Proud Ranieri rues refereeing decisions as Leicester falter
By Alistair Smout
LONDON (Reuters) - Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri said he was angry with the referee after his league leaders slipped to a heartbreaking stoppage-time loss against title rivals Arsenal having played most of the second half with 10 men.
Having taken the lead and fashioned the clearest scoring chances in a pulsating first half, two quick bookings for fullback Danny Simpson shortly after the restart turned the tide of the game.
Arsenal's Theo Walcott cancelled out Jamie Vardy's opener on 70 minutes and Danny Welbeck snatched a last-gasp winner.
"If I think about the match I am very, very angry. An international referee gives two yellow cards for normal fouls," said Ranieri, who added that the winning goal came after the allotted stoppage time had been played.
"But it's ok, it doesn't matter. We continue to fight."
Ranieri has sought to play down Leicester's title chances in a remarkable season. With only a dozen games to go, a team that many tipped for relegation sit at the top of the table.
Leicester remain two points clear of Arsenal following the defeat, and have emerged from a tough string of games against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal with six points from a possible nine.
"We don't think about the title, we think about our performance," Ranieri said.
"I am very proud about my players. They showed a fantastic performance. They showed the same performance... to Manchester City. Then we won, today we lost, but there isn't a difference (in the performance)," added the Italian, who said he would have settled for a point from each game.
It seemed likely Leicester would conjure another superb victory after an impressive first half display in which they took the lead shortly before halftime after top-scorer Vardy won and scored a penalty.
The game turned early in the second half, when Simpson picked up two yellow cards within five minutes. The first was for a late tackle on Alexis Sanchez and the second was for a tug on Olivier Giroud's shirt.
Arsenal then threw caution to the wind in pursuit of victory, piling on the pressure and pegging Leicester back in their own half.
Ranieri said the decision to send off Simpson changed the game and forced him to make changes to solidify the team at the expense of the enterprising counter-attacking play that has characterised their season.
"I lost a chance to score again. For this reason I am very angry. Eleven against eleven, I can tell you now, we can score a second goal," Ranieri said.
(Editing by Toby Davis)