Leicester Outfoxed by Hammers
Sunday’s match in Stratford saw West Ham United beat Leicester City 3-2 to move back into the top four and also maintain their excellent home record by inflicting a rare away defeat on Brendan Rodgers’ side.
One change was made from the team that faced Wolverhampton Wanderers on Easter Monday, as Michail Antonio was once again missing from the starting line-up due to more problems with his hamstring, meaning that Jarrod Bowen was on hand to take his place. Mark Noble made his 400th appearance in the Premier League for West Ham, while Bowen’s inclusion meant that youngster Connor Coventry was included in the matchday squad.
Despite picking up minor injuries towards the end of the game at Molineux last time out, both Tomáš Souček and Jesse Lingard were fit enough to play.
A win for the Hammers would move them to just one point behind Leicester. Given the fact that the Foxes had been defeated by Manchester City in their last game, they were keen to atone for that setback and started on the front foot here. Kelechi Iheanacho kept Łukasz Fabiański on his toes as he tried to put the visitors ahead. Fortunately for the home side though, the striker’s shot was straight at the Pole.
Iheanacho wasn’t going to let that stop him as he took advantage of a miscued header from Aaron Cresswell minutes later but this time, he sent his effort wide.
This was a key game for the Hammers which they needed to get a result from and they had a great chance to take the lead with sixteen minutes gone. Craig Dawson met Cresswell’s corner, Souček nearly nipped in to gain possession ahead of visiting goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel but he couldn’t quite get there.
Another opportunity went the way of the hosts just two minutes later when Bowen was on the end of Arthur Masuaku’s cross but unfortunately, he was unable to make a good enough connection to the ball.
As expected in this game, given the positions of the two sides in the table, it was end to end when Fabianski prevented Jamie Vardy from opening the scoring.
The Irons, who hadn’t won at home since the 2-0 victory against newly-promoted Leeds United on March 8 were in front on twenty nine minutes. Lingard produced an unstoppable shot to put his team ahead against Arsenal last month and he did the same again here, leaving Schmeichel helpless.
Rodgers’ men nearly found an equaliser seven minutes later but Dawson managed to get a crucial intervention in on Iheanacho’s latest attempt.
After that chance had been missed, West Ham wasted an opportunity to increase their advantage. They marauded forward and Vladimír Coufal could have gone for goal himself but instead tried to set up Lingard for his second of the game but the Manchester United loanee couldn’t reach the ball, allowing Leicester to breathe again.
The East Londoners didn’t have long to dwell on things however, as they scored again just minutes later. A superb ball from Issa Diop found Bowen in space, he in turn gave Lingard an unmissable opportunity and he didn’t disappoint, knocking the ball home past Schmeichel.
The Hammers were glad to be ahead when referee Mike Dean blew the half-time whistle but they were expecting their opponents to pose more of a challenge after the break.
Instead of what the home side thought might happen, Moyes saw his side continue their domination. Just three minutes had passed when the East Londoners had found another goal. Both Lingard and Bowen had been on the scoresheet against Nuno Espírito Santo’s men and the same pairing were in on the act again here. This time, Bowen hit the back of the net following contributions from the on loan winger, along with Souček.
Cresswell appeared to have some trouble with his hamstring and although he tried to see if he could play through the pain, his participation in the match was ended on fifty three minutes and Moyes was forced to replace him with Fabián Balbuena.
Diop thought he had made the scoreline more comfortable for his side but a VAR check unfortunately ruled it out.
Fortunately for the hosts, it looked as if the visitors clearly had one eye on next weekend’s FA Cup semi-final against Southampton at Wembley. This was emphasised when Wilfred Ndidi shot wildly over the bar when in a good position just after the hour mark.
Iheanacho had so far been unsuccessful with his shots at goal but on seventy minutes, he managed to find a way past Fabianski following a terrible mistake from Masuaku.
The goal seemed to rekindle Leicester’s belief and only a fantastic block from Noble denied Ndidi a chance to reduce the arrears further.
That intervention came at a cost for the club Captain though, as his landmark appearance came to an early end when he had to come off, meaning that Ben Johnson filled in for the last nine minutes of normal time.
Moyes used his final substitution just three minutes later, as Saïd Benrahma entered the fray for Bowen.
The fourth official then signalled that six minutes of stoppage time would be played. In recent games West Ham have been in comfortable positions but have somehow made life hard for themselves. It was a nervy finish again when Iheanacho beat Fabianski in the first of the added minutes.
In the last seconds of the encounter, Wesley Fofana went ever so close to producing an Arsenal-style comeback but thankfully, his header ended up going wide.
Moyes’ side will hopefully keep things simple and make sure of another three points when they make the trip to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United in Saturday’s early kick-off.