Vardy scores, sees red as Leicester earns draw

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LEICESTER, ENGLAND >> Leicester is drawing on the fighting spirit it required to survive in the Premier League a year ago to win the title for the first time.

Down to 10 men after being shaken by the dismissal of top scorer Jamie Vardy in the 56th minute, the leaders conceded twice to trail West Ham 2-1.

On a day of drama and divisive refereeing at the King Power Stadium, there was one final twist in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Leicester's substitute striker Leonardo Ulloa displayed coolness from the penalty spot to equalize.

Despite dropping points with the 2-2 draw, Leicester extended its lead to eight points over Tottenham, which is at Stoke on Monday night.

"We play every match with blood, heart and soul," Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri said. "I said thank you to my players, my fans. We must believe every time. It's very important psychologically."

As it stands, Ranieri's team only requires eight points from its final four matches to be sure of completing one of the most astonishing title wins in the history of English soccer.

What's more surprising is that the title race isn't more open, given the collapse of defending champion Chelsea and Manchester rivals City and United struggling for consistency throughout the season.

The platform to end a 12-year title drought has also been squandered by Arsenal, which has dropped to fourth this weekend after being held 1-1 by Crystal Palace on Sunday. Yannick Bolasie's late goal canceled out Alexis Sanchez's first-half opener for Arsenal.

Liverpool hasn't challenged for the title since 2014 and the focus in this season of transition, that has seen Juergen Klopp replace Brendan Rodgers as manager, is now on winning the Europa League.

Liverpool, which is eighth in the Premier League, followed up its midweek quarterfinal win over Borussia Dortmund by beating Bournemouth 2-1.

Daniel Sturridge scored after setting up Roberto Firmino's opener as Liverpool moved to within two points of sixth-place West Ham with a game in hand to boost its bid for Europa League qualification. Liverpool could still land a spot in the Champions League by winning the Europa League.

Leicester has already secured its place in European soccer's elite competition for the first time and there's already a party atmosphere at the King Power as the team edges closer to Premier League glory.

Vardy got Leicester off to a perfect start by contributing his 22nd goal of the season in the 18th minute.

A counterattack launched by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel's long throw saw Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante carry the ball forward before setting up Vardy to strike across the face of goal into the net.

But Vardy received the first of two bookings 10 minutes later for a late sliding challenge on Cheikhou Kouyate. The second came 11 minutes into the second half for being adjudged to have dived after being held back by Angelo Ogbonna and then tangling with the defender. Vardy was furious at being dismissed and he will now miss next Sunday's game against Swansea through suspension.

Leicester clung on, preserving its lead for almost 30 minutes before conceding twice late on. Andy Carroll netted from the spot in the 84th after Leicester captain Wes Morgan shoved Winston Reid over and Aaron Creswell put West Ham in front two minutes later.

But four minutes into stoppage time, Carroll shoved Jeffrey Schlupp off the ball and this time Leicester was awarded a penalty by referee Jon Moss and Ulloa claimed a valuable leveler.


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