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West Ham survive late Leicester comeback

Jesse Lingard’s first goal saw him become the first West Ham player to score in four consecutive Premier League games since Michail Antonio in September 2016

Jesse Lingard continued his stunning form with West Ham by scoring twice in the first half to set the Hammers on course for a crucial victory over fellow Champions League hopefuls Leicester City.

The two sides came into the weekend occupying the last two Champions League spots, before wins for Chelsea and Liverpool on Saturday nudged West Ham down to sixth place.

But David Moyes’ men showed they are up for the challenge of qualifying for Europe’s top club competition for the first time, going 3-0 up and holding on during a late Leicester rally to climb back into fourth.

The Hammers took the lead as Arthur Masuaku’s cross went through to right-back Vladimir Coufal, who cut back for Lingard to sweep the ball inside Kasper Schmeichel’s near post from the edge of the box.

Jarrod Bowen then beat the offside trap to race on to Issa Diop’s long ball and square for Lingard to tap into an empty net for his eighth goal in nine Premier League games since arriving on loan from Manchester United.

The 28-year-old forward, whose recent form earned him an England recall, then played a part in West Ham’s third goal right after half-time as Bowen poked in from Tomas Soucek’s pass to round off a clinical team move.

Kelechi Iheanacho pulled a goal back to give the visitors hope, before grabbing his 11th goal in 11 games in stoppage time, but the Hammers ensured they did not surrender a 3-0 lead for the second straight home game and move within a point of third-placed Leicester.

Noble reaches another milestone

With Declan Rice set to be out until May, club captain Mark Noble has returned to the Hammers’ midfield at a pivotal stage of the season.

The 33-year-old led by example during Monday’s 3-2 win at Wolves and did so again during his 400th Premier League game for West Ham – and 524th in all competitions – before going off after injuring his wrist making a desperate block late on.

The Hammers were a Championship side when Noble made his league debut in January 2005. Now they could finish in the top four of English football’s top flight for the first time since 1985-86.

The man known as ‘Mr West Ham’ signed a one-year extension in March, saying he will leave at the end of 2021-22, and said before Sunday’s game that he is relishing the prospect of playing Champions League football in his 18th and final season with the club.

The graft of a long-serving club servant has long been admired at West Ham, but it is the guile of short-term signing Lingard that has thrust them into top-four contention.

A poor lay-off by Coufal denied him the chance of scoring another goal in the first half, while Lingard crossed for Diop to head home after the break, only to see it disallowed for offside.

It seems it is no longer a question of whether Lingard will make England’s European Championship squad this summer, but whether he will start.

Lingard’s only league goal last season came as Manchester United dashed Leicester’s Champions League hopes on the final day. Helping West Ham make the top four this time round would surely make England manager Gareth Southgate’s mind up.

Lacklustre Leicester almost pull off late fightback

Leicester’s preparations were dealt a blow as James Maddison, Hamza Choudhury and Ayoze Perez were left out for breaching Covid-19 protocols, and the Foxes were lacklustre for the first hour.

West Ham’s opener was the result of some patient build-up play, but then Leicester only had themselves to blame as they were made to pay for playing a high line for the second goal and being dispossessed in their own half for the third.

Ricardo Pereira caught the Hammers in possession to give Iheanacho the chance to fire in from the edge of the box and, shortly after six minutes of stoppage time was indicated, the Nigeria striker scored again following a low cross by substitute Marc Albrighton.

Leicester almost salvaged a point as Wesley Fofana headed wide at the death but it was another quiet afternoon for Jamie Vardy. After a blistering start to the season, he has now scored once in his past 18 games.

The Foxes are eager to avoid another late-season collapse and their next three home games are against West Brom, Crystal Palace and Newcastle, but they will need Vardy to help ease the burden on Iheanacho, 24, who is enjoying the longest run of Premier League starts in his career and is now Leicester’s joint-top scorer with Vardy.

Manager Brendan Rodgers told BBC Sport: “We mentioned about starting quickly and we did anything but. It was a tough one to watch.

“It’s always easy to play when you’re 3-0 down, I don’t take much from getting back into the game. We were too passive to win an important game.”

Hammers keep on scoring – the stats

  • In only his ninth Premier League appearance for West Ham, Jesse Lingard reached double figures for goals and assists combined with eight goals and three assists. It is the quickest a Hammers player has ever done so – Paul Kitson reached double figures in 12 games in 1997.
  • Mark Noble became only the eighth player to make 400 Premier League appearances for a single club.
  • West Ham have recorded their first Premier League double over Leicester since the 1999-2000 season.
  • This was David Moyes’ 50th Premier League game in charge during his second spell at West Ham – the Hammers have won 75 points in those 50 games (W21 D12 L17), their most over a 50-game period in the top flight since winning 76 points between March 2007 and September 2008.
  • Since Moyes returned, only Manchester City (19) and Manchester United (16) have had more Premier League games in which they’ve scored three or more goals than West Ham (15).
  • In 2021, only Manchester City (16) have won more Premier League matches than West Ham (10), who have picked up 32 points from a possible 45 this calendar year.
  • Kelechi Iheanacho has scored 14 goals in all competitions this season, equalling his best tally in a single campaign – for Manchester City in 2015-16.

What’s next?

West Ham are away at Newcastle next Saturday (12:30 BST) before Leicester play Southampton in the FA Cup semi-finals on Sunday (18:30).

Line-ups

West Ham

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 1Fabianski
  • 5Coufal
  • 23Diop
  • 15Dawson
  • 3CresswellBooked at 30minsSubstituted forBalbuenaat 53′minutes
  • 16NobleSubstituted forJohnsonat 82′minutes
  • 28SoucekBooked at 10mins
  • 18Fornals
  • 11Lingard
  • 26MasuakuBooked at 90mins
  • 20BowenSubstituted forBenrahmaat 84′minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Balbuena
  • 9Benrahma
  • 14Alves
  • 24Fredericks
  • 25Martin
  • 31Johnson
  • 34Trott
  • 45Odubeko
  • 54Coventry

Leicester

Formation 3-4-1-2

  • 1Schmeichel
  • 18AmarteySubstituted forThomasat 45′minutes
  • 6Evans
  • 3FofanaBooked at 45mins
  • 21Ricardo PereiraBooked at 33mins
  • 8Tielemans
  • 25NdidiBooked at 46mins
  • 27Castagne
  • 26PraetSubstituted forAlbrightonat 59′minutes
  • 14Iheanacho
  • 9Vardy

Substitutes

  • 11Albrighton
  • 12Ward
  • 24Mendy
  • 28Fuchs
  • 33Thomas
  • 38Leshabela
  • 46Daley-Campbell
  • 50Tavares
  • 64Suengchitthawon

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