West Ham took a major step towards securing their Premier League status for another season on Saturday, thanks to an impressive 2-0 win away at Leicester City.
Joao Mario’s 34th-minute opener put David Moyes’ side on course for their first win in five games, the Portuguese’s tap-in giving the visitors a deserved half-time lead at the King Power Stadium.
Captain Mark Noble doubled their advantage with a sensational strike just after the hour, capitalising on a dropping ball and unleashing a long-range volley that found the net via the post.
With relegation rivals Swansea City beaten away at Bournemouth, West Ham will now be certain to remain a top-flight club if Southampton fail to win at Everton later on Saturday.
While it is a case of mission accomplished for Moyes, doubts over opposite number Claude Puel’s future will only grow after another insipid display from Leicester.
Publicly backed by chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha prior to the game, the Frenchman saw his players fail to provide their own vote of confidence as they remain without a league victory since the end of March.
Puel shuffled his pack in the hope of lifting his players out of their recent malaise, making five changes from the side that lost 5-0 to Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park a week ago.
Yet Leicester still looked lethargic in the May sunshine against a West Ham team who, unlike their opponents, still had plenty to play for in the closing weeks of the campaign. Joao Mario’s straightforward finish was no more than they deserved at the break, while they were only denied a greater cushion by Ben Hamer and the woodwork.
After shooting straight at Leicester’s advancing goalkeeper when played clean through by Manuel Lanzini, Marko Arnautovic was denied again when a left-footed rocket was kept out by the crossbar.
However, the influential forward was involved in the opener, knocking back Arthur Masuaku’s deep cross from the left for Joao Mario to steer the ball into the net.
Leicester, meanwhile, failed to manage a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes. Fousseni Diabate dragged their only notable attempt comfortably wide, leading to Puel switching to a three-man defence for the second half.
Moyes will have worried when Aaron Cresswell’s refusal to clear a long punt under pressure from Jamie Vardy led to the falling defender handling the ball. Referee Chris Kavanagh correctly ruled the infringement had occurred outside the box, but – fortunately for the full-back – decided to only book the guilty party.
There was nothing lucky about West Ham’s second goal, however. A clearing header from a free-kick fell perfectly for Noble, whose side-winding volley fizzed beyond the helpless Hamer.
Yohan Benalouane’s header forced Hammers goalkeeper Adrian into his only meaningful save in the closing minutes, with Leicester’s lack of fight seeing them booed off at the final whistle by those supporters who had stuck around until the bitter end.
Key Opta stats:
– Leicester are without a win in six home Premier League games (D4 L2), their longest winless streak in the league on home soil since a run of six ending on Boxing Day 2014 (D2 L4).
– West Ham registered their first clean sheet in their last nine top-flight away games, since a 3-0 win against Stoke on December 16.
– The Foxes have lost four of their last five league games (D1), as many defeats as they had suffered in their previous 13.
– West Ham have scored in each of their last 11 away Premier League games their longest scoring run in the top-flight since December 1966 (14 games).
– Leicester have failed to score in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since February 2017 (a run of six which were Claudio Ranieri’s last games in charge).
– The Hammers registered their first win in their last six top-flight visits to Filbert Street/King Power Stadium, since a 3-1 victory in January 2000.
– Mark Noble scored his 37th Premier League goal; only two players have scored more for West Ham (Paolo Di Canio 47, Carlton Cole 41), with Trevor Sinclair also on 37.