Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Leicester City must wait to clinch English title

MANCHESTER, England — One chance gone for Leicester in its attempt to clinch a first English league title.

Over to you, Tottenham Hotspur.

Needing three points to pull off the ultimate underdog success story in sports, Leicester managed to pick up only one from a 1-1 draw at Manchester United in the Premier League on Sunday.

Leicester has two games left — Saturday at home against Everton and May 15 at defending champion Chelsea— to collect the required two points. It might not even go that far, as second-place Spurs has to win today at Chelsea to keep the title race alive.

And Tottenham has not won at its London rival since 1990.

"I'd like to watch the (Chelsea-Spurs) match," said Claudio Ranieri, Leicester's Italian manager, "but I'm on a flight back from Italy, so I might not know the result until I land."

Ranieri, seeking his first major title in 30 years as a manager in a vagabond career throughout Europe, said he was flying back home to see his 96-year-old mother. He planned to have lunch with her today before flying back to England.

Some eight minutes into Sunday's game, Anthony Martial — a player whose $57 million transfer fee from Monaco amounted to the total of what it cost to put Leicester's lineup together — scored for Manchester United.

But Ranieri's team of rejects, journeymen and unheralded foreign players has been confounding the doubters all season, and it did so again at venerable Old Trafford stadium. Wes Morgan scored on a header from Danny Drinkwater's free kick in the 17th minute to tie it.

Drinkwater, a box-to-box midfielder, was sent off for collecting a second yellow card in the 86th minute, but the Foxes held on for a point.

"I am very pleased with our performance after the goal," Ranieri said. "We keep calm and score a goal. After that we get a lot of confidence and play better. After that, it was another match."

Fans crammed into pubs in Leicester, an ethnically diverse town about 100 miles north of London, to watch. The city has transformed into a sea of blue, the team's color. It's not just the fans, who wear blue shirts, scarves, wigs and nail polish. It's the cityscape as well. The train station, for instance, is festooned with blue and white bunting; the team's flag flies over the town hall; a blue scarf is draped around a bronze statue of King Richard III; and, in the evenings, landmark buildings are lit up blue.

And at Old Trafford, Leicester's vocal traveling fans stayed behind after the final whistle, chanting "Tottenham Hotspur, we're waiting for you," and "Are you watching, Tottenham?"

It seems likely that they were — much of the sporting world was kept waiting another day to see if Leicester, a 5,000-to-1 bet to win the title in the preseason, can clinch its Cinderella championship.

Spain: Villarreal clinched a berth in Europe's top competition next season with a comfortable 2-0 win at regional rival Valencia. Villarreal is guaranteed to finish fourth in La Liga, clinching Spain's final spot in the Champions League next season.

MLS: Diego Valeri scored on a free kick in the 74th minute as host and defending champion Portland defeated Toronto 2-1.

Italy: Juventus, which clinched its fifth straight title when Napoli lost Monday, celebrated by defeating visiting Carpi 2-0 in a game with a party atmosphere.

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