West Ham 1 Leicester 2 reaction: Irons' angst returns as Foxes go top of the Premier League

West Ham United 1 Leicester City 2: Goals from Shinji Okazaki and Riyad Mahrez send Foxes top of the Premier League

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The Independent Online

West Ham United began their long farewell to the Boleyn Ground, their home since 1904, with defeat as Leicester City continued their fine start to life under Claudio Ranieri.

Shinji Okazaki nodded the Foxes into a 27th minute lead before the enigmatic Riyad Mahrez capped a brilliant counter attack down the left flank to double their advantage.  

A 55th minute rocket from Dimitri Payet was ultimately a mere consolation for Slavan Bilić’s side before goalkeeper Adrián’s ignominious sending-off in stoppage time.

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Claudio Ranieri on the touchline

Leicester, meanwhile, sit atop of the Premier League table for the second Saturday night in a row ahead of the visit of Tottenham Hotspur to the East Midlands next weekend.

West Ham co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan, who say they’ve waited 20 years to own their boyhood club, insist their desire to see West Ham take their seat at football’s top table is their primary motive behind the move to the Olympic Stadium.

Once the Hammers hop the short distance across the London skyline to Stratford, at great expense to the taxpayer, the club’s value is likely to be in excess of £400m.

While the finances seem well kept, on-field matters continue to be a source of frustration after the momentary high of their 2-0 win at the Emirates six days ago.

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Shinji Okazaki scores

Ranieri meanwhile, affectionately dubbed the ‘Tinkerman’, contradicted his nickname by selecting an unchanged line-up from the opening day 4-2 mauling of Sunderland.

Brought in to replace the occasionally Machiavellian Nigel Pearson at the King Power Stadium, the 63-year-old represents everything his predecessor didn’t. Despite the obvious differences, Ranieri wants to build upon of the ‘fantastic foundations’ left behind by Pearson.

The in-form Foxes went into this clash having picked up a stunning 25 points since the start of April, dropping just five - more than any other side in the top flight. But their record in the East End, one win in 28 attempts, left a lot to be desired.

It was almost a nightmare start for the Foxes when Payet’s inviting free-kick, from the left channel, found the head of Diafra Sakho. The Senegalese frontman, who was arrested last week, allegedly on suspicion of assault, clipped his effort - via Wes Morgan's head - against Kasper Schmeichel’s crossbar.

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Riyad Mahrez celebrates

Jamie Vardy, the England international who was slapped with a ‘substantial fine’ in midweek for controversial comments made towards a Japanese punter in a Leicester casino, then picked up an early booking for leaving his leg in a meaty challenge with Irons goalkeeper Adrián. It was a duel which would continue until the latter stages.

Leicester turned on the style just before the half-hour mark through Mahrez as the Algerian international weaved his way past Aaron Cresswell and Cheikhou Kouyaté before forcing the shotstopper into action.

A decent spell for the visitors soon became an onslaught as Vardy’s acrobatic slice at Marc Albrighton’s fizzed corner was poked towards goal by Robert Huth. Adrián did excellently to parry it wide at his near post.

The Spaniard’s luck was about to run out, though, as Okazaki had the Leicester faithful chanting of being top of the league on 27 minutes.

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Slavan Bilic

Vardy, displaying all the wasp-like qualities which alerted Roy Hodgson to his abilities in May, curled a perfect cross for the Japan striker to volley towards the Bobby Moore stand.

While Adrián was on hand to palm away the £8m man’s first effort, Okazaki had time to pick his spot and head the rebound into an empty net. The Boleyn crowd were silenced.

The opening day Emirates raid was long in the memory when Mahrez, whose trickery inspired Leicester to that victory over Sunderland, converted his third of the season to double the advantage for Ranieri’s men.

Albrighton, another shining light for the Foxes last weekend, linked up with Okazaki on the left flank before turning inside two West Ham defenders to expertly find Mahrez with acres of space in the box.

Linked with a switch to La Liga side Villarreal in June, the 24-year-old drove home convincingly before forcing Bilić to endure the spectacle of his celebratory sprint towards Ritchie de Laet in front of the dugout.

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Adrian sticks his boot into Jamie Vardy

Whether it was a Bilić intervention at the break, or the raucous home crowd spurring them on, West Ham enjoyed a second half metamorphosis of sorts and swiftly halved the deficit.

Kouyaté, collecting the ball on the edge of Schmeichel’s box, slid a pass into the path of new Hammers poster boy Payet who emphatically guided his effort past the Danish keeper to temporarily appease the home fans.

A flurry of forays into Leicester’s half failed to pose the threat Bilić would have liked before Adrián, on the outskirts of the visitors’ penalty area in stoppage time, was dismissed for a kung-fu kick into Vardy’s chest.

The booing at full-time, as West Ham suffered their first defeat of a still youthful campaign, was a far cry from the jubilation at Arsenal last week.

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