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HISTORIC: Leicester are Premier League Champions

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Chelsea 2 Tottenham Spurs 2

London, United Kingdom | AFP |

Leicester City’s remarkable season concluded today when they were crowned champions of England for the first time in their 132-year history without kicking a ball after second-placed Tottenham Hotspur were held by Chelsea.

Claudio Ranieri’s men, 5,000/1 outsiders in pre-season, were held 1-1 by Manchester United at the weekend, a result which it turns out was enough as they completed a stunning triumph.

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MATCH REPORT

Chelsea substitute Eden Hazard’s stunning late goal earned Chelsea a 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Monday that completed Leicester City’s fairytale quest for the Premier League title.

With Leicester’s players reportedly gathered at the home of striker Jamie Vardy to watch the match, goals from Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min at Stamford Bridge appeared to have set Spurs up for a victory that would have kept their title hopes alive.

But after Gary Cahill had reduced the arrears in the 58th minute of a stormy affair, Hazard met Diego Costa’s pass with a first-time shot into the top-right corner in the 83rd minute to send hordes of supporters in Leicester, as well as their millions of new admirers around the world, into raptures.

Claudio Ranieri’s side, 5,000-1 title outsiders who narrowly avoided relegation last season, can now look forward to a title party at their King Power Stadium home when Everton visit on Saturday.

They are England’s first new title-winners since Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest 1978 and their surge to glory in the world’s most-watched football championship will go down as one of the most improbable feats in sporting history.

Their previous best season in the English top flight was a second-place finish in 1929 and their last piece of silverware had been the 2000 League Cup.

Mauricio Pochettino’s young Spurs team needed to win all three of their final games to stand any chance of claiming a first league title since 1961, but having been held 1-1 by West Bromwich Albion on their previous outing, they failed to close out victory again.

Ranieri had never previously won a league title and was sacked by Chelsea in 2004, but chants of “There’s only one Ranieri!” rang around the game as the final whistle approached.

Bringing the story of his association with the Premer League full circle, the 64-year-old Italian will return to Stamford Bridge for his miracle team’s final game of the season on May 15.

Hazard, last season’s Player of the Year, had scored the goal that brought Chelsea the title a year previously and after a dismal campaign, he resurfaced to write another chapter in English football history.

Spurs, meanwhile, could face disciplinary action from the Football Association after midfielder Mousa Dembele appeared to eye-gouge Diego Costa in one of several fractious incidents.

Spurs took early lead before they were stunned by Chelsea
Spurs took early lead before they were stunned by Chelsea

Vardy award

Even before Monday’s kick-off there was a fresh award for Leicester, with England striker Jamie Vardy voted the 2016 Footballer of the Year by England’s Football Writers’ Association.

The 29-year-old striker took the award ahead of team-mate Riyad Mahrez, who had already won the Player of the Year award voted on by his fellow professionals.

Vardy, who only a few seasons ago was playing non-league football, has scored 24 goals for club and country this season — a haul that includes scoring in a Premier League record 11 consecutive games.

Accepting the “great honour”, Vardy said: “We’re all totally focused on getting over the line in the final two weeks of the season and turning a great season into one we’ll never forget.”

Despite the banned Vardy’s absence in their last two games because of his red card against West Ham United, Leicester have still taken four points from a possible six. That suggests that the Foxes can cope without Danny Drinkwater too.

The midfielder will serve a one-match suspension against Everton after being sent off at Old Trafford, having received two yellow cards.

But while Vardy saw his ban increased for an aggressive reaction, Drinkwater escaped any additional punishment Monday after referee Michael Oliver opted against reporting his response to being dismissed.

As Leicester gets ready to party, Britain’s bookmakers are bracing themselves for a record football pay-out of £15 million ($22 million, 19 million euros) should the Foxes take the title.

Leading firm William Hill are set to hand over £3 million alone and spokesman Rupert Adams said Monday: “I wish we had diversified our retail portfolio to include a few pubs in Leicester!”

The scale of Leicester’s looming triumph can be gauged by the fact that when the 5,000/1 odds were first offered in August, bookmakers considered there was greater likelihood of pop music great Elvis Presley, who died in 1977, being found alive (2,000/1).

No wonder that, in the words of one of Elvis’s greatest hits, the British betting industry is “all shook up”.

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