West Ham United 3-2 Leicester City
Sunday, 11th April 2021
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham secured a huge statement victory today at the London Stadium, beating European rivals Leicester City to move back up to fourth place, a single point behind their visitors today. The 3-2 victory was another that forced each and every West Ham fan through a cavalcade of emotions.Both sides were missing players, the Hammers adding Michail Antonio to their injury list, joining the likes of Rice and Ogbonna, whilst apparent COVID regulation breaches saw Leicester shorn of Ayoze Perez and other senior squad members.
And as with Arsenal and Wolves previous, it was another game where every side of this West Ham team was on display. Exhilarating, exciting and downright majestic for 60 minutes; panicked, disorganised and a bit of a mess for the final half hour as Leicester piled on the pressure and chased a late equaliser with West Ham scratching and clawing their way to victory.
For the third game running, West Ham took a three-goal lead before being pegged back, and it was once again Jesse Lingard who put the opposition to the sword. He was almost unplayable once more, and the England international scored twice to take his tally for the club to eight. An inclusion in the England squad may have seemed unlikely in January, but the loanee-forward has scored more goals than anyone else in the league since he joined the Hammers.
West Ham were again in a hybrid five-man backline that allowed Masuaku to defend as a wing back but attack high up the pitch. Noble deputised for Rice once more, gaining his 400th Premier League appearance for West Ham in the process.
The team?EUR(TM)s dynamic was changed as Jarrod Bowen took the injured Antonio?EUR(TM)s place, but he stepped up to the task to produce one of his best performances in claret and blue.
The early stages were cagey, Mike Dean eyeing his opportunity to catch some spotlight with a couple early yellow cards, but soon West Ham took the initiative that Leicester seemed to be sitting off and giving them.
Chances were at a premium, so it took a little magic to break the deadlock. When West Ham need magic, there is one man providing it in this astonishing run of form.
The goal came after a wicked Masuaku cross evaded everyone and came out of the box to Coufal. The full back gathered, composed himself to cross and that sharply cut the ball back to the edge of the area.
It landed right as it reached its target, but an awkward bounce is nothing to Jesse Lingard. He timed the half-volley to not only catch the ball and keep it low, but bend it around the Leicester defender and into the bottom corner with Schmeichel rooted to the spot. The finish can barely be described to do justice, defying physics in a way that Dimitri Payet would have applauded.
The front three did deserve reward for their hard work and endeavour, with Lingard and Bowen sharing duties to lead the line whilst Fornals played behind them, although their movement was fluid and there was always a chance any one of them could have been leading the line.
Leicester played neatly if ineffectively, half chances and openings often missed as they overplayed. The slow passing played into West Ham?EUR(TM)s hands as the dangerous counter attacks that took all the points from Leicester earlier in the season started to threaten once more.
They should have doubled their lead in one such instance, Coufal delaying a pass when storming behind their defence, and then passing poorly to Lingard when the chance was all but gone.
Half-time approached and that dreaded goal just before the break left lingering doubts in the back of the mind. Arsenal had, Wolves had, and West Ham had had their momentum knocked each time.
This time, however, it was the Irons who took that initiative, a goal of complete ease with a minute to go before half-time. Diop launched a ball over the Leicester defence and Bowen raced onto it, only Schmeichel ahead of him. The goalkeeper rushed out to meet him, and left his goal open for Bowen to square and Lingard to pass into an empty net for a two-goal cushion. VAR checked, but Evans had kept the former Hull man onside.
It was his eighth of the season, and an important boost of confidence for Bowen.
The Hammers entered the half-time break 2-0 up, but took only three minutes to extend their lead further in the second 45. It came from a situation Leicester had control of, the ball at their feet in their half.
Cresswell pressured and dispossessed, and suddenly Masuaku had taken it and fed Soucek a ball that had him running on goal. He looked all set to shoot, but the Czech midfielder has shown composure in the box throughout his time with the club.
With a free shot on offer, Soucek instead played it to Bowen all of eight yards from goal and free in the area. He turned and smashed it in as a challenge flew in all too late, West Ham with a three-goal lead and Leicester shooting themselves in the foot once more.
Moments later, Cresswell was forced off with an injury, and he was later followed by Mark Noble who injured himself with a last-gasp block that almost certainly saved a goal, a vital moment in another good performance from the skipper.
Diop had a goal ruled out for offside, finishing well but straying into a clear offside position, the home side in complete control. But there?EUR(TM)s nothing like a little tension to really make sure Hammers fan fail to enjoy a game.
The collapse started innocuously, substitute Balbuena flicking a ball out of Fabianski?EUR(TM)s hands in the box. Leicester didn?EUR(TM)t punish them, yet it was the beginning of little mistakes creeping into the side?EUR(TM)s play, little mistakes that soon were punished.
It was Soucek and Masuaku who combined to hand Leicester their first. A slow and sloppy pass by the midfielder put Masuaku under a little pressure. The wing back was nonchalant on the ball, and this time dispossessed in doing so. The ball went straight to Iheanacho, who took it in, swivelled and blasted beyond Fabianski with ease to start the nerves jangling. Could Leicester score three in 20 minutes to gain an unlikely draw?
They certainly tried, taking complete control of territory and ball from that moment on. Things may well have gone differently were Mike Dean to have shown a clear yellow card to Wilfried Ndidi after a blatant trip stopped a West Ham counter. It would have been the midfielder?EUR(TM)s second of the game.
Instead the pressure was piled on. Soon Noble was lost making a block, Johnson coming on into central midfield, preferred to Coventry, and clearly given the job to protect Masuaku on the left. It was from down that channel Leicester started to focus their attacks and get success, Albrighton coming off the bench and threatening with every attack.
The defending became desperate, but without control. Pereira looked destined to score after he was played through on goal, but an out of position Fabianski dramatically poked the ball off his toes just as Pereira seemed to be round the goalkeeper. It was brilliant goalkeeping from the Pole, who had been sharp off his line all game to stop Vardy on multiple occasions.
Still they threw bodies forward, Soucek coming into his own as a defensive force as his side looked for a leader.
There was little he could do to stop Leicester and Iheanacho?EUR(TM)s second. The panic at the back was rarely more evident, a cross from the right bouncing off Johnson, diverting away from Balbuena who desperately turned and lunged to block, but was beaten to the ball by Iheanacho, the Nigerian slamming it in from close range to make sure the six minutes of stoppage time were sickeningly long for embattled Hammers all over the globe.
The ball came into the West Ham box over and over, low crosses missing forwards, players dribbling in the area and beating one before a hurried second defender could get it clear. Bodies flew down and penalty shouts were dismissed. With seconds remaining, a ball squeezed across the face of goal was knocked behind, a corner taken as 96 minutes came up on the clock.
The first cross was headed away, but Vardy collected. His chipped ball into the box found a Leicester head in the centre of the area, but it flashed wide as the whistle blew and fans and players alike fell to their knees. The tension released, perhaps now pushing back into the top four once more could be enjoyed.
It was enough to take the three points, although the manager was rightfully unhappy at poor defending leading to another two goals conceded.
Seven more games, West Ham remaining a point above Chelsea, three above Liverpool and six points above Tottenham at the end of play. It?EUR(TM)s also only a point behind a Leicester side who capitulated last season and look arguably in the worst shape of all the contenders for those European places.
Seven more games. Newcastle United next. The rollercoaster ride continues.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
A much better presence and control of his own area than usual, making a seemingly conscious effort to be quick off his line and gather balls put through for Vardy to chase. The stop on Pereira was incredible, especially coming from an angle that was slightly out of position. A rock.
Speaking of rocks at the back, Coufal was again imperious in defence and supported the attack well, include a great assist. Must work on his confidence on the ball when he gets behind the defence, second time this season he was been storming towards goal and looked lost in the headlights. Otherwise brilliant.
Masuaku?EUR(TM)s detractors will not have been surprised by the Jekyll and Hyde nature that made him an unstoppable ball-player one minute and a lazy, careless one the next. Some fantastic crosses, dribbled well and links well with the attacking players. But needs to be more disciplined on the ball in his own half.
Did well to adjust to changing positions and didn?EUR(TM)t make any notable mistakes. The ball over the defence to free Bowen for the second was excellent.
Brave performance and clearly in more control of the defence than last week. Not the leader Angelo Ogbonna is, but solid.
A couple of good defensive headers, but was injured before the defence was really tested. An innocuous fall, it looked like something had jarred. He has delivered this year and will be a miss, especially with a small squad that is collecting injuries at a pace.
Whatever may happen with age, there?EUR(TM)s a style to Mark?EUR(TM)s game that remains. He shows for the ball, plays smart passes and has good vision. Equally, he battles in a way that makes it so clear what success at this club means to him. He couldn?EUR(TM)t move his arm or hand but still came back onto the pitch before being replaced because he didn?EUR(TM)t want his side out there with 10 men. An inspirational leader and we lost composure when he left.
One assist in a controlled game from Soucek. He bursts forward still, but with more awareness of what is behind him without Rice there. Late on, as Noble went off injured, Soucek became a warrior, throwing himself into tackles and headers, saving his defence on a couple of occasions.
The underrated one of that front three (or four) usually, his work will go under the radar as Lingard and Bowen take the praise. But he worked his socks off to support them and get back and defend. He linked play well and just knows where to go and be. It?EUR(TM)s a hard skill to describe, but his game sense is another level.
He wasn?EUR(TM)t as dominating a figure on this game as the last two, but he won his side the game with his magic yet again and is the best player in the league on this form. The first goal was brilliant, but it?EUR(TM)s the work-rate and pressing that he does and encourages of others that has really set the tone of his stay.
Great assist, good goal and a much better performance. The biggest compliment he can be given is that the forward line didn?EUR(TM)t notably miss Antonio. It wasn?EUR(TM)t just Jarrod, all three adapted to cover what they were missing today and give hope that this season won?EUR(TM)t just collapse without the striker.
(Replaced Cresswell, 53) A couple good clearances, but then a little poor on the second goal and sloppy knocking the ball out of Fabianski?EUR(TM)s hands earlier.
(Replaced Noble, 82) Not his position, central midfield but he did what he could. He worked hard, covered Masuaku well on a couple occasions.
(Replaced Bowen, 84) Unfortunately, his early touches were poor and he played dangerously in his own area. One good turn was immediately ruined by a poor pass. Probably needs to stop trying so hard to prove he?EUR(TM)s good enough and to play smarter.
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Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Vladimir Coufal, Arthur Masuaku, Issa Diop, Craig Dawson, Aaron Cresswell, Mark Noble, Tomas Soucek, Pablo Fornals, Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen.
Goals: Jesse Lingard 29 Jesse Lingard 44 Jarrod Bowen 48 .
Booked: Tomas Soucek 10 Aaron Cresswell 30 Arthur Masuaku 92 .
Sent off: None.
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Amartey (Thomas 45), Evans, Fofana, Pereira, Praet (Albirhgton 59), Tielemans, Ndidi, Castagne, Vardy, Iheanacho..
Subs not used: Ward, Mendy, Fuchs, Daley-Campbell, Leshabela, Tavares, Suengchitth.
Goals: Iheanacho (70, 90+1).
Booked: Pereira (33), Fofana (45+1), Ndidi (46).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Man of the Match: Jesse Lingard.