Ulloa sends Leicester City eight points clear
Leonardo Ulloa deputised seamlessly for Jamie Vardy in a 4-0 victory over Swansea City on Sunday that took Leicester City to within five points of the Premier League title.
Vardy’s suspension, after he was shown a second yellow card for diving against West Ham United, robbed Leicester of their top scorer, but Argentine striker Ulloa proved a capable deputy by scoring twice as Claudio Ranieri’s men moved eight points clear of Tottenham Hotspur.
Tottenham have a game in hand, at home to West Bromwich Albion on Monday, but Leicester, for whom Riyad Mahrez and Marc Albrighton also found the net, are now almost within touching distance of a title success the like of which world football has rarely seen.
Vardy is likely to miss next Sunday’s trip to Manchester United, having accepted a Football Association misconduct charge over his angry reaction to his dismissal against West Ham, but the one-sided victory over Swansea proved that Leicester do not need their talisman to succeed.
“We’re gonna win the league!” was the chant from the home fans as the minutes ticked away at the King Power Stadium, and even with tricky trips to United and Chelsea to come, either side of a final home game against Everton, it is increasingly hard to bet against them.
Unbeaten in nine league games, and 14 at home, their rhythm is relentless and even Mauricio Pochettino’s young bucks at Tottenham may soon have no choice but to concede defeat.
Vardy’s suspension, after 45 consecutive league starts, obliged Ranieri to make his first change in seven matches and he made another unenforced adjustment by replacing left-winger Albrighton with Jeff Schlupp.
The stadium announcer, his voice a croak, whipped the home fans into a frenzy prior to kick-off.
But despite their crowing chants of “Tottenham Hotspur, we’re waiting for you!” — a retort to Spurs’ fans “Leicester City, we’re coming for you!” — Leicester did not come close to creating a chance until Ashley Williams’s attempted clearance struck Mahrez in the midriff.
The ball fell kindly for the Algerian, but he showed remarkable sang-froid to give Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski the eyes before slipping the ball inside his near post.
– ‘One-man team’ –
After the frayed nerves of last weekend’s 2-2 draw with West Ham, it was just the start Leicester needed and after Christian Fuchs and Shinji Okazaki had threatened, the second goal duly arrived on the half-hour.
Danny Drinkwater curled a free-kick into the box from the left and Ulloa stole in behind his marker to plant his fifth goal of the season past Fabianski with his head.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s set-pieces had the home support gulping — the Swansea playmaker teeing up Federico Fernandez to head over and then working Kasper Schmeichel with a skidding shot — and the visitors made a bold half-time change by sending on Alberto Paloschi and Jefferson Montero.
But within 16 minutes of the restart, the game was beyond them.
Schlupp, an explosive presence on the left flank, motored clear of Fernandez and although his first attempt at a cross was blocked by Williams, his second effort was toed in by the sliding Ulloa.
Schlupp twice threatened to get on the score-sheet, seeing a low shot parried by Fabianski and then shooting over from outside the box, before the three Leicester substitutes combined for a late fourth goal.
After picking up the ball on the halfway line, Demarai Gray sped past Williams as if overtaking a schoolboy player and sent a cross into the box from the right.
Andy King’s header found its way back to Gray, following in, whose close-range shot was parried by Fabianski, and Albrighton swept the rebound home.
Ulloa had left the scene by then, clutching the base of his back, but there was no dampening the spirits of the home fans, who delivered a sarcastic jab to their detractors with a cry of: “4-0, to the one-man team!”
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