West Ham United 1:2 Leicester City
Despite a much-changed line-up City got back to winning ways at the London Stadium on Saturday with a 2-1 victory over West Ham…
With the relentless Christmas fixture schedule it was inevitable that Brendan Rodgers would make some changes for this game. Jamie Vardy was given leave to attend the birth of his daughter and Ricardo had a slight hamstring strain. But eyebrows were raised when he made nine changes, with only Schmeichel and Evans retaining their places.
Manuel Pellegrini made seven changes to his side in what turned out to be his last game in charge of the Hammers.
Given this, and the odd layout of the stadium, the opening stages had the feel of a pre-season friendly, without the usual Premier League intensity.
City had the first chance of the game in the 4th minute, though Albrighton’s shot didn’t test Fabianski. After a couple of half chances for the home side City were presented with the opportunity to take a 9th minute lead. Gray lofted a ball over the Hammers defence to send Iheanacho through and he was felled by the advancing Fabianski for an obvious penalty. Gray stepped up but his kick lacked both power and direction and Fabianski saved it comfortably.
With the crowd fired up by that miss, West Ham went in search of a goal. A heavy touch from Morgan presented Anderson with a chance but Choudhury raced in to the rescue. Then Masuaku fired a fierce long range effort that was beaten away by Schmeichel.
City had plenty of possession at this stage, with their passing much better than West Ham’s, but they were almost caught on the break from a City corner. it was three against two, made worse when Justin lost his footing, but Rice directed his shot straight at Schmeichel.
City went ahead five minutes before the break. An Albrighton cross from the left was headed clear only as far as Justin who looped a cross to the far post. Pérez did well to nod it back from the byline to Iheanacho, who headed it into the net from close range.
However, this wasn’t enough to give City a half time lead, with West Ham striking back in the 45th minute. Anderson capped a surging run with a square ball for Fonals who swept it home from 12 yards.
City had the first chance of the second half when Pérez was fouled 20 yards out. Fuchs curved a low free-kick round the wall, but Fabianski fielded it comfortably.
But City regained the lead in the 56th minute. Choudhury played a ball through the midfield to Pérez. Diop had wrestled Iheanacho to the ground off the ball and then attempted to do the same to Pérez, but was shown a clean pair of heels. The Spaniard played Gray in on the left and he clipped a fine finish past Fabianski to atone for his penalty miss.
Brendan Rodgers made his first change in the 64th minute, replacing Pérez with Maddison.
It was Maddison’s cross that almost set up a wonder goal, Morgan hooking the ball over his head before a turn and volley that he didn’t quite connect well enough with to trouble Fabianski.
Ndidi then replaced Mendy, with twenty minutes remaining.
West Ham began to apply some pressure in the closing stages but City’s defence, marshalled by Evans, held firm. The home side appeared to have no shape and no plan.
And it was City who created some late chances. Maddison tried his luck with a 30-yarder straight at Fabianski, Choudhury had a shot blocked, and Barnes – on for Gray – then had a chance in on the left, but Fabianski outwitted him.
West Ham were very poor, and Pellegrini was fired after the game, but City’s squad players put in a great shift to earn the three points that would ensure second place going into 2020.
Justin looked a very promising prospect, Choudhury did a fine job, and Iheanacho kept up his impressive scoring ratio.
Brendan Rodgers’ gamble had paid off: “The boys were fantastic in that mentality and spirit. At this level you have to be on the edge and that’s how we play, we have to have that edge and in order to have that today, away from home, we needed energy. The players that came in have been training brilliantly and they got their rewards today.”
West Ham: Fabianski, Fredericks, Balbuena, Diop, Masuaku, Rice, Sánchez (Snodgrass 62), Fornals, Lanzini (Ajeti 70), Anderson, Haller (Antonio 55).
Substitutes: Reid, Zabaleta, Jiménez, Noble.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Justin, Morgan, Evans, Fuchs, Gray (Barnes 83), Choudhury, Mendy (Ndidi 70), Albrighton, Pérez (Maddison 64), Iheanacho.
Substitutes: Chilwell, Söyüncü, Tielemans, Ward.
Referee: David Coote. Attendance: 59,919.