West Ham United 3-2 Leicester City
Three-nil is a dangerous lead if you’re of a West Ham United persuasion.
For the third game running, the East Londoners built up a seemingly unassailable advantage and for the third time they hung on by their fingernails.
But three points is three points. David Moyes knew exactly what his side was up against: “Leicester are an incredibly good side, they’re in the semi-final of the cup and they’re a team who have been competing at the top level of the league for a few seasons now,” the Scotsman explained.
“It’s a tough game, but we went up there and won so let’s see if we can do it again.”
And so it proved – Just! Moyes had to do without the injured duo, Declan Rice and Michail Antonio – Jarrod Bowen starting in place of the latter, having replaced him and made an instant impact during the victory at Wolves seven days previous.
Kelechi Iheanacho passed up a couple of reasonable opportunities during a surprisingly tentative opening.
Jamie Vardy tested Lukasz Fabianski from distance – Leicester’s patient approach largely matched by the home side, although genuine opportunities came at a premium as the sides continued to cancel each other out.
But it was West Ham who made the breakthrough – Jesse Lingard’s crisp, first-time hit deceiving Kasper Schmeichel – Vladimir Coufal the provider, recycling from the right after Arthur Masuaku’s centre had eluded everyone.
Leicester upped the tempo – Iheanacho’s effort was blocked after good work from Youri Tielemans – West Ham content to play on the break as the proverbial game of cat and mouse continued.
And that tactic served the Hammers well. Bowen springing the off-side, squaring wide of Schmeichel to Lingard, who rolled home his eighth goal in nine outings into an empty net.
West Ham started the second period as they had finished the first – Bowen steadying himself before firing low past Schmeichel – Soucek the provider on this occasion.
Leicester had been hit by the big punch – Issa Diop’s close-range header was ruled out after skipper, Mark Noble had picked him out. Meanwhile, substitute Marc Albrighton almost profited from an uncharacteristic slip from Fabianski – the Foxes now dependent on scraps – the game, seemingly gone.
Nevertheless, Leicester were handed a lifeline twenty minutes from time. Masuaku carelessly lost possession – Iheanacho thumping high beyond Fabianski from fully twenty yards.
Buoyed by the goal, and perhaps mindful of West Ham’s recent carelessness against Arsenal and Wolves, Leicester piled forward. Tielemans’ route to goal was blocked, while Fabianski just did enough to deny Ricardo Pereira – the traffic now heading very much in the opposite direction.
Incredibly, Iheanacho seized on some hesitant defending to reduce the deficit further in stoppage-time to set up a grandstand finale.
But the home side hung on for dear life. At times their football has been scintillating – their game management remains questionable, the top four still beckoning?
West Ham United return to Premier League action on Saturday, April 17 when they face Newcastle United at St James Park (12:30pm)
West Ham United: Łukasz Fabiański, Issa Diop, Craig Dawson, Aaron Cresswell (Fabian Balbuena 53’), Vladimir Coufal, Mark Noble (Capt) (Ben Johnson 82’), Tomáš Souček, Arthur Masuaku, Pablo Fornals, Jesse Lingard, Jarrod Bowen (Said Benrahma 84’) Subs not used: David Martin (GK), Nathan Trott (GK), Alves, Ryan Fredericks, Conor Coventry, Ademipo Odubeko
Booked: Tomas Soucek (foul), Aaron Creswell (foul)
Goals: Jesse Lingard 29’, 44’ Jarrod Bowen 47’
Leicester City: Kasper Schmeichel (Capt), Daniel Amartey (Luke Thomas 46’), Jonny Evans, Wesley Fofana, Ricardo Pereira, Dennis Praet (Marc Albrighton 59’), Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, Timothy Castagne, Jamie Vardy, Kelechi Iheanacho Subs not used: Nampalys Mendy, Christian Fuchs, Vontae Daley-Campbell, Thakgalo Leshabela, Sidnei Tavares, Thanawat Suengchitthawon
Booked: Wesley Fofana (foul), Ricardo Pereira (foul), Wilfred Ndidi (foul)
Goals: Kelechi Iheanacho 70’, 90+1’
Referee: Mike Dean
Assistants: Ian Hussin and Mark Scholes
Fourth Official: Simon Hooper
VAR: Michael Oliver.
Assistant VAR: Dan Cook