to avoid the drop to the Championship. Yet for the first hour at the Stadium of Light Sam Allardyce's side matched the table toppers with their 6ft 5in German midfielder Jan Kirchhoff bossing the middle of the park. Behind him the industry of Lamine Kone and Younes Kaboul in central defence ensured goalkeeper Vito Mannone had a quiet first 45 minutes with barely a save to make.

That changed after the break as Sunderland began to tire and a lapse in concentration on 66 minutes caught Younes out of position, allowing Vardy to run on to Danny Drinkwater's long lofted pass and fire an angled shot past Mannone for his 20th goal of the season.

Vardy celebrated becoming the first Leicester striker to hit 20 goals in a season since Gary Lineker in 1984-85 with a second on the stroke of full-time, the England frontman accelerating past Patrick Van Aanholt before rounding Mannone and tapping the ball into an empty net.

"It is important for Jamie Vardy to score because he made some good assists in the last game but he is our goalscorer and he needed to score again," said Ranieri, adding that he was "very happy with him".

There were contrasting emotions for Allardyce with Sunderland now four points adrift from Norwich, who are one place above the relegation zone.

Jack Rodwell missed a glorious opportunity to equalise for the hosts after Vardy's opening goal, the Black Cats boss pointed the finger of blame elsewhere. "I can't accept how we conceded the first goal," Allardyce told reporters. "We allowed Jamie Vardy to play to his strengths. Younes knows that is going to happen and should have reacted to it."

As Allardyce rallies his troops for a relegation dogfight, Ranieri must try to rein in the emotions of the club and the city, though even he appears to be getting caught up in the drama. "It's fantastic when you see before the match a lot of old ladies with Leicester shirts outside the stadium," he admitted. "I said: 'Unbelievable, they came from Leicester to support us'. That is emotional, that is fantastic, that is football."

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