David Moyes’ remote control seems to be working a treat for West Ham. With their manager again watching from his sofa after testing positive for the coronavirus, the east London side claimed another impressive victory thanks to goals by Michail Antonio, Pablo Fornals and Jared Bowen. Those were well-earned rewards for a commanding team performance.
After demolishing Wolves 4-0 last week in their manager’s first match away from the sidelines and firing five past Hull in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, West Ham rendered Leicester impotent from the start here. Brendan Rodgers’ team had scored 12 goals in their previous three league matches, including five at Manchester City last Sunday, but could not muster a shot on target in this one.
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These sides may have lined up with the same formations but that was as far as the similarities went in a match in which West Ham were physically, technically and tactically superior. All over the pitch they outmuscled the hosts, so much so that Leicester seemed intimidated and their passing became ragged, especially in the first half. It is at times such as these that Rodgers must really rue the absence of Ricardo Pereira and Wilfried Ndidi, as well as of James Maddison, who had to pull out of this match because of a calf injury suffered in training. Nampalys Mendy generally did a decent job replacing Ndidi in a defensive sense but West Ham knew he has none of the Nigerian’s creativity so they were perfectly happy to let him have the ball around halfway, whereas any other Leicester player who got possession was immediately engulfed by opponents.
West Ham opened the scoring in the 14th minute after Antonio quickly took a free-kick that he had won wide on the right, Caglar Soyuncu reacting to being outmuscled by the forward by taking him down from behind. Having beaten Soyuncu for strength, Antonio then dashed into the penalty area and beat Soyuncu with guile, giving the defender the slip as he directed a low header into the net from a cross by Aaron Creswell, who had been given plenty of time to pick out his man.
Leicester tried to respond but found themselves stifled by authoritative opponents. Ayoze Pérez made no impact on the right of Leicester’s attack and Harvey Barnes, freshly called up to the England squad, fared little better on the left, where he was contained by Vladimir Coufal, the defender who just arrived at West Ham from Slavia Prague on Thursday.
The Czech turned up on the left in the 22nd minute to foil Leicester’s first really dangerous attack, thwarting Thomas Castagne’s attempted cutback to Jamie Vardy. Most of the hosts’ other moves foundered on Fabián Balbuena, who played as if fitted with a tractor beam that pulled Leicester’s passes to him.
But it was Creswell who got in the way of another aimless Leicester attack in the 35th minute – and his hoofed clearance turned into a perfect through ball to Fornals, who was kept onside by the dawdling Soyuncu. The Spaniard raced into the penalty area and rammed a low shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
Leicester’s hopes of clawing their way back into the game just before the break were foiled by Declan Rice, who scampered back to meddle in a promising move between Barnes and Vardy.
Leicester had more of the ball in the second half but still struggled to pick a way through the visitors. Antonio remained a constant menace, forcing Schmeichel to save a header from a corner and then, five minutes later, scorching past Soyuncu before feeding Fornals, whose shot was blocked by Jonny Evans.
Leicester’s afternoon worsened when Daniel Amartey, who has recently returned from a two-year injury-enforced absence, had to be replaced. The Ghanaian’s misfortune led to a switch to a back four and a debut for Cengiz Under, the Turkish winger signed on loan from Roma. Rodgers then threw on Kelechi Iheanacho, too, but West Ham remained in charge. Rice nearly made it 3-0 in spectacular style but after a 60-yard run he thrashed his left-footed shot against the bar.
Leicester’s reprieve did not last long. When Fornals bisected the home defence with a fine pass in the 85th minute, Bowen finished emphatically.
Vardy had a chance to do likewise in the dying seconds but dinked a shot wide after being sent clear. Worse came in stoppage time, when Barnes’s goal was chalked off after a VAR review because of an offside against Vardy.