Champions Leicester and struggling Sunderland party
LONDON: Leicester City celebrated their gloriously unlikely Premier League triumph in a fitting manner with a 3-1 victory over Everton in front of their overjoyed, partying fans at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.
Jamie Vardy, with a double, and Andy King scored the goals that left the home supporters in raptures even before they could savour the almost unthinkable sight of captain Wes Morgan and manager Claudio Ranieri lifting the trophy after the final whistle.
There were more celebrations at the Stadium of Light where Jermain Defoe was again the toast of Sunderland after his winner in a 3-2 victory over Chelsea lifted them out of the relegation zone, leaving Newcastle United and Norwich City on the verge of the drop.
Defoe scored his 15th league goal of the season to lead a stunning comeback victory against Chelsea who had captain John Terry sent off in added time for a second bookable offence.
With Norwich losing 1-0 at home to Manchester United and Newcastle only able to draw 0-0 at doomed Aston Villa, the victory means Sunderland, with two games remaining, will be safe if they beat Everton on Wednesday.
Rafa Benitez's Newcastle, a point behind north-east neighbours Sunderland in 18th place having played a game more, would then be relegated along with Norwich who are second from bottom.
After the nerve-shredding drama at the other end of the table, Leicester were able to relax in the day's late game and revel in the triumph that has been making headlines all over the world.
Free pizzas and beer for the fans and a stirring rendition of Nessun Dorma by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli in a Leicester shirt was the order of a surreal day before the Foxes showed no ill-effects from their week's heady celebrations since being crowned champions on Monday.
The "Jamie Vardy's having a party" chant was belted out by the supporters as the England striker took his season's goal tally in the league to 24.
The only false note came when the forward blasted his second penalty of the day high over the bar in the 72nd minute with Leicester already cruising at 3-0.
It seemed perfect that the goals should arrive from Vardy, whose amazing rise from minor-league obscurity reflects City's own soaring journey, and King who has been a club stalwart through the thinnest of times.
Leicester's victory gave them a 10-point lead at the top of the table with the champions having one game to go, at Ranieri's former club Chelsea next weekend.
United's win at Norwich, courtesy of Juan Mata's fifth goal against the Canaries, left them in fifth place, one point behind neighbours Manchester City who occupy the fourth Champions League qualification spot and face fellow contenders Arsenal on Sunday.
West Ham United's push to play Champions League football in their first season in the Olympic Stadium looked bleak following a surprising 4-1 hammering by Swansea City in their final Saturday afternoon game at the Boleyn Ground.
Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce was full of praise for former England marksman Defoe after a result that he felt demonstrated the depth of his side's character.
"You give Jermain Defoe a chance and generally he at least hits the target," said Allardyce.
"We've crawled out of the bottom three by the number of goals he's scored. Without him I dread to think where we'd be as a team."
Twice Sunderland had to come from behind, first after Diego Costa had put Chelsea ahead and then, following Wahbi Khazri's equaliser, after Nemanja Matic had put the visitors 2-1 up on the stroke of halftime.
Three minutes after Fabio Borini's 67th-minute equaliser, Defoe, capitalising on a poor clearance from John Obi Mikel, smashed home the winner.
Terry received his marching orders deep into injury time for a second bookable offence, a decision Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink called "a little bit over the top".
Benitez sounded almost resigned to Newcastle's fate after their failure to dent a surprisingly resolute Villa rearguard.
"It was an opportunity to stay ahead of Sunderland and we couldn't do it," said the Spaniard. "We are disappointed."