LEICESTER City manager Claudio Ranieri played down his emotional response after the Foxes took their latest big step towards the English Premier League title.
Ranieri left the pitch in tears after Jamie Vardy’s second-half double sealed a hard-fought 2-0 win at relegation-threatened Sunderland on Sunday.
Third-bottom Sunderland are four points adrift of safety after they were twice caught on the counter-attack by England striker Vardy, who scored in open play in the Premier League for the first time in two months to take his tally for the season to 21 goals.
“I’m very happy for Jamie because he’s not scored for us in the past few weeks, though he’s made some great assists,” said Ranieri.
“At half-time, I talked to him,” he said. “I said: ‘Come on Jamie, we need you … I need you.’ And he spoke.”
“We got three points in a difficult, anxious match,” Ranieri said. “Sunderland are very, very difficult to play against.”
Leicester ended the day seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur, with the 5,000/1 pre-season outsiders’ fairytale journey towards the title showing no sign of ending any time soon.
Now, if City win three of their five remaining league games they will be crowned champions of England for the first time in the Midlands club’s 132-year-history, regardless of what Spurs, or any of the chasing pack, do in the closing stages of the campaign.
“It’s difficult to express what I feel inside,” said Ranieri who, after his initially teary response, dedicated the Foxes’ fifth consecutive victory to Leicester’s 2,500 travelling fans at the Stadium of Light.
Leicester next play top-four hopefuls West Ham at home on April 17, where they will look to extend a clean sheet record that stretches for more than eight hours.
“People can say we’re going to win the title, that’s fine for them to say it but it’s important for us to now focus on the next match,” Ranieri explained.
“For now we’re happy, but from tomorrow (Monday) again we focus on the next match because we know what a good team West Ham are.”