West Ham suffer home defeat to champions Leicester City
PUBLISHED: 17:07 18 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 18 March 2017
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers were left to rue conceding two early goals as they couldn't come back against Leicester
West Ham United 2 Leicester City 3
The Hammers slumped to a third-successive defeat against the champions at London Stadium, where they paid a heavy price for a calamitous opening seven-minute performance.
With Leicester City boss Craig Shakespeare in the opposite dug-out, his counterpart Slaven Bilić could only helplessly look on as a comedy of errors unfolded in the West Ham penalty area, where Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth profited to send the visitors into a quick-fire, two-goal lead.
And although Manuel Lanzini pulled one back with a fantastic free-kick, midway through the first-half, Jamie Vardy struck just before the break to put the Foxes firmly in control at the interval, before André Ayew’s second-half header set up an exciting, albeit fruitless final half-hour for the Hammers.
Any East End hopes that Leicester had over-exerted themselves in seeing off Sevilla to reach the Champions League quarter-finals in midweek were quickly dispelled as the visitors raced into a two-goal lead inside those opening seven minutes.
The Foxes had made only one enforced change from the side that had sunk the Spaniards with Yohan Benalouane coming in for the injured Wes Morgan (back) and, although they may be focused on another Spanish conquest against Atletico Madrid in the last eight, they soon had West Ham languishing on the rocks, too.
With just five minutes on the clock, Mahrez whipped over a right-wing cross that eluded Vardy’s scalp before curling beyond the groping Darren Randolph and inside the far post to take his tally to 11 for the campaign.
Then, two minutes later, Mahrez rolled the ball along the 18-yard line to Marc Albrighton, who chipped the ball forward to the unmarked Huth and the German powerhouse sent an unstoppable header past the helplessly exposed Hammers keeper to bag his first goal of the season.
Back-to-back defeats against Chelsea and Bournemouth had seen the Hammers kick-off in 11th spot, four places and six points ahead of last season’s champions.
And following last Saturday’s loss on the south coast, West Ham made two changes as Ayew and Sam Byram came in for injured Mark Noble (thigh) and substitute, Sofiane Feghouli.
As well as finding his side two goals adrift, the beleaguered Bilić then saw skipper Winston Reid go lame as he galloped alongside Vardy in an attempt to head off another Foxes foray forward.
Robert Snodgrass was summoned from the bench and, within three minutes of his arrival, the Hammers halved the deficit, when Wilfred Ndidi hauled down Michail Antonio as he raced towards the Leicester penalty area.
That was the perfect cue for Lanzini to curl a precision 20-yard free-kick over the Foxes wall and under the right-hand angle of the flat-footed Kasper Schmeichel to claim his 10th goal of the season.
Buoyed by that stunning strike both Ayew and Lanzini threatened a leveller but just as West Ham looked like they could be about to get back in terms, the visitors struck, once more.
On 37 minutes, Mahrez sent over a right-wing corner that landed at the feet of Ndidi in the danger zone and, although the Nigerian could not convert, Vardy proved the Fox in the box as he drilled the loose ball into the roof of the net from six-yards to both make it double-figures for the season and leave West Ham with a second half mountain to climb.
Just after the restart, Vardy could have ended the contest but his angled chip cleared both Randolph and the bar, while Danny Drinkwater was booked for a crude lunge on Cheikhou Kouyaté.
As the hour-mark came, Lanzini let fly with another fine free-kick, which the soaring Schmeichel tipped around his right-hand upright to leave the Argentinian looking into the Stratford sky in disbelief.
Undeterred, he fired the consequent corner towards the far post, where Andy Carroll nodded the ball back into the six-yard box and that enabled Ayew to send a thumping header through Schmeichel’s clutches, giving the Hammers another life-line with his third goal in four outings.
Worryingly, Pedro Obiang was stretchered off following a juddering collision with Mahrez that saw Edimilson Fernandes step from the bench and, shortly afterwards, Arthur Masuaku replaced Aaron Cresswell.
City made a double switch of their own as Islam Slimani and Ahmed Musa came on for Shinji Okazaki and Vardy and, by now, it was West Ham who were well in the ascendency as they went in search of a late leveller.
With ten minutes remaining, Carroll’s downward header was brilliantly beaten out by Schmeichel and, moments later, Ayew got behind the pushed-up Leicester rearguard but with the whites of the ‘keeper’s eyes in his sights, he somehow blasted high over the top to the dismay of everyone claret and blue in the reported crowd of 56,979.
Kouyaté also had a point-blank effort saved, while Carroll’s 18-yarder flew through a pack of bodies into Schmeichel’s gloves and with Leicester backs firmly to the wall, Mahrez was replaced by defender Ben Chilwell.
With six added minutes awarded by referee Roger East, Carroll saw another point-blank shot miraculously beaten away by Schmeichel after Snodgrass’ late free-kick ricocheted into his path but in the end the Hammers simply ran out of time to put right those first half wrongs.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Byram, Cresswell (Masuaku 72), Reid (Snodgrass 17), Fonte, Kouyaté, Obiang (Fernandes 66), Antonio, Lanzini, Carroll. Unused subs: Adrián, Nordtveit, Feghouli, Collins, Masuaku.
FOXES: Schmeichel, Simpson, Fuchs, Huth, Benalouane, Drinkwater, Albrighton, Ndidi, Mahrez (Chilwell 84), Okazaki (Musa 75), Vardy (Slimani 75). Unused subs: Zieler, Chilwell, King, Amartey, Gray.
Bookings: Drinkwater (55)
Referee: Roger East