Goals from Joao Mario and Mark Noble helped West Ham United take a giant step towards securing their Premier League safety as they were 2-0 winners at Leicester City in the Premier League.
Joao Mario’s tapped home a Marko Arnautovic cross to give the Hammers the lead in a first half they dominated, before the skipper lashed in a stunning 25-yard volley in the second period to seal all three points.
David Moyes’ men looked a constant danger throughout the clash, however, and went close on a number of occasions through Manuel Lanzini and top scorer Arnautovic.
It’s fair to say the Hammers controlled the opening half and they broke forward to create their first opportunity in just six minutes. A ball was fed through to Manuel Lanzini inside the penalty area, and after his shot was blocked, it broke to Pablo Zabaleta who could not pick out a claret shirt.
Five minutes later – another chance – and it was Argentine Lanzini causing trouble again. Beating a Leicester defender on the edge of the box, the No10 struck goalwards, but his shot on target rebounded off Marko Arnautovic and rolled out for a goal-kick.
Zabaleta could not direct a header from the returning Arthur Masuaku’s cross on target moments later, and though few chances arrived before the half-hour mark, the visitors continued to assert their authority.
And on 30 minutes, Ben Hamer in the City goal was forced into his first important save of the afternoon.
Lanzini and Arnautovic worked it brilliantly round Hamza Choudhury on the left flank and broke forward, with the latter feeding Arnautovic but the Austrian’s low shot from a tight angle was saved.
And a lick of paint denied David Moyes’ team two minutes later as they went even closer. Again, it was Arnautovic with the chance.
Watching the ball like a hawk as it dipped over his shoulder, the Hammers’ top scorer smashed a left-footed volley at Hamer’s goal and only the underside of the crossbar denied an opener.
But that elusive opener came less than 60 seconds later as Joao Mario grabbed his second of the season. Masuaku crossed from the left, and Arnautovic – at the heart of everything dangerous for West Ham – revived the deep ball at the back stick.
Controlling and squaring across goal, Joao Mario could barely miss as he tapped into an empty net to give the Hammers a huge goal and lead.
The hosts certainly looked as if a stern half-time talking to had kicked them into action as they came out for the second half. Soon after the restart, Aaron Cresswell was perhaps lucky to just see yellow after handling the ball on the edge of the box with Jamie Vardy breathing down his neck.
But despite the hosts’ pressure, it was the Irons who came closest to scoring the next goal, when Arnautovic was released by Joao Mario on the break. The No7, in the end, could not quite square to a teammate in the box.
The second goal did come – with 25 minutes remaining – in spectacular fashion. Joao Mario curled in a Hammers free-kick but substitute Aleksandar Dragovic headed the ball clear.
But from 25 yards, there waiting was the skipper Noble, who lashed a beautiful, controlled volley into the bottom corner – an absolute beauty – to make it 2-0 and put the game beyond Leicester City.
With their heads well and truly up, West Ham went in search of a third and almost got just that on 70 minutes. Arnautovic danced past three challenges inside the Foxes’ box but his strike at goal was well-blocked on its way to the back of the net.
Late on, Adrian was forced into a superb stop to keep out Yohan Benalouane’s header, but the visitors looked safe enough throughout the last 25 minutes and claimed what is likely to be a massive three points in the Premier League.
Leicester City: Hamer, Benalouane, Morgan, Maguire, Fuchs, Choudhury (Iheanacho 61), Iborra (Dragovic 46), Silva, Diabate (Gray 61), Mahrez, Vardy
Subs not used: Jakupovic, Thomas, Hughes, Barnes
Bookings: Dragovic 64
West Ham United: Adrian, Zabaleta, Rice, Ogbonna, Cresswell, Masuaku, Noble, Kouyate, Mario, Lanzini (Carroll 75), Arnautovic (Fernandes 79)
Subs not used: Trott, Evra, Cullen, Obiang, Hugill
Goals: Joao Mario 33, Noble 65
Bookings: Arnautovic 41, Cresswell 49