Leicester 3 Everton 1: If in August you had predicted that Leicester City would spend their final home game of the season partying ahead of their coronation as Premier League champions, you would have been politely told where you should take your opinions.
If you had added that Andrea Bocelli would sing Nessun Dorma, wearing a Leicester shirt, to celebrate the occasion, the doctors would have been called in.
But that is exactly what happened at the King Power Stadium on Saturday as this season’s fairytale story finally became a reality.
Truth be told the party had started long before a ball was kicked or Bocelli had treated the Leicester fans to renditions of Nessun Dorma and Time to Say Goodbye.
From midday thousands of supporters descended on the King Power to soak up the party atmosphere, coming from near and far to join in the celebrations. Around 500 had travelled over from Italy to bask in Claudio Ranieri’s success, while one man had journeyed from Australia — even though he didn’t have a ticket for the match.
However even without a seat for the biggest day in Leicester’s history, he and supporters were treated to a party like no other outside the stadium.
A fairground full of rides had children screaming in delight, while their parents sipped on the free beers laid on by the club in the warm May sunshine.
Around the other side of the stadium a gospel choir was in full swing, belting out verses of ‘dilly, ding, dilly dong, we’re all going on a European Tour’.
Fans responded in full voice too, waving their inflatable trophies and singing: “Barcelona we’re coming for you.” Amid the uncontrolled bedlam and jubilation, those of an older generation simply stood their smiling, perhaps still struggling to believe just what has happened this season.
And they would be right to wonder, for at the start of the season Leicester were 5000/1 to be Premier League champions. To put that into context, at the same time you could have got odds of 2500/1 on Piers Morgan being the next Arsenal manager.
However talk of bookmakers and betting seemed to pale into insignificance as Wes Morgan lifted the trophy in front of a euphoric King Power Stadium and, if Bocelli’s performance had brought them close to tears before kick-off, this sight had fully-grown men weeping.
Ranieri too looked a little choked as fireworks went off and a cheer that must have registered on the Richter Scale reverberated around the ground.
The King Power was suddenly awash with confetti as Leicester finally had their hands on the Premier League trophy. The dream had become a reality.
“It’s the best feeling in the whole world,” said Leicester captain Wes Morgan after lifting the Premier League.
“It is just sinking in now — champions of England. To lift the trophy, in front of your own crowd, I can’t describe the feeling.
“Last night is probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had for the whole week. I think I have been so tired the whole week with everything going on that I passed out.”
After finally getting their hands on the Premier League trophy, the joy was clear to see on all of the Leicester players’ faces as they paraded around the King Power.
For Ranieri the emotion was there too but, as he had done throughout the day and entire season, the Italian kept his feelings in check.
“I am strange man,” said Ranieri. “When I think in my mind I say, ‘Claudio — calm, because now there are cameras wanting to see if you cry.’
“And then I say, ‘no, I stay there.’ But the emotion inside me was at the top. I’ve lost finals in England, Spain and Italy but for me to this this is something special. In my career I always thought sooner or later I’d win a title.”
On a euphoric day, the celebrations on the pitch even spilled into Ranieri’s press conference as he tried to explain his emotions to a packed media room.
Christian Fuchs and Kasper Schmeichel burst into the room, plonking the Premier League trophy on the table and showering the Italian in champagne to the extent he jokingly exclaimed: “Tomorrow, another training session!”
But while Ranieri may have been caught off guard then, there was no chance of his team being shocked by Everton.
In the build-up to the match he had warned the Leicester players that he would “kill them” if they spoiled the party by underperforming.
And clearly the Italian’s threat worked as within five minutes they were ahead after Jamie Vardy flicked home Andy King’s cross into the box.
Half an hour later, the lead was doubled as King went from provider to scorer in a moment which summed up Leicester’s story. The midfielder has been with the club since 2006, helping them win League One, the Championship and now the Premier League in that time.
Vardy went on to make it 3-0 after 65 minutes with a penalty and even the fact he missed another spot-kick moments failed to dampen the mood. Nor did Kevin Mirallas’ late strike minutes from the end, which came after the Belgian somehow weaved his way into the box before finishing with aplomb.
Indeed, nothing was going to spoil Leicester’s Premier League party — and what a party it turned out to be.
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2):
Schmeichel 6; Simpson 6, Wasilewski 6, Morgan 7, Fuchs 7; Mahrez 7 (90 Gray 5), Kante 7, King 8, Albrighton 6 (66 Schlupp 5); Okazaki 6 (60 Ulloa 6), Vardy 8.
Subs not used:
Schwarzer, Chilwell, Amartey, Inler.
Robles 4; Oviedo 5, Stones 5, Pennington 3, Baines 4; Cleverley 5 (62 Gibson 5), McCarthy 5; Lennon 6, Barkley 5 (80 Osman 5), Niasse 4 (62 Mirallas 7); Lukaku 5.
Subs not used:
Howard, Connolly, Besic, Dowell.
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