Hammers outfoxed by Leicester

West Ham United slipped to a 2-1 defeat away at Leicester City as the Foxes kept their hopes of avoiding relegation alive. 

In an end-to-end game with chances aplenty for both sides it was the hosts who came out victorious. The celebrations at the final were indicative of a hard fought match which could have gone either way. 

Esteban Cambiasso opened the deadlock with a fierce shot before Adrian saved David Nugent’s penalty. Cheikhou Kouyate rifled in the equaliser after half an hour as West Ham steadied the ship, only to be undone late on.

It looked as though the spoils would be shared before substitute Andy King poked home from close range just two minutes from time to secure his side what could be a crucial win.  

In a high-octane game which matched an excellent pre-game atmosphere it was the hosts who took the lead in the 12th minute as Cambiasso rifled in a fierce shot from outside of the box. The experienced Argentine took full advantage of the loose ball and put it in the right hand corner, giving goalkeeper Adrian little chance of saving it. 

Just two minutes later and it looked like things were going from bad to worse for the Hammers after Leonardo Ulloa won a penalty when he was brought down by Carl Jenkinson. Up stepped Nugent but Adrian, not for the first time this season, proved the hero as he dived to his left and made a terrific save. 

The penalty seemed to serve as a wakeup call for the Hammers as they began to create more opportunities.

Aaron Cresswell made an incisive run into the box, beating two men before drilling a cross along the six-yard box towards Diafra Sakho who was unable to get any meaningful contact on his shot. The ball fell to the onrushing Kouyate but Leicester managed to scramble the ball away. 

Just minutes later, Kevin Nolan almost equalised as he got his head to Stewart Downing’s arrowed cross, but the ball fell just wide of the post. 

The Hammers did manage to find the equaliser just after the half-hour mark through Kouyate, who was clearly enjoying life back in the midfield. Alex Song lofted an inviting ball into the box which Kouyate chested down before lashing home with his second touch.     

With the game tied, the Hammers continued to grow into the match but the score remained 1-1 at the half-time break. 

Into the second half and the game remained an even contest with a lot of industry and hard work but little end product. 

Tempers began to flare as the game neared its conclusion with Vardy and Jenkinson sharing a few choice words. There was certainly no holding back from either sides in terms of tackling as Cheikhou Kouyate and Matty James were on the end of robust challenges. 

With 67 minutes on the clock, a long throw-in almost gave Leicester the lead as Jamie Vardy got on the end of Ulloa’s flick but the ball clipped the outside of the post. 

Sensing that the momentum was beginning to build for the hosts Vardy, whose pace proved to be a constant threat, again went close, but this time he fired just wide from the edge of the box.   

Just as in the first half, the Hammers responded with several chances of their own. First, Sakho set Downing free to gallop down the pitch and, with time and space to run into, he tried he luck from 20 yards out, his shot going agonisingly wide. 

Moments later, Kouyate almost doubled his account for the afternoon when he hit the post from a tight angle following superb hold up play from his compatriot Sakho. 

The game was getting more and more stretched as Sam Allardyce brought on Morgan Amalfitano and Carlton Cole to try and find a winner. The changes seemed to have an impact as the Leicester backline became stretched. Downing had two more opportunities as Schmeichel pulled off a terrific save to tip his deflected effort over. 

However, down the other end Cresswell came to his side’s rescue as he cleared a Kramaric shot off the line just in time after it had beaten Adrian. 

Into the last few minutes and Leicester scored what might prove to be their most important goal of the season. The Hammers failed to deal with a ball into the box which eventually fell to Vardy whose shot was diverted in by substitute Andy King. The King Power erupted to the sound of 30,000 fans who may yet still have a chance of beating the drop, while West Ham were again left to rue their inability to defend in the closing moments.

Leicester City: Schmeichel, De Laet (King 78), Morgan (c), James, Vardy, Huth, Schlupp, Cambiasso, Ulloa (Kramaric 71), Mahrez (Albrighton 46), Nugent
Subs: Koncheskey, Drinkwater, Wasilewski, Schwarzer

Goals: Cambiasso (12), King (86) 

West Ham United: Adrian, Reid, Cresswell, Nolan (c) (Amalfitano 65), Kouyate, Downing, Sakho (Cole 79), Noble, Jenkinson, Collins, Song (Nene 88)
Subs: Jaaskelainen, Demel, O'Brien, Jarvis

Goal: Kouyate (32)

Bookings: Jenkinson (14), Reid (52), Collins (60), Cresswell (84)