CLAUDIO RANIERI, the Leicester City manager, admits emotional scenes at the end of his side’s fifth straight win were inspired by the supporters who are sharing his most unlikely dream of a triumph in the Barclays Premier League.

The Italian coach appeared to shed a tear on the pitch after seeing two second half goals from Jamie Vardy earn a 2-0 win at Sunderland and keep the Foxes seven points clear of Tottenham Hotspur with just five matches to play.

This was not an outpouring of relief or joy, mind you. It was not even a sense of pride over securing a place in next season’s Champions League. Instead, as he revealed post-match, it was down to one particular little scene, witnessed as the team coach arrived on Wearside, that moved him deeply.

“It's fantastic when you see a lot of old ladies with Leicester shirts outside the stadium before the match,” he stated. “I said: 'Unbelievable, they came from Leicester to support us'.

“That is emotional, that is fantastic, that is football.

“I do this job for the emotions I feel inside.

"I want, through you, to say thank you for the support. It's unbelievable. They are amazing. They are dreaming and we want to continue to dream, but, to do this, we must be focused.

“The Champions League is on the table and we have to keep going. We have not achieved anything yet, though, and we need to stay calm.”

Asked if it was difficult to hear people saying the title is already theirs, Ranieri replied: "No, no, no. They can continue to say it, but it's important our focus, our concentration, is on the next match.

“I said this to the players: 'Well done, we won today, but now we have two matches’.

“The first against West Ham is a very, very difficult match because West Ham are a fantastic team with good players and everything right.

“After that, there is Swansea, another difficult match. Now we are happy, but from tomorrow, be focused'.

"Every time I speak to them, it is: 'Next match, next match'. I don't want to see more than the next match."

There was a clear degree of relief within Ranieri after the final whistle, mind you. The team is one match closer to the title, of course, but Vardy getting back into scoring form after six matches without a goal was a major bonus for him too.

“It was important,” said Ranieri. “He had made some good assists in our recent matches, but he is our goalscorer and he needed to score again.

“I am very happy with him.”

Leicester got their noses in front when Vardy ran on to Danny Drinkwater's 66th-minute pass to beat goalkeeper Vito Mannone before out-muscling Patrick van Aanholt off the ball to double the lead in stoppage time.

Sam Allardyce, the Sunderland manager, had little other than praise for Ranieri’s side as the dust settled. He admits to being a huge admirer of the way they have gone about their task this season.

"Leicester are unique in the fact that they don't have to be pretty, they don't have to play a certain way,” said Allardyce. “The way that they're playing is so good, their fans love it, whereas fans at bigger clubs might moan about them playing 'not the right type of football'.

"It's terrific for them. Each and every player is playing better and more consistently than they have ever done in their life.

“That's the beauty of it, but it's not just two or three or four. It's all of them. They don't seem to put a foot wrong, so good luck to them."

By contrast, Sunderland face an ever more desperate battle for survival with Saturday's trip to Norwich City looking increasingly pivotal.

"Don't lose at Norwich, don't lose,” was Allardyce’s reply when asked how he views the situation.

“They are seven points clear if we lose with five games to go. It still wouldn't be mathematically certain, but it starts heaping too much pressure on.

"We'll try to win, but make sure you don't lose because, don't forget, we have still got a game in hand."

The home side might have emerged with something to show for their efforts had substitute Jack Rodwell not blazed over eight minutes from time, but once again, they failed to make the most of their opportunities.

"The turning point was Jack Rodwell's miss, which is becoming one of our problems now, converting chances and here we are, lost the game, tried our very best playing against the top of the league,” said Allardyce.

"We weren't quite good enough and they punished us by waiting and pouncing on the opportunity brilliantly."