Photo courtesy of Matt Teagle: View from the stadium as players in action
By Ben Sanderson
It was written in the Daily Mailafter the 2-1 defeat suffered at Burnley that Brendan Rodgers’ honeymoon period as Leicester manager was finally over.
After a streak of imperious form that had seen Leicester enjoy an 8-game winning run, Jamie Vardy have arguably the best spell in front of goal in his career (which sees him still lead the Premier League’s scoring charts) and victories against Tottenham and Arsenal – a season ago “top six” clubs Leicester could not compete with – making a statement about where Leicester were heading, the Foxes were finally brought back down to Earth after losing to two bottom-half teams.
Leicester are back, though, and in a big way, after sweeping West Ham United aside 4-1 at the King Power Stadium.
Harvey Barnes opened the scoring for the second game in a row, tapping into the net from close range to finish a clever move started by James Maddison after being squared the ball by Ricardo Pereira on 23 minutes.
Pereira turned from provider to scorer and Barnes from scorer to provider for Leicester’s second, after Barnes was left to get the ball by offside Wilfred Ndidi and crossed to Pereira who thumped the ball into the right-hand bottom corner, in the last action of the first-half.
A tame punch from Kasper Schmeichel, who for a second game in a row showed poor command of his box, after a West Ham free-kick resulted in a crazy break-out from a free-kick huddle.
It did not take much for Sebastien Haller to go down after Ndidi nudged him but it was enough for referee David Coote to award a spot-kick (affirmed by the ever-controversial VAR) which Mark Noble sent down the middle for West Ham’s consolation goal in the 50th minute.
Leicester scored a penalty of their own in the 80th minute after substitute Kelechi Iheanacho was brought down by Andrea Ogbonna, and Ayoze Pérez, taking the penalty due to Vardy coming off injured, firing the ball into the left-hand side of the back of the net and sending goalkeeper Darren Randolph the wrong way.
Pérez was on the scoresheet again two minutes from the end of normal time, curling an effort into the left-hand bottom corner of the goal after receiving the ball from a blocked Iheanacho in a move organised again by Maddison.
A drab first-half was characterised by two injuries to Leicester, as both Papy Mendy and Vardy were injured in a half Leicester made as many substitutions in as they scored goals.
Mendy went off after holding his knee in agony following a collision with Haller in the 34th minute.
Vardy went off ten minutes later, after trying to carry on in the face of what seemed to be a hamstring injury but being forced by it to go off.
This has provoked fears Leicester have lost their talisman for a few games at least, which manager Rodgers has, according to Sky Sports, played down.
The play was as dull as the stoppages in the first-half, as, goals aside, there was little for either goalkeeper to do.
Snodgrass shot marginally over on 15 minutes and Barnes went on a very promising run near the end of the half which resulted in a fabulous challenge from Aaron Cresswell to stop Barnes in his tracks, in an otherwise stagnant first 45 minutes.
The second half saw West Ham come alive after Noble’s penalty, with Cresswell crossing to Antonio for a golden opportunity to equalise, which Schmeichel managed to gather.
During the last 20 minutes, however, Leicester seized total control of the game.
Pérez had a curling shot saved by Randolph, who was on his feet to go to his left and palm that away, and the Spaniard was at it again not long after providing a shot for Barnes which was deflected wide by Diop, who earlier blocked a shot from Iheanacho.
Maddison, whose orchestration of Leicester seemed to give Leicester’s maestro control of the entire game, tried his luck from distance and would have scored one of the goals of the season had his shot hit the roof of the net, but Randolph managed a good fingertip save.
In between Pérez’s first and second goals, Ben Chilwell had a shot from a great position easily saved by Randolph.
A Barnes tap-in, a Pérez penalty, and curling efforts from Pérez and Pereira were enough for Leicester to emphatically take all three points in a game they dominated, taking 13 shots more than West Ham and having 68% of possession.
West Ham drop to 17th and look once again to fall disastrously short of expectations set by the money spent and players signed by the Hammers’ board.
Their cushion in the UEFA Champions League places has increased as well, and they are now fourteen points clear of Manchester United in 5th and eight clear of Chelsea in 4th, who drew with Arsenal, as the chances of another shot at European glory become ever more promising for the Foxes.