Leicester City 0 – 3 West Ham United
Report by Chris Griffin
The gloom of a wet East Midlands afternoon was matched by the gloom of City’s performance. This was back to earth with a bump following the excellent performance at Manchester City last week. West Ham played to a disciplined game plan, pressing all over the field while defending in numbers. Smartly taken goals by Antonio, Fornals and Bowen saw the visitors take the points despite City having 69% of possession. Leicester lacked the inventiveness to break down a well-organised defence while at the other end Leicester’s own defending left much to be desired.
Perez replaced Praet who had not recovered from injury. City stayed with the three at the back system they used at the Etihad. New signings Fofana and Under were on the bench. Maddison was not involved due to an injury.
A pattern for the game was soon established. Leicester took charge of possession but were unable to play the telling final ball that would open up the opposition defence. Vardy made a good run into the box but his attempted cross under pressure was claimed by Fabianski. The goalkeeper was alert again when a Tielemans through ball for Justin threatened danger. Mendy had a shot deflected for a corner after good work by Tielemans.
Barnes and Vardy worked tirelessly to make runs but the ball seldom came their way due to the tight organisation of the West Ham defence. Then in the 14th minute West Ham took the lead against the run of play. Ogbonna cleared a City free kick and Antonio collected the ball in the City half near the right touchline where he was unnecessarily fouled by Soyuncu. Reacting quickly Antonio took the free kick himself, sweeping the ball across field to the unmarked Cresswell. The left back sent a cross into the City area to the far post where Antonio had made his ground to head in past Schmeichel. It was a smart cross and a good header but Antonio had been allowed to run more than 30 metres with no City playing taking any notice of him and he was left totally unmarked.
City continued to have most of the ball but moves kept breaking down in the West Ham defensive third of the field where Ogbonna, Coufal, Cresswell and Balbuena were keeping a tight grip on any situation. Vardy made a superb run into the box but was crowded out. A move between Vardy and Perez saw Barnes set free but again he was overwhelmed by the circling defenders.
West Ham’s pressing was putting City’s midfield under a lot of pressure and attempts to move the ball quickly resulted in imprecise and inaccurate passing which the defence easily dealt with.
Meanwhile the threat of a West Ham counter persisted and Amartey had to be very alert to cut out a pass into the City box following a Justin misplaced pass. Then Schmeichel had to be off his line quickly to gather another through ball into the City area.
In the 35th minute Leicester were caught by the counter again. The back three were up to the halfway line when Cresswell launched a clearance into the space behind them. Fornals was on the ball in a flash and despite a valiant effort by Soyuncu to recover the forward took aim and drilled a fierce shot into the net: 2-0.
The game’s pattern reverted to Leicester having most possession and pressing forward but the West Ham defence stood firm.
Neither side made any changes at half time. City tried to get on the front foot. Justin played a good ball to Vardy. The ball fell to Barnes but his snatched effort sailed high and wide. Then Tielemans very nearly played Castagne through into the box but Cresswell and Ogbonna closed the door between them. This was becoming the story of the game.
A great run by Barnes earned City a corner but the ensuing set piece was a disappointment, not even clearing the near post.
West Ham remained a danger on the break. An Antonio header was taken by Schmeichel and then Balbuena headed wide from a Rice free kick.
In the 53rd minute, while Evans was being given a yellow card for clearing out Fornals, Leicester were forced to make a substitution and debutant Cengiz Under came on for the injured Amartey. Leicester switched to a back four. Under certainly added energy and determination to the attack but West Ham held firm while still threatening the home goal. Evans did very well to block a goal bound Fornals attempt. At the other end smart interpassing saw City threaten the goal but Ogbonna was on hand yet again to clear up.
On 64 minutes Iheanacho came on for Perez but West Ham kept up their momentum with Balbuena heading over after another Rice free kick.
Smart work by Iheanacho saw him dribble into the West Ham area but before he could shoot Ogbonna recovered and conceded a corner which came to nothing. At the other end a terrific Rice dribble outpaced Mendy. Rice’s shot beat Schmeichel only to rebound off the cross bar.
As much as Leicester were trying to find a way through a West Ham third looked on the cards. Sure enough in the 83rd minute Rice, deep in his own half, played a good ball forward to Fornals who turned and then placed a fine ball through the City defence for Bowen to run onto and drive the ball into the net.
Leicester kept going. A lack of physical effort was not the problem today. Choudhury came on for Mendy. Barnes slipped Vardy through for a one-on-one with Fabianski but as the keeper rushed out Vardy flicked the ball past the far post: chance gone. A superb series of one-twos between Barnes, Iheanacho and Vardy saw Barnes shoot home but VAR decided that Vardy was offside by the width of a cigarette paper and the goal was ruled out. It sort of summed up City’s day.
Brendan Rodgers was forthright in his assessment. “Everything was missing – it was poor. We started the season well and scored goals but we lacked aggression in our defending and West Ham have shown they are a good side…Dennis [Praet] and James Maddison [both injured] give us extra quality and we lacked precision in our passing. We couldn’t get our front players involved and didn’t give the back line a chance to get up the pitch.”
Leicester City: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Amartey, Soyuncu, Justin, Tielemans, Mendy, Perez, Barnes, Vardy.
West Ham United: Fabianski, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Cresswell, Coufal, Rice, Soucek, Masuaku, Bowen, Antonio, Fornals.
Referee Andy Madley
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