LEICESTER, England (AP) - With an English Premier League winner’s medal around his neck, Claudio Ranieri was preparing to reflect on the emotions of Saturday’s trophy presentation ceremony away from the boisterous partying on the field.
The first championship-winning players in Leicester’s 132-year history had other ideas.
Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel gatecrashed the news conference with the trophy, accompanied by champagne-carrying defender Christian Fuchs.
Soon Ranieri was being sprayed with the bubbly along with the front row of journalists - and laptops. Fuchs then emptied the bottle on Ranieri while embracing his manager.
There’s a lot you can get away with when you have just delivered a 64-year-old manager his first top flight title and helped to transform 5,000-1 long-shots into one of the most improbable champions in sports history.
As he dried out, Ranieri was asked if the hijinks demonstrated the strong team spirit.
“Yes,” Ranieri said. “Without respect!”
Ranieri was full of respect for the team’s performance before receiving the trophy. The title was secured without playing on Monday after second-place Tottenham was held to a draw by Chelsea, but the Foxes were full of their usual vigor against Everton on Saturday, sweeping to a 3-1 victory.
It was fitting the goals were provided by Jamie Vardy and Andy King.
Vardy’s striking endeavors have powered Leicester to the title, and the striker took his season tally to 24 against Everton. The former non-league player was just five minutes into his return from a two-game suspension before turning in King’s cross.
King, the only member of the team who was in the third tier with Leicester in 2009, then slotted into the net in the 33rd minute after Professional Footballers’ Association player of the year Riyad Mahrez weaved his way through the hapless Everton defense.
Vardy won and converted a penalty in the 65th but he missed out on a hat trick when he blazed another spot kick over the crossbar. The Leicester miracle doesn’t always go to script.
“Nothing can spoil today,” said Vardy who scored in a Premier League record 11 consecutive games during the season. “It’s been a very long and hard process to get where I am today.”
Not even Kevin Mirallas’ late consolation for Everton could dampen Leicester’s spirits before captain Wes Morgan collected the trophy.
“I asked the players, ‘Show me now you are the champions, the stadium is full, all the world is behind you to watch how you play,’” Ranieri said. “Our strength was concentration.”
Ranieri was serenaded before the match on the field by tenor Andrea Bocelli - one of hundreds of Italians who came to witness a party 132 years in the making masterminded by their compatriot.
Teams still scrabbling for points to survive in the Premier League will be drawing inspiration from Leicester. The central England team was in their position in the closing stages of last season before staging an escape as stunning perhaps as this season’s title charge.
Jermain Defoe clinched a 3-2 victory for Sunderland at Chelsea that lifted the north-east club out of the relegation zone with two games remaining. Chelsea, the deposed champion 32 points behind Leicester, saw captain John Terry sent off in stoppage time.
Newcastle, which was held to by already-relegated Aston Villa to 0-0, was a point behind and has played a game more than Sunderland. Norwich was below Newcastle in the drop zone after losing to Manchester United 1-0.
Juan Mata’s goal for United took Louis van Gaal’s side within one point of Manchester City in the fourth and final Champions League place.
United next heads on Tuesday to West Ham, which was beaten by Swansea 4-1 in the penultimate game at Upton Park before the east London club moves into the Olympic Stadium.
Bournemouth, which has already secured a second season in the Premier League, drew with West Bromwich Albion 1-1, and FA Cup finalist Crystal Palace beat Stoke 2-1.
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