Leicester City 2:1 West Ham United
City handed themselves a lifeline with a hard-fought 2-1 win over West Ham at the KPS on Saturday.
I’m not normally a fan of corporate-led organised fun, but the ‘clappers’ fastened to every seat in the King Power Stadium appeared to have the effect of lifting the crowd participation beyond the usual L1 and Ultras Corner.
There was a definite atmosphere about the place that was different to the air of resignation of recent months.
Perhaps it was also the realisation that this really was City’s last chance to launch a Great Escape bid.
Nigel Pearson made one change to his side with Mahrez returning for the injured Upson in a more attacking line-up.
And, roared on by a near sell-out crowd, City made early progress taking a 12th minute lead.
A loose ball sat up nicely for Cambiasso just outside the area and his sweetly struck half-volley flew past Adrián and into the net.
City’s great start should have been even better after a quarter of an hour when Ulloa was floored by Jenkinson in the area for a penalty so obvious that even Leicester were awarded it. Adrián strolled up to Nugent and had a word in his ear before the penalty kick, before producing a fine save to his left, although he was clearly yards off his line.
Sakho almost equalised soon after but was denied by Schlupp, as West Ham enjoyed their best spell of the game.
This lead to an equaliser in the 32nd minute when Schlupp misjudged Song’s lofted ball, missing his attempted header and leaving Kouyaté free to pick his spot past Schmeichel.
1-1 at the break, Albrighton replaced Mahrez for the second half and City were on the front foot once again.
They were struggling to get an effort on target, however. Huth headed wide from a Cambiasso free-kick and then Schlupp fired well wide after being sent in on the left. Vardy then went close with a header, before firing a shot wide after being played in by Nugent.
But West Ham were always dangerous on the break: Downing fired a shot narrowly wide and then Sakho’s low drive hit the foot of the left hand post as the game developed into a genuine end-to-end thriller.
Schmeichel produced a fine save to deny Kouyaté, while Reid blocked a Nugent shot.
Pearson brought Kramarić on for Ulloa and then King for De Laet as City pursued the win they so desperately needed.
It looked as though Kramarić would surely put City ahead with 7 minutes to go, but Cresswell blocked his shot on the line with a superb piece of defending.
City’s big moment finally arrived in the 87th minute, and no one cared that it was a scrappy goal. From a James free-kick Vardy’s mis-cued shot trundled to King who prodded it home via Adrián’s knee, the roar of delight nearly lifting the roof off the stadium.
Soon after Vardy missed a one-on-one chance against the keeper, but neither that, or the penalty miss, mattered when the final whistle heralded a long-awaited victory.
QPR’s win at West Brom meant that City remained bottom, but this result and the manner in which it was gained, gave back a little hope to the fans who have stood by their club in a tough season.
Leicester: Schmeichel, De Laet (King 79), Morgan, James, Vardy, Huth, Schlupp, Cambiasso, Ulloa (Kramarić 72), Mahrez (Albrighton 46), Nugent. Subs Not Used: Konchesky, Drinkwater, Wasilewski, Schwarzer.
West Ham: Adrián, Reid, Cresswell, Nolan (Amalfitano 65), Kouyaté, Downing, Sakho (Cole 79), Noble, Jenkinson, Collins, Song (Nenê 88). Subs Not Used: Jarvis, O’Brien, Demel, Jääskeläinen.
Referee: M Clattenburg. Attendance: 31,863.
ALL PHOTOS: Simon Kimber