Leicester’s Premier League title celebrations were delayed for at least another 24 hours after the leaders drew 1-1 with Manchester United on Sunday.
Claudio Ranieri’s side would have been crowned champions with a victory at Old Trafford but, with thousands of fans back in Leicester and millions of new converts around the world watching on television, they fell behind to Anthony Martial’s eighth minute goal.
Leicester defender Wes Morgan equalised for the visitors with a 17th minute header before Foxes midfielder Danny Drinkwater was sent off in the closing moments.
Ranieri’s men are now eight points clear of second placed Tottenham and can still secure the first top-flight title in their 132-year history if the north Londoners fail to win at Chelsea on Monday.
Regardless of Tottenham’s result, Leicester will be English football’s most unlikely champions if they beat Everton at the King Power Stadium next Saturday or win at Chelsea in their final game of the season.
“For us it was important to show our mentality. The beginning wasn’t good, but after that I appreciated our performance,” said Ranieri who added that he will miss Monday’s game as he has a lunch date with his 96-year-old mother back in Italy.
“I’d like to watch the Tottenham match, but I’m on a flight back from Italy so I might not know the result until I land.”
It would still take a monumental collapse for Leicester not to claim the title, but their players, staff and anxious supporters must wait a few more hours, if not days, before their place in sporting history can be confirmed.
Met Claudio Ranieri after the game. He said “Gary, I don’t want to see you do MOTD in your pants.” Yes you do, Claudio.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) May 1, 2016
While Leicester’s destiny remains in their own hands, it was a damaging result for FA Cup finalists United as they battle for Champions League qualification.
“I think we played one of our best matches of the season, but it was not enough,” said United boss Louis van Gaal said.
“When you don’t win, of course it is tougher (to finish in the top four).”
Yet United’s hopes of making up the gap to the top four were given a boost a few hours later when Manchester City slumped to a 4-2 defeat at Southampton.
Forget Leicester winning the league – United scoring a first half goal at Old Trafford is the true fairytale.— Alex Shaw (@AlexShawESPN) May 1, 2016
Manuel Pellegrini’s side could have done with a morale-raising victory ahead of next week’s Champions League semi-final second leg at Real Madrid.
But instead City, who drew 0-0 in the first leg against Real, were blown away by Senegal winner Sadio Mane’s hat-trick after Pellegrini fielded a weakened team.
“I’m very frustrated because I didn’t expect that performance, especially in defence,” Pellegrini said.
“In this case we had to prioritise Wednesday’s game.The best way to prepare is to win but we couldn’t do it.”
In the day’s other game, Andre Ayew’s double ensured Swansea are safe from the threat of relegation as Liverpool’s weakened team crashed to a 3-1 defeat at the Liberty Stadium.