UNITED KINGDOM, April 10 – An emotional Claudio Ranieri hailed his side’s “solid” victory after his Premier League leaders won 2-0 away to Sunderland to maintain their push for title.
Two second-half goals from Jamie Vardy belied how hard the Foxes had to struggle against the relegation-threatened Black Cats and after the England striker put the result beyond doubt in stoppage-time it appeared Ranieri was crying tears of joy.
“We knew it would be tough, it is normal because Sunderland are fighting to be safe, but I am very happy for the three points,” Leicester manager Ranieri told the BBC.
“Our performance was very solid, of course they had the chance to draw but we had three or four chances to finish it early,” the Italian added.
Vardy’s 66th-minute opener saw him become the first Leicester player to score 20 league goals in an English top-flight season since Gary Lineker achieved the feat twice in the 1980s.
The new Foxes hero’s Sunday double saw Vardy grab his first goals in open play for more than two months.
“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 and I am very happy with him,” said Ranieri.
Nevertheless, as he has done for months now, Ranieri tried to keep a lid on the hype surrounding Leicester by insisting: “The fans must continue to dream but we must continue to be concentrated and focused.
“Now we have two tough matches at home, the Champions League is on the table and we have to keep it. We don’t achieve nothing yet,” he added after his side went 10 points clear of Tottenham Hotspur ahead of the second-placed side’s match at home to Manchester United later Sunday.
“You make this job for the emotion you feel inside but it is difficult for me to tell what kind of emotion.”
Defeat left Sunderland in the bottom three and four points shy of safety with six league games remaining this season.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was frustrated by the way his defence switched off for Leicester’s opener, when Vardy outpaced Younes Kaboul to run on to a lofted through-ball from Danny Drinkwater.
“I can’t accept how we conceded the first goal,” Allardyce told Sky Sports.
“We allowed Jamie Vardy to play to his strengths — Younes knows that is going to happen and should have reacted to it.”
Sunderland next play Norwich, the team immediately above them in the table and Allardyce said his side had to avoid defeat at Carrow Road on Saturday if they were to maintain their bid for top-flight survival.
“We have to win the Norwich game,” he said. “If they win they go so far away from us, and they are the last team we can catch now. We have to try and win it.
“If it’s a draw it’s a draw, and there are still five games left, but worst of all is letting Norwich win.”