Hammers Dramatically Denied Memorable Victory Over Leaders Leicester At KP Stadium
In the second edition of our weekly Classic Match series, we delve through the archives once more to relive another memorable West Ham United encounter from down the years with you, this time around, it involves the Hammers and today’s Premier League opponents at the King Power Stadium in Leicester City.
Cast your minds back to the late spring of 2016, “One Dance” by Drake featuring Wizkid & Kyla was at the very summit of the British Music Charts and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was about to celebrate her 90th birthday.
Meanwhile, in the world of football, and more scenically, the Premier League, West Ham United were enjoying their first season under Croatian manager and former player Slaven Bilic and their fourth since regaining their Top-Flight status in 2012.
They were also celebrating their final season at the Boleyn Ground before moving to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, doing so in style, sitting sixth in the standings heading into a mid-April trip to the King Power Stadium.
However, in recent weeks, the Hammers had been left frustrated by three consecutive league draws against London rivals, although most recently, been knocked out of the FA Cup in a quarter-final replay by Manchester United at Upton Park.
Meanwhile, if the remarkable campaign that the Irons were enjoying was surprising the footballing world, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester were taking the concept to an entirely new level.
Ahead of the visit of the East Londoners, the Foxes remarkably led the way in the Top-Flight over nearest competitors Tottenham Hotspur and a victory would have edged them closer to a fairy-tale first-ever Premier League title win.
The East Midlands outfit had most recently claimed a fourth successive win triumph at relegation strugglers Sunderland, their last loss arrived seven games ago to Arsenal in mid-February.
Both teams were fighting for objectives that would have been branded out of their depth at the start of the season, the Irons fighting for Champions League football and the Foxes the title.
The hosts would have been the more confident of the two on the day, feeling invincible in their beeline to securing the PL trophy early and having already defeated West ham twice that term, both to the tune of 2-1, in the league away from home and at home in the League Cup.
The intriguing encounter, where the home side were the clear favourites, was to take place on a Sunny April Sunday afternoon in Leicestershire, being televised by Sky Sports as part of their Super Sunday coverage.
When the two starting Xls were announced an hour prior to the 1:30 PM BST kick-off, the danger men were clear to spot in both the home and the away team, the players with the capability to impact the match profoundly.
For the hosts, these included the likes of unlikely deadly duo Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy, one picking up the PFA Player of the Year and the other, finishing as the club’s top-scorer, while the visitors’ own top-scorer and Dimitri Payet was one to watch for the away side, so too captain Mark Noble, who’s best season in Claret & Blue had placed him firmly in the running for an England call-up.
When the match could finally get underway against the backdrop of an electric KP Stadium atmosphere, the Hammers would have scarcely believed they didn’t take the lead inside the first few minutes in what was poised to be a thriller.
Payet’s early free-kick delivery was met by the head of Senegalese International Cheikhou Kouyate, striking both posts before somehow ending up in the arms of Kasper Schmeichel in the homer goal.
However, it wouldn’t be long before the Foxes started to do what they had done best all season long, threaten their opponents’ goal and it would be they who struck first against the run of play on 18 minutes, Vardy finishing well to cap off a swift counter-attacking move.
That would be the way things stayed going in at the break and Bilic’s men wouldn’t have felt like they deserved to be behind, still, they had a secret weapon to introduce at half-time.
Striker Andy Carroll, who had nabbed four goals in his last three league appearances, was brought on by the away side at the end of half-time and he made all the difference.
Early in the second period, the East Londoners’ hopes of coming from a goal down were given a huge boost when forward Vardy was dismissed for a second bookable offence after being yellowed already in the first half.
The prolific front man got clear of Angelo Ogbonna on his way through to goal with the ball as his team attacked, going to ground after minimal contact from the Italian and being shown his second yellow card by referee Jon Moss for diving.
However, by the 80th minute, the away side still hadn’t managed to level despite the man advantage, that was until Wes Morgan hauled Winston Reid to the floor from a Payet corner.
With Noble off the pitch, substitute Carroll stepped forth to take the penalty and tucked it away coolly, sending the Dane Schmeichel the wrong way to the delight of the travelling Claret & Blue Army.
Just two minutes later, Bilic’s boys raced into the lead in dramatic and simply stunning style, Aaron Cresswell volleying into the top corner from distance after Michail Antonio’s excellent work to pick him out from the right through a deflected cross.
It looked for all the world like the Hammers were about to become the first team since the Gunners to defeat Ranieri’s men, but one last twist in the tail would await them.
With 94 minutes on the clock, Jeff Schlupp raced forward for the home side and was fouled by Carroll in the area, despite no challenge and very little pressure from the forward, he went down, and the referee pointed to the spot.
Leonardo Ulloa, who had also come on from the bench, sent Adrian San-Miguel the wrong way from the spot-kick, much like Carroll, to send the home fans into delirium and break Claret & Blue hearts.
The point was enough for the Foxes to stay at the summit of the standings, keeping their noses in front of Spurs, with the side from East London remaining sixth in the wake of the result.
A mere couple of weeks later, the Foxes would secure the title ahead of schedule and eventually, run out winners of it by ten points, two years ago to this very weekend, beating odds of over 5,000 to 1 in the process.
It would be largely disappointing finish to the season for West Ham as they were defeated in two of their last three matches of the term, in spite beating the Red Devils in the final match at Upton Park to finish seventh and clinch a Europa League spot.
But, one question still remains, will Claude Puel’s Leicester City and David Moyes’ West Ham United be able to produce such an enthralling encounter when they face off later today at the King Power Stadium in a crucial Premier League matchup? Find out by heading over to @WestHamMatters_ on Twitter, where we will bring you live updates from the East Midlands throughout the afternoon.