West Ham on verge of safety after battling win at Leicester City
PUBLISHED: 17:18 05 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:18 05 May 2018
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Goals from super Mario and captain marvel earns Hammers the points
Leicester City 0 West Ham United 2
The high-voltage Hammers fantastically flicked the switch at the King Power Stadium to send David Moyes’ boys surging six points clear of the dreaded drop-zone with just two matches left to play.
João Mário’s tap-in gave the Hammers an interval lead to calm East End jitters before skipper Mark Noble sealed this valuable victory on 63 minutes with a tremendous 25-yard blockbuster.
Back-to-back, 4-1 defeats at the hands of Arsenal and then Manchester City meant that West Ham came into this crucial clash with just one win in their last eight outings.
And following last Sunday’s loss against the newly-crowned Premier League champions, manager Moyes made two changes as Mário and Arthur Masuaku returned in place of substitutes Edimilson Fernandes and Patrice Evra.
Having been fined for leaving the bench for a prolonged toilet break last weekend, an apologetic Andy Carroll again found himself named among the substitutes alongside rookie ‘keeper Nathan Trott - who made a motorway dash of his own from the capital after Joe Hart was taken ill overnight - and fit-again Pedro Obiang.
The Hammers had a great chance to open the scoring with just five minutes on the clock, when Manuel Lanzini’s low shot deflected into the path of overlapping compatriot Pablo Zabaleta, whose by-line cross into the danger-zone was scuffed clear by Hamza Choudhury.
Seconds later, Marko Arnautović found himself in the clear before Ben Hamer bravely dived into his studs and the Austrian was soon in thick of it again, when Masuaku picked out Lanzini, who saw his low 15-yarder ricochet off the bleach-blond, No.7.
The workmanlike Masuaku then sent over another left-wing cross that the diving Zabaleta powered wide at full-length as the hungry Hammers – roared on by a vociferous, sun-soaked, shirt-sleeved East End following – sought to draw first blood.
Win-less in their last four games, the injury-hit Foxes – sitting in ninth-spot, nine points and six spots above the visitors – had made a quintet of switches from the side that slumped to a forlorn five-goal loss at Crystal Palace last Saturday as Adrien Silva, Christian Fuchs, Vicente Iborra, Yohan Benalouane and Fousseni Diabaté each earned call-ups in place of Marc Albrighton (suspended), Ben Chilwell and Wilfired Ndidi plus substitutes Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray.
On the half-hour mark, Silva’s low 18-yarder almost ricocheted to the in-rushing Jamie Vardy but the largely redundant Adrián got there first, while at the other end, Hamer brilliantly closed the angle after Lanzini sent Arnautović scurrying onto to his well-weighted through-ball.
Shortly afterwards, Noble’s deep free-kick from the half-way line was headed on by Cheikhou Kouyaté and Arnautović swept a vicious, swivelling, 15-yard volley across the face of Wes Morgan onto the Leicester crossbar.
A West Ham goal was inevitably coming down the tracks.
Sure enough, on 33 minutes, Masuaku’s deep left-wing cross fell to Arnautović , whose far post cut-back was gleefully swept home by Mário, who – right on cue – arrived on the edge of the six-yard box to deservedly break the deadlock with his second goal for the Hammers.
With the interval approaching, Arnautović was booked for bundling into Harry Maguire before Lanzini rounded off an opening 45 minutes of total Claret & Blue domination with a tightly-angled shot that ripped into the side-netting.
The Foxes replaced Iborra with Aleksandar Dragović in time for the restart and, within moments, last-man Aaron Cresswell had a lucky escape, when he slipped in a two-horse race with Vardy and, having held the ball back just inches outside his own area, the Hammers full-back was relieved to only see a yellow card as the entire population of Leicester bayed for red.
On the hour, both Iheanacho and Gray were introduced at the expense of Choudhury and Diabaté, who soon saw fellow substitute Dragović booked for body-checking Mário out on the right touchline.
Having dusted himself down, Inter Milan’s on-loan Portuguese midfielder floated the consequent free-kick to the edge of the Leicester area, where the offending Dragović thought that he had nodded the danger clear.
But Noble had other ideas as he strode onto the Austrian’s header and let fly with an unstoppable 25-yard half-volley that flew beyond the stunned Hamer before nestling in the bottom left-hand corner to double West Ham’s lead in spectacular style.
Captain courageous’ fourth goal of the campaign had certainly put sufficient sunlight between the radiant Hammers and the flummoxed Foxes and, by the time that Carroll replaced Lanzini and Fernandes came on for the hobbling Arnautović, this valuable victory was safely secured ahead of two remaining London Stadium encounters against Manchester United (Thursday) and Everton (Sunday).
FOXES: Hamer, Benalouane, Fuchs, Morgan, Maguire, Choudhury (Iheanacho 59), Iborra (Dragović h/t), Diabaté (Gray 59), Mahrez, Silva, Vardy. Unused subs: Jukupović, Thomas, Barnes, Hughes.
HAMMERS: Adrián, Zabaleta, Cresswell, Rice, Ogbonna, Noble, Kouyaté, Masuaku (Evra 90+3), Mário, Lanzini (Carroll 74), Arnautović (Fernandes 78). Unused subs: Trott, Hugill, Obiang, Cullen.
Booked: Arnautović (41), Cresswell (48), Dragović (63).
Referee: Chris Kavanagh.