West Ham slump to another crushing defeat against rampant Leicester
PUBLISHED: 22:02 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 22:06 22 January 2020
PA Wire/PA Images
The Hammers go deeper into relegation trouble as the Foxes maul them at the King Power
Leicester City 4 West Ham United 1
It was a frustrating four-lorn night at the King Power Stadium, where the hounded Hammers were well and truly hunted down by the hungry Foxes.
While Leicester City got their Champions League charge firmly back on track, well-beaten, worried West Ham United were left looking over their shoulders at the bottom of the table, where only goal difference keeps their heads above the choppy waters of the dreaded dropzone.
Harvey Barnes struck on 23 minutes to deservedly put Leicester ahead with his fourth goal of the season, before Ricardo Pereira doubled the home advantage in first-half stoppage time.
And although a double half-time substitution seemed to rejuvenate the Hammers, who quickly pulled one back through Mark Noble's spot-kick, Ayoze Pérez cemented victory with an 80th-minute penalty and another late strike.
A cocktail of Saturday's dour, dismal draw with Everton and subsequent results elsewhere, meant that the Hammers had already kicked off in 17th-spot and, after being forced to settle for that weekend point against his former club, David Moyes settled for just one change with Arthur Masuaku coming in for substitute Pablo Fornals.
During the opening 20 minutes or so, the recently-installed Hammers boss saw his side forced firmly onto the back foot, both in the goal chances and possession stakes, although Robert Snodgrass did muster an 18-yarder that deflected off Barnes for a corner, which Aaron Cresswell nodded onto the roof of Kasper Schmeichel's net.
At the other end, Moyes' counterpart - Brendan Rodgers - saw top-scorer Jamie Vardy test Darren Randolph with a low 12-yard shot, before Pereira lashed behind from a tight angle as Leicester looked to get those Champions League aspirations back on line.
Indeed, defeat at Burnley on Sunday afternoon had left the third-placed Foxes looking to arrest an alarming run of form that had seen them slump to four losses in their last six outings and the City manager made two switches from the side that had been turfed over at Turf Moor, as Ben Chilwell and Youri Tielemans replaced Christian Fuchs and Dennis Praet.
Having had the bit between their teeth right from the off, it was no surprise to anyone in the crowd of 31,968, as the Foxes took the lead midway through the first half, when Barnes tapped home from close range after Pereira had drilled a low, angled shot across the face of goal.
The dejected Hammers - and the 2,107 members of the travelling Claret & Blue army packed to the left-hand side of Randolph's goal - prayed in vain for the reprieve of a Video Assistant Referee review but it just never came given the Cresswell was adjudged to have marginally played the Leicester goalscorer onside in his desperate attempts to block Pereira.
An aerial clash with Sebastién Haller forced Nampalys Mendy to retire on the half-hour as tough-tackling Wilfred Ndidi stepped from the bench but the Foxes rhythm was unaffected by that enforced change, although it did become more worrying for Rodgers when Vardy's pulled his hamstring after making an upfield clearance shortly afterwards.
With Iheanacho replacing the injured Leicester talisman, the hosts doubled their lead in the time added on for his treatment, when Barnes roared down the left flank before turning provider and cutting the ball back through a pack of Hammers defenders to Pereira, who lashed an unstoppable 15-yarder past Randolph with the last kick of a miserable first-half.
The Portuguese defender's third goal of the season looked to have extinguished all Hammers hopes but Moyes used the interval break to make a double substitution that saw Snodgrass and Masuaku stand down for Fornals and fit-again Michail Antonio, who wasted absolutely no time lashing an early effort over the top.
Then, on 49 minutes, Ndidi tripped Haller as they both raced from the area in pursuit of a defensive clearance and, this time, VAR did come to the rescue of the visitors as referee David Coote eventually pointed to the spot.
With the protesting Schmeichel having been booked for protesting in the ensuing mayhem, Noble remained the calmest figure in town before coolly sending his subsequent penalty straight down the middle as the Danish 'keeper headed towards his right-hand post.
West Ham would now enjoy their best spell of the evening with Antonio's attempted backheel being blocked, ahead of Schmeichel bravely diving into Manuel Lanzini's studs before Angelo Ogbonna then headed the Argentinian's in-swinging corner over the top from just six yards.
In reply, Pérez let fly with an 18-yarder that Randolph brilliantly parried aside before Barnes sent another low shot wide and then James Maddison saw the newly-returned Hammers 'keeper sensational palm his curling, goal-bound 20-yarder over the bar and into the dark Leicester sky.
But just when the Hammers looked to be holding the Vardy-less Foxes at bay, his replacement Iheanacho steamrolled his way into the heart of their defence before being clumsily impeded by the retreating Ogbonna, whose pain at conceding an 80th-minute penalty was compounded by a booking, too.
Pérez made no mistake in despatching the spot-kick to Randolph's right as the West Ham stopper headed left and then, with just two minutes remaining, the Spaniard inflicted yet more misery on the visitors when he passed Iheanacho's pass back into the bottom left corner to take his season's tally to seven and leave the Hammers in dire straits at the wrong end of the table with a daunting fixture list looming on the horizon.
FOXES: Schmeichel, Pereira, Chilwell, Söyüncü, Evans, Mendy (Ndidi 33), Maddison, Tielemans, Pérez, Barnes (Morgan 82), Vardy (Iheanacho 43). Unused subs: Ward, Justin, Gray, Albrighton.
HAMMERS: Randolph, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Ogbonna, Diop, Rice, Noble, Snodgrass (Fornals h/t), Masuaku (Antonio h/t), Lanzini, Haller. Unused subs: Martin, Reid, Balbuena, Sánchez, Ajeti.
Booked: Schmeichel (49), Ogbonna (79).
Referee: David Coote