Vardy the hero and villain in Leicester's draw, says Neil Humphreys
Vardy's stupid red card forces Foxes' late, late recovery
LEICESTER CITY 2
(Jamie Vardy 18, Leonardo Ulloa 90+5-pen)
WEST HAM 2
(Andy Carroll 84-pen, Aaron Cresswell 86)
Jamie Vardy thought he saw his name in headlines, but it was a hangman's noose.
And he hanged himself.
The Leicester City striker had already scored one when an adrenalin rush took him past Angelo Ogbonna. A rush of blood sent him to purgatory. He dived.
There was contact, but not enough. Vardy exaggerated the fall. He tried to con the referee. The second yellow card was warranted.
Vardy's one-match ban now means he misses next Sunday's home game against Swansea City, perhaps the least challenging of the Foxes' remaining fixtures.
But his lack of discipline left a stain on yet another surreal Leicester contest that once again inspired and confused in equal measure last night.
Leicester shouldn't be doing this stuff with 11 men, but to snatch a 2-2 draw against West Ham with 10 hardy heroes was ridiculous.
Leicester's Hollywood story is proving so intoxicating that Vardy felt obliged to add a dramatic twist to the third act.
Somewhere, in a Los Angeles office, a producer is rubbing his hands at the box office potential of the Vardy movie that is being made right now.
From first minute to last, this was edge-of your-seat, pee-in-your-pants stuff.
The match exploded into life with an extraordinary save and double- post farce to deny the visitors in the second minute.
Cheikhou Kouyate headed Dimitri Payet's free-kick goalwards and Kasper Schmeichel played Inspector Gadget to push the effort onto the post.
The ball spun across the goal-line and bounced off the other post and into Schmeichel's arms.
If ever a incident suggested Leicester's name was on the trophy, it was this tale of two posts.
Rather than rely on the superstitious, the Foxes went ahead with a goal that came, as always, against the run of play in the 18th minute.
Payet's set-piece ended in the arms of Schmeichel, who then displayed the arms of an orang utan to find Riyad Mahrez on the halfway line.
Mahrez pivoted and released N'Golo Kante, whose angled pass reached the Foxes' thoroughbred.
Vardy galloped away from the also-rans to thump a low drive past Adrian.
Four swift, decisive moves from Leicester's fantastic four and it was all over in a little more than four seconds.
The English Premier League has never been blessed with such a side.
The Foxes are filled with solid rather than spectacular performers who have inexplicably managed to play at the peak of their performance, hitting the ceiling of their talents every weekend to close in on the title.
Every instinct screams at the absurdity of the situation. Every rational thought expects a slip, a fall and a decline.
West Ham maanger Slaven Bilic certainly did, bringing on Andy Carroll for the second half.
But Leicester's defensive blockade held firm, until Vardy's brain ran away from him. When he dashed towards goal with Ogbonna for company in the 56th minute, he looked to have the beating of the West Ham defender.
But Vardy did something that he didn't do for his goal. He took the easy option and hit the turf. It was disastrous.
But if referee Jon Moss got the Vardy red card right, his decision to award West Ham a penalty in in the 84th minute was dreadful.
Wes Morgan had his arms around Winston Reid in the box, but it was hardly a rugby tackle.
Carroll put away the subsequent spot-kick and Leicester, after conceding their first goal in almost 10 hours, suddenly looked edgy.
When Aaron Cresswell then smashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner from 20 metres to give the Hammers an unexpected lead in the 86th minute, Leicester looked distraught.
Their furious fans screamed: "Two-one to the referee."
But the drama wasn't done and nor was referee Moss. As the clock ticked past the 94th minute, Carroll nudged Jeffrey Schlupp in the box and Moss made another terrible decision, this time in Leicester's favour, perhaps to balance the books.
Substitute Leonardo Ulloa buried the spot-kick to stretch Leicester's lead to eight points. Suddenly, a draw felt like a victory.
Vardy had thrown a spanner in the works when he threw himself to the floor.
But his teammates - and the referee - earned him a late reprieve.
The Vardy movie promises to be interesting, but it couldn't possibly be as riveting as what's happening right now.
"The sending-off changed our match. 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 manager Claudio Ranieri, refusing to condemn Jonathan Moss after the referee sends off Jamie Vardy for diving and gives West Ham a controversial penalty
"There were some dodgy decisions. Take your pick."
— West Ham’s Winston Reid, who was fouled by Wes Morgan for the Hammers’ penalty
- Bournemouth 1 Liverpool 2
- Arsenal 1 Crystal Palace 1
BY THE NUMBERS
9: Leicester have won scored nine of 11 penalties awarded to them this season.