Leicester vs West Ham match report: Islam Slimani gives Foxes a winning end to 2016 to ease relegation fears

Leicester City 1 West Ham United 0: Slimani's early header is enough for Leicester to sign off their incredible 2016 on a high note and hope that 2017 brings more joy than relegation despair

Steve Madeley
King Power Stadium
Saturday 31 December 2016 17:59 GMT
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Islam Slimani celebrates putting Leicester City ahead
Islam Slimani celebrates putting Leicester City ahead (Getty)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Islam Slimani’s towering header ensured Leicester City ended their historic year with one more stirring Premier League victory.

The Algerian converted a fine cross by Marc Albrighton on 20 minutes to give Claudio Ranieri’s men a winning end to 2016 - the year that saw them stun the football world.

The reigning Premier League champions have tailed off so alarmingly this season that Ranieri has openly discussed the prospect of a relegation battle and challenged his side to end the calendar year with 20 points to make a scrap at the bottom less likely.

They did as he asked as the Italian recalled title-winning stars Danny Drinkwater and Riyad Mahrez, who played their part in a performance that was attacking in the first half and dogged in the second to deny West Ham a fourth successive victory.

“Slimani’s header is a masterpiece,” purred Ranieri. “When the ball comes from a cross, Slimani is fantastic. We have to make more crosses for him.

“It was an amazing year - unforgettable.

“Of course 2016 will remain in our heart and in our mind, not only me but all my players, the chairman, staff and everybody in Leicester.

“It was something special but it was special to win today against a team with a lot of confidence.”

Mark Noble is left in agony on the pitch
Mark Noble is left in agony on the pitch (Getty)

Mahrez might have justified his recall with just over a minute on the clock when he raced onto a flick by Demarai Gray following a strong header by Islam Slimani.

The Leicester playmaker let fly with a dipping half-volley that West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph had to turn over the crossbar.

Moments later Slimani should have rewarded Leicester for their excellent start with the opening goal when he met an inviting cross by Marc Albrighton at the far post but the Algerian striker headed against the frame of the goal.

West Ham produced a stirring response to Leicester’s high-tempo opening and carved out chances of their own.

Aaron Cresswell produced a fabulous cross from the left, which flicked off the head of Wes Morgan and found its way to Michail Antonio, but the winger could only turn the ball over the crossbar with his shin.

Islam Slimani puts Leicester ahead against West Brom
Islam Slimani puts Leicester ahead against West Brom (Getty)

Leicester regained the initiative and led when Albrighton’s wonderful cross bypassed every West Ham defender and found perfectly the towering Slimani, who despatched a powerful header.

Randolph denied Slimani a second when he produced an instinctive save to keep out the striker’s shot.

But West Ham then found some momentum and almost found an equaliser in a frantic goalmouth scramble which saw Kasper Schmeichel save from Payet and Daniel Amartey deny Andre Ayew with a brave block.

Michail Antonio sent a shot on the turn against the crossbar before Leicester twice went close in the dying moments of a compelling first half.

Kasper Schmeichel argues with the fourth official during the win over West Ham
Kasper Schmeichel argues with the fourth official during the win over West Ham (Getty)

Havard Nordtveit’s saving tackle prevented Slimani turning in another Albrighton cross before a Mahrez free-kick was saved by Randolph.

The second half was less pulsating and nerves appeared to be creeping in for the hosts.

They were far from eased in the 67th minute when a free-kick from West Ham left-back Cresswell deflected off opposite number Ben Chilwell and almost wrongfooted Schmeichel, who made a desperate save on the line.

There was a flashpoint with 18 minutes remaining as Chilwell was caught by a high boot by Nordtveit, who escaped with a yellow card.

And there was late drama when Andy Carroll blocked Chilwell’s shot for West Ham before Danny Simpson did likewise for Leicester from a header by Angelo Ogbonna.


West Ham manager Slaven Bilic said: “I believe we deserved something. I’m very disappointed, angry and frustrated that we lost.

“They started better. We knew they were going to start aggressively and they deserved the goal for the first 20 minutes.

“After that, for 70 minutes we were the better team.

“I'm very disappointed but we played a good game and that makes me satisfied in one part.

“We looked good, fit and on the ball. It was just that final product that wasn’t there.”

Teams

Leicester (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel; Simpson, Morgan, Huth, Chilwell; Drinkwater, Amartey; Albrighton, Mahrez (Fuchs, 70), Gray (Okazaki, 80); Slimani (Ulloa 82). Substitutes: Musa, King, Zieler, Mendy.

West Ham (4-2-3-1): Randolph; Nordtveit, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Noble (Lanzini, 57), Kouyate (Fernandes 78); Antonio, Ayew (Feghouli 65), Payet; Carroll. Substitutes: Adrian, Obiang, Fletcher, Quina.

Referee: Anthony Taylor (Cheshire)

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