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Match Report: Leicester City 0 - 3 West Ham United

It’s tough to score without a shot on goal

Leicester City v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Leicester City lost to West Ham United 3-0 in the early match on Sunday. The Hammers took a 2-0 lead at the half through goals by Michail Antonio and Pablo Fornals. Jarrod Bowen added a third in the second half as the Foxes lost their 100% record to start the 2020 campaign.

When the tears dry, I’m sure I’ll find this funny.

Brendan Rodgers made one change to the starting XI that put five past Manchester City last week due to an injury to Dennis Praet. Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back five of Timothy Castagne, Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and James Justin. The midfield featured Ayoze Perez, Nampalys Mendy, Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy lined up as the lone striker. Neither Praet nor James Maddison were deemed healthy enough to make the bench, but there was room for new signings Wesley Fofana and Cengiz Ünder along with Danny Ward, Christian Fuchs, Hamza Choudhury, Marc Albrighton, and Kelechi Iheanacho.

Neither side did much of note in the opening ten minutes. You might expect two sides with five at the back to be difficult to break down and you’d be right to do so. The Foxes were trying to make runs behind defense through Barnes and Vardy, but the space just wasn’t there. The Hammers were looking to get the ball down the pitch quickly but, outside of an occasional Jarrod Bowen foray forward, but both keepers remained largely spectators.

It took thirteen minutes for either side to carve out a chance, and it was the visitors who took the lead slightly against the run of play. Michail Antonio won a free kick against Söyüncü just inside the Leicester half. He restarted play quickly, spraying out left to Aaron Creswell. The centre-half launched a cross towards the far post where Antonio was almost completely unmarked. The finish was inevitable, calmly nodded across Schmeichel’s goal and into the back of the net.

The list of “strikers who can out-muscle Cags” is short. Antonio’s at the top of it.
Photo by ALEX PANTLING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The next fifteen minutes saw City attempt all manner of direct passes, approximately none of which came off. The Hammers defense were dealing easily with everything Leicester threw at them. It was again against the run of play when United doubled their lead. A speculative, looping ball from Cresswell was tracked by precisely no one in blue, allowing Pablo Fornals to bring the ball down unopposed and run at Schmeichel. The former Villarreal man kept his cool and smashed it low and inside the near post for a second goal.

Leicester City v West Ham United - Premier League
This image fails to capture just how much ground Söyüncü had to make up here. That guy on the steps in the background is closer than any defender was when Fornals received the ball.
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

No more of this “against the run of play” business for the rest of the half, as the Hammers were well on the front foot and threatening to put the game beyond reach every time down the pitch. Bowen, Fornals, and Antonio were menacing the Leicester back on a regular basis. The half ended the way many of our more forgettable halves have, with the Foxes in possession and passing the ball backwards as the time wound down and the whistle blew.

Quite a lot to do in the second half, then.

The Foxes matched their first half shot total inside the first minute of the second period. Justin’s through ball found Vardy, but the former England man couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. The defense recovered enough to get the ball back to Lukasz Fabianski. The former Arsenal keeper cleared the ball as far as Barnes, who miscued his volley and sent it wide with the goalmouth beckoning.

On 52’, Evans was rightly booked for a thunderous late challenge that felled Antonio. While the Hammers’ striker was quickly up, Amartey picked up a knock in the build up and was unable to carry on. Rodgers first change was to hand Ünder his debut with Castagne moving to a traditional right back role.

The game was opening up and Rodgers threw on Iheanacho for Ayoze. The Foxes were still looking for their first attempt on goal when the Hammers almost added a third. Declan Rice picked up ball in his own half and drove through the Leicester half. With Mendy unable to catch him to make a challenge, he just kept going and fired in a shot that beat Schmeichel but came off the bottom of the crossbar.

The third was coming though, and it was another one where you’d have expected the defense to react more quickly. Rice won the ball deep in his own half and launched the attack. Bowen made his run on the right and Tielemans couldn’t decide whether to follow the run or try to play offside. In the end, he did neither and Bowen was allowed to take on Schmeichel one-on-one. The Danish stopped could do nothing about the low shot and it was game over.

Marking? MARKING? We don’t need no stinking marking. Wait, no, that doesn’t seem right.
Photo by ALEX PANTLING/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rodgers made his third change, introducing Choudhury for Mendy. Leicester had their first chance of the match in the 90th minute as Iheahancho found Vardy’s run behind the defense. The Golden Boot winner was through on goal and did well to lift the ball over Fabianaski, but his chip was just wide.

Leicester thought they’d scored with their first shot on goal of the afternoon. A marvelous team move saw Justin get the ball to Barnes. He tapped it to Iheanacho who slid it back to Barnes, who then touched it to Vardy, who returned it again to Barnes, who slammed it home at the near post. VAR wasn’t having it, as Vardy was adjusted to have been just offside. So, no consolation for the Foxes, but with no shots on goal for the entire match, it would be difficult to argue that one was deserved.

Leicester City v West Ham United - Premier League
It seems harsh to chalk off a goal this well-worked just because VAR was “right” and Vards was “offside.”
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Saying that all three West Ham goals were due to defensive errors is both true and unfair to the Hammers as they deserved the comfortable three points today. I imagine Pep Guardiola enjoyed this one as we were well hoisted upon our own petard. The visitors were incredibly well organized at the back, making a mockery of the Foxes’ huge advantage in possession, and they took their chances well. City did their part as well, trying to force the ball through the eye-of-the-needle gaps in the defense and failing time and again.

The “Ship of Theseus” thought experiment comes to mind.

The defeat today means Leicester drop to second on the table with 9 points from 4 matches. The international break is up next, with Harvey Barnes receiving his first England call-up. After that, we host Aston Villa in a rare Saturday match on 17 October. Then, we start our European adventures hosting Zorya Luhansk in Group G action on the 22nd.