Premier League
West Ham United 2 Leicester City 2

Saturday, 20th April 2019
by Chris Wilkerson

The curse of the Premier League official struck West Ham again this weekend as Carpet Day was ruined by errant offside flags and a stoppage time equaliser.

With the Hammers 2-1 ahead, Lucas Perez has s perfectly good goal ruled out for offside. Moments later, Harvey Barnes was slid into the area and beat Fabianski to share the spoils at the London Stadium.

It was a scoreline that did little to reflect the tedium of two thirds of this game, one that came to life when Leicester scored.

Manuel Pellegrini was forced into two changes, with Lanzini not recovered from his injury in Manchester last weekend, whilst Hernandez was off with an issue with his ear. They were replaced by Antonio and Arnautovic, keeping the side in the more comfortable 4-1-4-1 shape.

West Ham took ahold of the first half, controlling the ball and much of the tempo. To their credit, Leicester seemed somewhat comfortable with the role they?EUR(TM)d play, looking to counter with pace.

In reality, it led to a rather stifled first 45 minutes, with maybe both sides unable to tear their focus away from the carpet.

Maybe this was midtable mediocrity playing out in front of our eyes, but with a place in the top half to play for, it needed to matter or the season really would end as just a bad memory.

Yet for half an hour, the sideshow of how much Leicester could throw Antonio around without punishment was largely all that seemed to happen. Neither goalkeeper was unduly threatened, neither team seemed to have much ingenuity in their approach.

But Antonio was beginning to threaten, clearly unsettling the Leicester backline. Chilwell was struggling to deal with his strength and direct wing play.

Yet it was in the penalty area where he changed the game.

First he missed an opportunity when a fantastic Arnautovic volleyed cross struck torso more than anything else as Antonio lunged at it without sorting out his body.

Not long after, it was the chest he used as he tried to redirect an Anderson shot, but this one fell harmlessly wide.

Finally, more conventional methods led to far better results.

After a lovely one-two between Noble and Snodgrass down the left, the captain produced a lovely cross, maybe his best ever touch with his left foot, which swung away from goal and was met by the head of Antonio.

Having bullied Chilwell throughout the half, the rug was pulled underneath the left back as Antonio got ahead of him and powered a quite fantastic header to the left of Schmeichel and into the back of the net.

It was classic Antonio, the kind of goal he scored at his peak. 15 of his 25 Premier League goals have been with his head, and he?EUR(TM)s been under-utilised in the air this season.

It gave West Ham a deserved lead going into half time. Whilst they hadn?EUR(TM)t created a lot of chances, they had controlled the game and done more to threaten than a rather passive Leicester.

Leicester hadn?EUR(TM)t won in the league when trailing at half time in 42 games, since 2015, but West Ham are West Ham, so little confidence could be gained from that.

Instead, nothing happened for 20 minutes.

And when it did, it really felt a jolt out of the blue. With the game drifting, Leicester pounced.

Chilwell got enough space on the left to cross, and Balbuena switched off for a fraction of a second. Where the defender did, Vardy didn?EUR(TM)t - springing ahead of him to poke the ball towards goal and beyond Fabianski.

It sparked the game to life, and it was very much allowed to flow by a referee who cared little for his whistle.

Almost a minute later, a good cross from Antonio was not pounced upon by Arnautovic, and maybe the difference between a real predatory striker and an all round attacker was shown.

Leicester took it upon themselves to breathe energy into the game, with vibrant running doing enough to expose the energy levels that West Ham had lost.

Pellegribi reacted, replacing first Snodgrass for Obiang and then Arnautovic for Perez.

Anderson was also given freedom to drift inside more, allowing his influence and confidence to grow.

The changes got West Ham back into the game and then got them the lead.

Anderson, Perez and Antonio combined before the Brazilian laid a ball back to an on-rushing Obiang.

He placed it against the foot of the post, but an Perez followed in. Flying goalwards, he got to the rebound and did fantastically to guide the ball into an open net.

The Spaniard was onside and had given West Ham a 2-1 lead.

The energy added into midfield gave the side a platform to win it back, whilst Obiang was obviously fresh enough to sprint forward and join the attack.

With time ticking away, Perez scored again. But this time, the assistant referee raised his flag. Why he did, that?EUR(TM)s open to debate, with the striker very comfortably onside.

And it cost West Ham again.

Lazy defending did too, with Tielemans allowed time and space to play in Harvey Barnes, who strode into the area unchecked and slid the ball beyond Fabianski for 2-2 in stoppage time and to see the two teams share the points.

It was a better West Ham performance, but one that lacked in midfield solidity and threat with creativity.

Maybe the game was perfect for carpet day, with it being delivered late and with a frantic finish after bungling from officials.

A top half finish looks less likely ever still, but least the linoleum is down.

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Player Ratings

Lucasz Fabianski
Did his business with minimal fuss, probably blameless for the goals.

Pablo Zabaleta
His delivery from wide is often poor. Suggestions that this appearance triggers a further year to his contract, up to debate whether he?EUR(TM)s worth it.

Arthur Masuaku
A threat in their half and put in some gorgeous crosses. But the right winger scored unimpeded so could be doing better.

Fabian Balbuena
Some decent defending was let down by switching off for the Vardy goal.

Angelo Ogbonna
Big channel opened up on his side that Barnes walked into.

Declan Rice
Leicester overran him midway through the second half, but he was doing a decent job in there.

Mark Noble
Very good assist and the balance in midfield suits him.

Felipe Anderson
Moments of very good were let down by a performance that should have been better. Seemed to stop and pass backwards too often.

Robert Snodgrass
Individually, it?EUR(TM)s hard to say he does great things at times. But his energy and the influence he has on the midfield is very valuable in this current squad. Faded in the second half.

Michail Antonio
A frustrating player often, but today he was the only real consistent spark. Header was fantastic for the goal and he bullied Maguire and Chilwell.

Marko Arnautovic
It really isn?EUR(TM)t for a lack of trying, but he looks shot. One excellent cross, but if his head is gone, he?EUR(TM)s done.


Pedro Obiang
(Replaced Snodgrass) Very effective sub performance. Battled and gets an assist.

Lucas Perez
(Replaced Arnautovic) Robbed of a second goal and actually ran hard to try regain possession, which is a first.

Jack Wilshere
(Replaced Noble) Too little time on the pitch to influence.

Adrian San Miguel del Castillo
Did not play.

Mark Noble
Did not play.

Robert Snodgrass
Did not play.

Javier Hernandez
Did not play.

Match Facts

West Ham United: Lucasz Fabianski, Pablo Zabaleta, Arthur Masuaku, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice, Mark Noble, Felipe Anderson, Robert Snodgrass, Michail Antonio, Marko Arnautovic.

Goals: None.

Booked: Ryan Fredericks  Michail Antonio         .

Sent off: None.

Leicester City: .

Subs not used: .

Goals: .

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Lee Probert.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Lucas Perez.