WEST HAM UNITED 2 LEICESTER CITY 3
Report by Paul Weston
I was lucky enough to be invited by some friends to the match at The London Stadium- the new home of West Ham United. The catch was that they are all West Ham fans and I was told to behave myself sitting amidst the home supporters! I was looking forward to seeing the stadium from the inside after its very expensive transformation from athletics to football venue.
It is a very impressive sports arena but it takes a while to get used to the distance between the seats and the pitch. The West Ham fans are also quite fickle, booed their team off at half time and often the City supporters’ chanting dominated proceedings.
I wondered how the City players would react after the absolutely stunning victory on Tuesday night, which must have left them drained, and with the diversion of the Champions League draw on Friday. I was all too aware that we were still terribly close to the bottom three in the league and we still had not achieved an away win so far.
The first shock was not to see Wes Morgan’s name on the team sheet due to a back injury, with forgotten man Benalouane taking his place. I worried about how his partnership with Robert Huth would gel and how he would cope with Andy Carroll.
The second shock was witnessing City going 2-0 up in less than 10 minutes. City had started really well, passing confidently. Mahrez, who had a good match, picked up the ball and crossed low into the box. It looked like Okazaki and Vardy both missed it but enough to distract the goalie Randolph who also missed it and it curled into the net! 1-0 to City and the West Ham moaners started. The grumbles increased when, from a well worked move between Albrighton and Mahrez, Huth was left in splendid isolation and he nodded in. 2-0 and quite unexpected. West Ham had hardly entered into our half!
City continued to pass slickly, and the wide pitch seemed to suit Mahrez and Albrighton. At the back Benalouane kept it simple but seemed confident. Schmeichel, as stand in captain for the day, bellowed orders from the back. West Ham were not passing well and the crowd got on their back. Drinkwater and Ndidi were breaking up play well and Okazaki was a complete pest.
It was therefore a bit of a surprise when West Ham scored from a free kick by Lanzini which beat Schmeichel completely. 2-1 to City and the West Ham fans started to wake up and cheer on their team, expecting an attacking onslaught.
However, no City players dropped their heads on conceding the goal, instead they carried on undeterred. After a period of pressure a corner was won on the right and, yet again, the defence of West Ham went to pieces harried by Okazaki and Vardy slammed in the loose ball. 3-1 to City just before half time!
No City fan is confident even with a two goal lead and West Ham, not surprisingly, started the second half with renewed vigour and City started to fall back in trying to protect their lead. City still looked dangerous on the break and Vardy nearly clipped the ball around the goalie when put through. However, West Ham pulled a goal back through Ayew in the 60th minute who headed straight at Schmeichel at close range, but who could only palm the ball into the roof of the net. 3-2 to City and the players were starting to look tired after the exertions of the Champions League match.
Shakey brought on Slimani and Musa, replacing Okazaki and Vardy and in the latter stages brought on Chilwell for Mahrez. The last 20 minutes were stressful as West Ham kept banging in crosses to the head of Carroll and, without Vardy to break out, the ball kept coming back to our defence. It seemed inevitable that West Ham would equalise through pure pressure, rather than skilful play, but Schmeichel brought off two absolutely breathtaking saves. At the other end Slimani, when put through by a delightful cross from Chilwell hit the keeper when he should have scored.
Nevertheless, to the relief of the raucous City fans (including this one fan sitting very quietly amongst the West Ham supporters) the referee blew his whistle after 6 minutes of injury time. 3-2 to City!.
City’s long wait for an away win was over and the gap to the bottom three had widened. 4 games won on the trot by Shakespeare and a team that is now unrecognisable in confidence, energy, desire, skill and flair from the shadow of a team earlier in the season.
It is hard to pick out the key players in this match as they all played their part in this victory. I think my man of the match would be Albrighton who terrorised the West Ham right back for most of the match, sent in some brilliant crosses and was always ready to track back in defence. Banalouane should get a special mention considering this was his Premier League debut and he did not let anyone down.
There is a now a short international break before two home games and then the big one! Let us hope that no City players return injured for the next stage of an eventful season. We have momentum and confidence and the feel good factor from last season has returned to team and fans alike.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Benalouane, Huth, Fuchs, Mahrez (Chilwell 87), Drinkwater, Ndidi, Albrighton, Okazaki (Musa 76), Vardy (Slimani 76). Subs not used: King, Amartey, Zieler, Gray
West Ham: Randolph, Byram, Fonte, Reid (Snodgrass 18), Cresswell (Masuaku 73), Kouyate, Obiang (Fernandes 67), Ayew, Lanzini, Antonio, Carroll. Subs not used: Nordtveit, Feghouli, Adrian, Collins
Attendance: 56,979 Referee: Roger East
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation