Set-piece frailty comes back to haunt Leicester in West Ham draw

Leicester 2 West Ham 2

Craig Dawson took advantage of Leicester City’s habitual inability to defend set-pieces by heading in the stoppage-time equaliser that enabled West Ham United to capitalise on their rivals’ slips and move one point ahead in the battle for the final Champions League qualification place.

With Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur faltering again, West Ham consolidated fourth place in the Premier League with what was a welcome point considering Leicester had battled back from going behind to Jarrad Bowen’s goal to lead 2-1.

Youri Tieleman’s penalty just before half-time and Ricardo Pereira’s first goal in more than two years, which also came against West Ham, appeared to have helped Leicester to a much-needed morale-booster before they gave up a winning position for the third time in successive home league games this year.

Leicester have now conceded from 11 corners in the Premier League, the worst record in the division, and despite a much-improved performance, Brendan Rodgers remains a manager whose future – or at least his team – looks uncertain.

Jarrad Bowen, who had given West Ham their lead, swung over the corner from which Dawson rose to head in the equaliser.

West Ham have been less impressive on the road recently, having lost four of their previous seven Premier League away games, but this will go down as a welcome point. Kurt Zouma withdrew through illness shortly before the game but quite how such a straightforward clipped pass from Issa Diop, Zouma’s replacement, could bypass all of Leicester’s defence in the 12th minute and allow Bowen a clear run down the inside-left channel beggars belief.

West Ham’s go-to man showed no hesitation whatsoever as he shot across Kasper Schmeichel from the left corner of the penalty area into the far bottom corner for his seventh goal in as many games, all told. Bowen, the matchwinner against Watford on Tuesday, has been involved in 15 goals in his 25 Premier League games this season and his movement from the centre circle to the inside-left channel was enough to beguile Leicester.

The home team at this stage were diffident, conscious perhaps of all the negativity that comes with a run of six defeats in 12 games, especially the previous Sunday’s FA Cup humbling by Nottingham Forest.

That had led Rodgers to castigate his players for their lack of hunger and to drop some of his bigger names such as Youri Tielemans, Harvey Barnes and Caglar Soyuncu for Thursday’s 2-0 defeat at Liverpool. Here they were all recalled but Leicester’s winter of discontent, with Jamie Vardy, Wes Fofana and Jonny Evans still among those injured, took another icy blow when James Justin, who has been so impressive since returning from 11 months out with a serious knee injury, fell to ground and had to be replaced by Luke Thomas.

James Maddison, playing in a more advanced wide role as Rodgers endeavoured to stiffen up his midfield, put in a couple of meaty challenges as he attempted to help Leicester battle their way back into the game.

There was a shot wide from Tielemans, six minutes before half-time, and then Barnes cut inside to swerve a better effort not too far over the angle as West Ham’s proud fans were finally quietened by their home counterparts. With the crowd willing them on, Leicester regained a foothold in the game when Maddison’s corner struck Aaron Cresswell’s outstretched elbow and Tielemans slammed in the ensuing penalty to his usual side – the goalkeeper’s right – and offered the sign of a love-heart to the fans.

Cresswell could have made amends in first-half stoppage time from Pablo Fornals’ pull-back from the left but the full-back did not catch his shot right from 12 yards.

Bowen had an equally good chance five minutes after the restart but could not apply his usual clean contact at the edge of the six-yard box.

The atmosphere cranked up as the rain teemed down and when Barnes went slaloming past Vladimir Coufal and crossed low to the far post, Patson Daka came sliding in to miss the converting contact by inches.

Finally the Foxes had their tails up again and they took the lead 12 minutes into the second half. Tielemans switched play from the right to Barnes on the far side of the penalty area and the winger’s cross invited Ricardo Pereira, on his first league start for three months after a gradual rehabilitation from a broken leg, to climb above Cresswell and head in to the top corner.

David Moyes introduced Sasid Benrahma and Nikola Vlasic for the final stages as West Ham attempted to refind their rhythm and three shots from the former helped turn the tide, the last one earning the corner that led to the equaliser.

– Guardian

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