The post-Claudio Ranieri feel-good factor at Leicester City showed no sign of letting up as they beat West Ham 3-2 in a thriller at London Stadium to continue Craig Shakespeare’s 100 per cent start as the Premier League champions’ manager.
Tuesday’s intense 2-0 win over Sevilla that secured passage to the Champions League quarter-finals did appear to impact their laboured second-half performance, but a sprightly start and dogged defending towards the end were ultimately crucial as Leicester clinched their first away league win of the season.
They picked up right where they left off on Tuesday with a remarkable start to go two goals up within seven minutes – Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth stunning the hosts.
West Ham soon got themselves a lifeline through a fine Manuel Lanzini free-kick, though Leicester re-established a two-goal lead late in the first half through Jamie Vardy.
3 – Craig Shakespeare is the 1st manager in PL history to have his side score 3+ goals in each of his first 3 games in charge. Scenes.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 18, 2017
But West Ham responded once more as they pulled another one back just after the hour mark – Andre Ayew nodding in from close range as the home side looked to ensure a tense ending for Leicester.
Kasper Schmeichel was at his very best to make a vital late save, while an awful Ayew miss let Leicester off the hook and saw the match slip away from West Ham.
Any suggestions of Leicester weariness following their Champions League exploits were swiftly put to bed during a ferocious start.
There was a hint of fortune about their fifth-minute opener, as Mahrez cut in from the right and saw his left-footed cross sail all the way into the bottom-left corner.
But there was nothing fortuitous about their second just three minutes later.
Marc Albrighton nudged a short free-kick to Mahrez, before receiving it back courtesy of a disguised pass from the Algerian that took West Ham by surprise, and the former Aston Villa midfielder’s brilliant lofted ball with the outside of his right foot picked out Huth for an easy headed finish.
West Ham’s situation was made even worse by Winston Reid’s forced withdrawal with a suspected thigh problem in the 18th minute.
They pulled one back a few moments later, though, Lanzini finding the top-left corner from an exquisite 20-yard free-kick.
But their joy was short-lived, as Vardy smashed home from close range after Mahrez’s corner fell kindly to him just before the break.
Leicester reverted to the counter-attacking setup that served them so well last season when they came back out for the second half.
And it almost brought about a fourth goal just before the hour – Shinji Okazaki pouncing on a loose ball before feeding Vardy through on goal, only for the England striker to slice wide under pressure from Darren Randolph.
West Ham then made the most of that let-off, as Ayew steered in from close range after Andy Carroll headed a Lanzini cross back into the danger zone.
| @AyewAndre urges his teammates on after scoring the Hammers’ second
— West Ham United (@WestHamUtd) March 18, 2017
Carroll was involved again 14 minutes from time, forcing Schmeichel into a marvellous save down to his left after a bullet header.
Ayew was then guilty of a terrible miss as he blazed over when one-on-one with Schmeichel, before Cheikhou Kouyate’s effort from six yards out amid a goalmouth scramble was kept out by a combination of Leicester defenders.
Schmeichel came to the rescue again in stoppage time, rushing out to deny Carroll from point-blank range as the desperate champions just about held on to a hard-fought win to move six points clear of the relegation zone.
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