Leicester City fell by a score of 3-2 to West Ham in London on Sunday morning. A first-half Jesse Lingard brace and an early second half goal by Jarrod Bowen gave Leicester a huge hill to climb. A late Kelechi Iheanacho brace gave the Foxes hope, but hope is all they were able to salvage from a deeply disappointing defeat.
Exciting end to the game and #LCFC could well have nicked a point but the damage had already been done, long before kick-off.— James Sharpe (@TheSharpeEnd) April 11, 2021
The size of this game, the cloud of last season’s collapse, the constant messaging to stay at home. And this happens.
Rodgers must be raging.
I would be very disappointed if he were not.
Manager Brendan Rodgers deployed his troops in what is currently his preferred 3-4-1-2 formation. Kasper Schmeichel was in goal with a back three of Daniel Amartey, Jonny Evans, and Wesley Fofana. Timothy Castagne and Ricardo Pereira manned the wings on either side of the central partnership of Youri Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi. Dennis Praet returned to the starting lineup in the hole behind strikers Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho. Absent from the squad were Hamza Choudhury, James Maddison, and Ayoze Perez. The reason for their absence was unknown at match time, although you wouldn’t know it from the rumors swirling around social media. During the match, the club announced that their absence was due to breaking COVID protocol.
The opening ten minutes were a scrappy mess, marked more by fouls than football as both sides tried to press in their opponents’ half. Referee Mike Dean was the busiest man on the pitch, with his whistle getting a real workout and the yellow card making an early appearance after a Tomáš Souček foul on Youri Tielemans.
To be perfectly honest, the next quarter hour was almost devoid of incidents. West Ham had no shots, on-target or otherwise, while the Foxes had three utterly innocuous efforts. It was, therefore, inevitable that the hosts would score with their first shot. A cross in the from the left evaded Jarrod Bowen but fell to Vladimir Coufal on the opposite wing. He pulled it back for Jesse Lingard, who curled it inside the post and left Schmeichel rooted to the spot.
The match almost immediately went back to its dull routine again, with both sides looking like disinterested gladiators armed with damp Nerf swords. This must be something David Moyes teaches, because the Leicester defense went to sleep again and were duly punished. A ball over the top took out the entire back line. Bowen ran on to it while Schmeichel decided far to late to come out for it. The former Hull City man squared it for an unmarked Lingard, who just tapped it into the open net to double the lead and give the Hammers a commanding halftime lead.
Rodgers made one change at the half, introducing Luke Thomas for Daniel Amartey and perhaps switching to a back four with Castagne moving to the right. To say that it failed to pay immediate dividends would be an understatement. Two minutes into the half, Ndidi turned the ball over in midfield and three passes later the ball was at Bowen’s feet six yards out. He tapped it past Schmeichel, giving the Hammers three goals from three shots.
The Hammers had the ball in the back of the net again just a few minutes later when Issa Diop head in a short cross. The linesman missed it, but Diop was well offside and VAR made the right call. At the other end, the Foxes made their first threatening attack of the match, with Ricardo just failing to get on the end of a ball rolled across the face of the goal.
The second change saw Praet come off and Marc Albrighton changing the formation to...honestly, we may have still been in the same shape, but it was increasingly difficult to be sure. The Foxes were the only side trying to score at this point, but the gap between “trying” and “doing” was vast.
It was therefore a pleasant surprise, but a surprise nonetheless, when Arthur Masuaku gifted the ball to Iheanacho in the D. The Nigeria man turned on to his favored left foot and smashed the ball past Lukasz Fabianski, giving the Foxes a lifeline.
It was very nearly a second for the Foxes on 80’. An absolutely perfect through ball found Ricardo moving across the face of goal. Fabianski dove and got the ball and may have just taken the Portugal fullback. It was tight, but cue the choruses of “You’ve seen them given.”
In the first minute of stoppage time, a cheap giveaway by substitute Saïd Benrahma gave the Foxes a chance to break. Albrighton sent a low cross into the area that was deflected back to Iheanacho. The former Manchester City striker somehow managed to get a shot off between two defenders and cut the deficit to a single goal. Would there be enough time to find an equalizer?
No, but not for lack of trying. Ricardo was perhaps too honest when Masuaku left a foot in. Instead of hitting the deck, the Portugal man stayed up and won a corner. It went long to Thomas, who pumped it back into the box but it was glanced just wide by Fofana and the whistle blew.
Well, that was awful. A wonder goal from West Ham’s first attack of the match seemed to rob Leicester of all belief. Two really poor defensive errors turned a one goal deficit into three, and that was simply too much of a hill to climb. It was a strange match in that the statistics will make it look like Leicester dominated, the scoreline will make West Ham look like a free-scoring attacking side, and neither really accurately described the match. The Hammers offered next to nothing in attack, but scored with three of their four shots.
Never in my life did I expect to see a game in 2021 where Lingard, Iheanacho and Albrighton were the best players on the pitch— George (@lcfcgeorgee) April 11, 2021
We live in disturbingly strange time, George.
The defeat leaves us on 56 from 31 matches. That’s good enough for third on the table, but with only a single point advantage over West Ham and two over Chelsea. These last seven matches are going to be a bit nervy, huh? Next up, we face Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final a week from today. We return to League play on the Thursday the 22nd, hosting West Bromich Albion in the first of what will surely be a parade of “must-win” matches.