With West Bromwich Albion languishing eight points from safety in the Premier League ahead of their match with Leicester City, the omens pointing to survival did not look all to positive.
However, as the storm clouds continued to gather in their heavy 4-1 defeat to the Foxes on Saturday afternoon, there appeared to be an air of resignation upon the support at the Hawthorns.
The fans appear to be voting with their feet. A dwindling crowd of only 23, 588 witnessed the Baggies buckle having seized an early lead through Salomón Rondón. Large swaths of empty seats could highlight the almost acceptance that the Baggies will be playing their football in the Championship next season and it got dramatically worse after strikes from Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Kelechi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra flipped the tie on its head.
Boing boing Baggies
Despite the sombre mood in the West-Midlands, the fans were on their feet barely ten minutes into the game. Oliver Burke did excellently to evade a challenge from Ben Chilwell and crossed to Rondón. The Venezuelan striker got ahead of Wes Morgan to prod the ball home on what was his 100th Premier League appearance.
In fact, they could have been even further ahead had it not been for a stunning save from Kasper Schmeichel. Grzegorz Krychowiak set his sights from range, with his shot taking a deflection towards the top corner. The Dane however was equal to it and tipped the ball over the bar as West Brom fans witnessed one of their finer periods of football this season.
Vardy volley drags Foxes onto level terms
The familiar sinking feeling soon returned for the home faithful though as Jamie Vardy struck an excellent equaliser. Riyad Mahrez was afforded acres of room in the centre of the park and clipped an excellent pass to the striker. With a sumptuous, first-time volley, Vardy caressed the ball into the far corner and beyond Ben Foster.
It appeared to get worse for the Baggies as Vardy coolly finished again from close range but the linesman correctly ruled out the goal.
As the half-time whistle went in the West-Midlands, the muted applause from the home crowd was telling.
Baggies buckle under Leicester pressure
Puel introduced Kelechi Iheanacho for Shinji Okazaki on the hour mark and it paid instant dividends. The Nigerian fed Mahrez with an excellent chipped ball over the Baggies defence. The 27-year-old took one touch to control and lifted the ball over Foster to complete the turnaround. There was almost no reaction from Pardew, or indeed the home crowd as Championship football loomed ever closer.
The exodus really started as Iheanacho notched the third for Leicester. Chilwell found a lot of space on the left and crossed towards the Nigerian. The former Manchester City forward nodded beyond Foster cueing thousands to exit the Hawthorns.
Vicente Iborra compounded the toxic emotions at the club as he wandered free from a corner in the closing stages and buried a header beyond Foster. The boos then really did begin to ring down from the stands as fans begun to understood the realities of relegation, had they not done already.
It looks almost certain that West Bromwich Albion will not be playing Premier League football next season. Despite the positive start, the Baggies collapsed in the second period and almost allowed the Foxes to waltz through them on numerous occasions. As a matter of fact, had the Foxes been more clinical, they may well have found the net with considerably more consistency.
As a result of the victory, the Baggies remain cut seven points adrift at the top of the table. Meanwhile, Leicester consolidate their position in eighth after their first league victory since mid-January.
West Bromwich Albion: Foster (5); Nyom (6), Dawson (5), Hegazi (5), Gibbs (6); Brunt (5), Livermore (5), Krychowiak (6) (Field (5), 59′), Burke (Robson-Kanu (N/A), 83′); Phillips (5) (Rodriguez (5), 70′) , Rondon (7).
Leicester City: Schmeichel (6), Simpson (6), Maguire (7), Morgan (6), Chilwell (6); Gray (7) (Albrighton (7), 67′), Iborra (7), N’didi (7), Mahrez (8) (Diabate (N/A), 88′); Okazaki (6) (Iheanach0 (8), 60′), Vardy (7).
Goals: Rondon (8′), Vardy (21′), Mahrez (61′), Iheanacho (76′), Iborra (90+3′)
Referee: Bobby Madley
Yellow Cards: Vardy (41′), Simpson (53′), N’didi (73′)
Red Cards: N/A
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