LONDON (Reuters) - Premier League leaders Leicester City salvaged a point from Leonardo Ulloa’s penalty with the last kick of the game to draw 2-2 in a thriller with West Ham United and open an eight-point gap over chasing Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Ulloa struck five minutes into added time to earn a draw for the Foxes, who had looked headed for defeat after West Ham scored twice in three minutes through Andy Carroll’s 84th minute spot kick and Aaron Cresswell’s fine strike to lead 2-1.
Although Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri praised what he called his team’s fantastic performance built on “blood, heart and soul”, the match proved costly for the hosts as they chase a first top-flight title.
Their first-half scorer Jamie Vardy was sent off early in the second and will be suspended for the match at home to Swansea City next Sunday and they dropped points for the first time after five straight wins.
Leicester lead the standings with 73 points from 34 matches, followed by Spurs, who have 65 from 33 and play their game in hand at Stoke City on Monday.
Arsenal, who drew 1-1 with visiting Crystal Palace on Sunday, remain fourth on 60 points, behind Manchester City, 3-0 winners at last season’s champions Chelsea on Saturday, on goal difference.
A victory over West Ham and defeat for Spurs on Monday would have left Leicester 10 points clear with four games to play and there was a fantastic atmosphere at the King Power Stadium with thousands of fans arriving in the sunshine hours before kickoff.
West Ham almost scored in the second minute when Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel saved a header from Cheikhou Kouyate, tipping the ball on to his left-hand post before it rolled across the line and hit the other upright.
Leicester took the lead through Vardy after 18 minutes with the striker grabbing his 22nd goal of the season to join Tottenham’s Harry Kane as the league’s leading scorer.
But Vardy was dismissed for a second yellow by referee Jon Moss and, although Leicester’s 10 men coped well with West Ham’s constant pressure, they wilted in the 84th minute when Wes Morgan fouled Winston Reid and Carroll equalised from the spot.
Two minutes later the visitors were ahead thanks to a fierce shot from the edge of the penalty area from Cresswell, before Carroll fouled Jeffrey Schlupp and Moss awarded Leicester a penalty which Ulloa calmly converted.
“The sending off changed our match,” Ranieri said. “But I never speak about the referee.
“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.”
West Ham remained sixth on 53 points, three behind Manchester United as the pair chase a European spot.
Arsenal’s lingering title hopes appeared to all but end after they were held by lowly Palace, who equalised eight minutes from time when Yannick Bolasie sent a low shot from the edge of the box past Petr Cech at the near post.
Alexis Sanchez headed Arsenal ahead just before halftime.
“That was a bad result for us,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said. “...we had a lot of possession but could not turn that into real clear-cut goal chances.
“We lacked a change of pace today, our passing was slow and maybe we lacked complete confidence to go for it.”
Eighth-placed Liverpool, with 10 changes from the side that beat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 to reach the Europa League semi-finals on Thursday, won 2-1 at Bournemouth with goals at the end of the first half from Roberto Firmino and Daniel Sturridge.
Josh King scored a late consolation for the hosts.
Editing by Ed Osmond and Ken Ferris