Leicester 1 win from Premier League title after Spurs held
LONDON (AP) Leicester is one victory from becoming one of the unlikeliest champions in English football history - a year after nearly being relegated from the Premier League.
The path to the trophy became clearer Monday after closest challenger Tottenham was held to a 1-1 draw by West Bromwich Albion, giving Leicester a seven-point lead with three games remaining.
Leicester's first chance to seal the first top flight title in its 132-year history comes on Sunday at the home of record 20-time champion Manchester United.
Even if Leicester fails to win at Old Trafford, manager Claudio Ranieri can be handed the title if his former club, Chelsea, beats Tottenham next Monday.
Leicester would have to wait until the final day of the season to receive the trophy when it plays at deposed champion Chelsea, which is 29 points adrift in ninth place.
Ranieri's team of bargain signings and even castoffs is on course to become the first maiden title-winner since Nottingham Forest in 1978 by completing the greatest transformation of a team in the post-1992 Premier League era.
As unexpected as Leicester's title charge is the fact Tottenham is its closest competitor with Manchester City and Arsenal behind them.
Although Spurs look set to miss out on a first title since 1961, they are close to qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in six years with their highest finish since 1963.
''We are very young and we need to use this experience for the next few seasons,'' Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino said after Monday's White Hart Lane setback. ''We needed to kill the game in these moments if you want to win the title.''
Pochettino's second-place side might have to cope without Dele Alli for some of its remaining games through suspension.
Video emerged of Alli appearing to swing a punch at Claudio Yacob's stomach during the first half and he could face retrospective action - assuming it was missed by the referee.
Preparing for this game meant the 20-year-old Alli missed Sunday's Professional Footballers' Association ceremony, where he was named young player of the year. Alli, who was playing in the third tier last year, has been a driving force behind Tottenham's unexpected title challenge.
The midfield dynamo showed why early on, playing a slick one-two with Harry Kane before the striker's shot was tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Boaz Myhill.
West Brom posed little threat in the first half, content instead to attempt to frustrate the hosts. Manager Tony Pulis was far more assertive than his team, bellowing instructions as opposite number Pochettino remained typically composed.
Spurs picked up where they left off in the 4-0 demolition of Spurs, with intense pressing but an opening goal was hard to produce. Christian Eriksen's free kick clipped the crossbar and a low shot from Kane was turned round the post by Myhill. All West Brom could offer in response was Craig Gardner blasting a shot over.
But Tottenham went ahead through a messy own goal in the 33rd minute. Craig Dawson tried to stop Jan Vertonghen getting on the end of Eriksen's free kick but instead managed to move the ball over the line with his stomach while on the ground.
The failure to extend the lead would prove costly for Tottenham, with Erik Lamela clipping a post and Kane firing well over.
''It could have been 3 or 4-0 but unlucky for us we weren't clinical in the box,'' Pochettino said.
West Brom was transformed in the second half, no longer the team lacking imagination before the break and able to halt a three-game losing run against the team with the stingiest defense in the league.
The equalizer came in the 73rd minute when Gardner whipped in a corner and Dawson climbed above Eric Dier to power a header into the right net this time.
Tottenham was stunned and couldn't muster the winner.