Soccer-Ranieri praises Leicester heart, stays silent on referee

LONDON, April 17 (Reuters) - Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri avoided getting drawn into widespread criticism of referee Jon Moss after his side drew 2-2 with West Ham United on Sunday in a match of two awarded penalties, others not given and one red card.

Ranieri chose to focus on his team’s “blood, heart and soul” after they equalised through a penalty from Leonardo Ulloa with virtually the last kick of the game.

Leicester have not lost since a 2-1 defeat at Arsenal two months ago, storming to within touching distance of their first ever title having won six of their previous seven games before Sunday and keeping five successive clean sheets.

Leicester are still clear favourites for the title, leading the Premier league with 73 points from 34 games -- eight more than second-placed Tottenham Hotspur who have 65 points and play their game in hand at Stoke City on Monday.

Ranieri showed no signs of nerves after the game in which goalscorer Jamie Vardy was sent off.

“The sending-off changed the match,” Ranieri told Sky Sports.

“But I judge my players not the referee, the referee is not my matter. Our performance was fantastic, this is our soul, we play every match with this, blood, heart and soul, it was magnificent. This point is very important psychologically.”

Leicester took the lead through a typically swift breakaway after 18 minutes with Vardy providing the final touch for his 22nd league goal of the season.

West Ham equalised when Andy Carroll converted a penalty and went ahead through Aaron Cresswell four minutes from time before Ulloa saved the point.

Leicester’s Danny Simpson also saw it as one point gained rather than two dropped.

“We have shown our team spirit and togetherness today,” the full back said.

“We will always fight to the death. We cannot control other things, we can fight and work hard. Jeff Schlupp did well to get a penalty and Leonardo Ulloa slotted it away when there was a lot of pressure on him.

“I think that will turn out to be a massive point, not many teams go 2-1 down and do what we did, psychologically it will give us a massive boost.”

Moss needed a small escort of security men as he left the pitch at the end of the match, but might have needed a much larger one had Leicester lost the game.

West Ham’s Winston Reid, who was fouled for West Ham’s penalty, said: “There were some dodgy decisions. Take your pick.”

Carroll was adjudged to have fouled Schlupp.

“The one given against me, he was going down before I got to him, 100 per cent he took a touch, the referee has looked to even it out,” the striker said.

Reporting by Mike Collett, editing by Ed Osmond