Claudio Ranieri was delighted with a draw that he claimed was "more important than one point" to Leicester after a hugely controversial game during which Jamie Vardy was sent off and Jon Moss, the referee, awarded two contentious penalties.
Vardy will be suspended for the home match against Swansea City next Sunday and there is the possibility that his ban could be extended if Moss, who endured a difficult afternoon, claims in his report that the striker was verbally abusive before leaving the pitch.
The England international was incensed that Moss showed him a second yellow card and accused him of diving when he tangled with Angelo Ogbonna in the penalty area in the 56th minute.
Vardy, who had given Leicester the lead with his 22nd Premier League goal of the season, made a comment in the direction of the referee after the red card was brandished, though it is unclear exactly what was said.
Down to 10 men, Leicester held out until the 84th minute, when Moss pointed to the spot after penalising Wes Morgan for pulling back West Ham's Winston Reid. Andy Carroll converted and two minutes later Aaron Cresswell added a second with a wonderful left-foot shot.
then saw a strong appeal for a penalty turned down when Ogbonna appeared to foul him, yet Moss did give a spot-kick in injury-time, when Carroll was judged to have bundled over
Leonardo Ulloa, with almost the last kick of the game, beat Adrian with his penalty to extend Leicester's lead over Tottenham Hotspur to eight points.
Slaven Bilic, West Ham's manager, said that Moss's late decision "put a shadow on one hell of a football game", and Carroll went a step further with criticism of the official that could land him in trouble with the Football Association.
“I think it was a poor decision,” he said. “I think he’s trying to even it up and I think a lot of people have said that. I mean, it is a bad decision, it is bad decisions he has given all game. When we had our penalty, Wes Morgan said: ‘He doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s been bad all game.’”
Bilic implied that the West Ham players felt that Vardy had taken a tumble in the area in the first major talking point of a remarkable game.
“I didn’t see that from where I was,” Bilic said. “It was a contact, of course, I didn’t see what he done. The guys are saying afterwards he dived and all that.”
Although Ranieri was keen to avoid criticising the referee, he defended Vardy and insisted he is not the sort of player to indulge in acts of simulation.
“He never dives. He’s always good,” the Leicester manager said. “He’s very fast and at this speed, if you touch even a little then . . . But it’s okay.
“I always speak with the players about our performance, and our performance was good. When we conceded the second goal my players wanted to draw and it was unbelievable, fantastic. Amazing. We showed this season everything is possible with the Foxes. We never hide. This is more important than one point. Psychologically it says, ‘We are there.’ ”
Ranieri was asked twice whether Vardy may have sworn at Moss following his dismissal. “Listen, I don’t want to speak about the referee, Vardy, the situation,” the Italian said.
“You watched the situation better than me. I want to stay calm and speak about football.”
Second-placed Tottenham Hotspur now have the chance to move within five points of Leicester with four games remaining when they take on Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium tonight.
“We are never worried,” Ranieri said. “We were worried at the beginning of the season to achieve 40 points. If we fight and we win it’s okay. If the other team – it can be Tottenham, Arsenal, I don’t know who – is better than us and win the title, well done. Because we are doing the maximum.”
The Tottenham manager, Mauricio Pochettino, says that his players ought to have statues made of them if they overhaul Leicester City. Guardian Service