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West Ham 1 Leicester City 2: Okazaki and Mahrez silence Upton Park

Leicester City’s impressive start to life under Claudio Ranieri continued with a 2-1 Premier League victory at West Ham United.

Building on their emphatic 4-2 opening-day win over Sunderland, Leicester took a deserved 27th-minute lead in east London as Japan international Shinji Okazaki scored his first for the club.

Riyad Mahrez was a two-goal hero for City last time out and the Algeria winger was on target once more to give Ranieri’s men breathing space at the interval.

West Ham were shock victors over Arsenal in their opening game but rarely threatened to scale the same heights on this outing.

Close-season signing Dimitri Payet halved the deficit 10 minutes into the second half but could not prevent West Ham’s final league campaign at their Upton Park home from getting off to an anti-climactic start, with a red card for goalkeeper Adrian in stoppage time compounding a miserable afternoon.

Carl Jenkinson replaced James Tomkins, after being ineligible against his parent club, in West Ham’s only change.

Having won numerous plaudits on his Premier League debut at Arsenal, Reece Oxford almost handed Slaven Bilic’s team a perfect start when he headed Payet’s free-kick against the top of the crossbar.

Jamie Vardy started in an unchanged Leicester side despite being fined by the club in midweek for an alleged racial slur, and the England forward was booked in the 11th minute for a rash challenge on Adrian.

The West Ham goalkeeper recovered sufficiently to thwart Mahrez at the end of a jinking run in the 26th minute and pushed Robert Huth’s hooked effort from the resulting corner around the post.

But Leicester were rewarded for a promising spell when Okazaki volleyed Vardy’s left-wing cross goalwards – Adrian saving brilliantly – and headed in at the second attempt.

Okazaki was involved in Leicester’s well-worked second in the 38th minute, feeding Marc Albrighton who burst into the West Ham box and cut the ball back for Mahrez to sweep home.

The hosts had strong penalty appeals waved away in first-half stoppage time as Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel collided with the on-rushing Diafra Sakho.

Mahrez also had a claim for a spot-kick rejected in the 54th minute as his latest dribble caused further disarray among the West Ham defence, but Bilic’s men had a lifeline shortly afterwards.

Payet’s initial shot from Mark Noble’s low cross was blocked but Cheikhou Kouyate teed up the former Marseille midfielder to clatter his second strike emphatically into the top-left corner.

The Upton Park faithful roared their team forward in search of the equaliser and an unmarked Sakho headed tamely at Schmeichel.

Ranieri shrewdly removed Okazaki and introduced N’Golo Kante, who shored up the Leicester midfield to good effect.

Danny Drinkwater passed up the chance to add a third following more excellent work by Mahrez before City were indebted to an excellent stop from the relatively unemployed Schmeichel.

A loose ball broke to Sakho in the penalty area but the forward was denied from point-blank range as he lost his footing and Leicester, who lost on all six of their visits to the capital last season, would suffer no further London heartache.

Schmeichel’s opposite number Adrian endured a more forgettable conclusion to the contest, plunging his studs into Vardy’s stomach, having come up for a stoppage-time corner, to receive his marching orders.

Sat 15 Aug, 2015
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