LEICESTER 2-1 WEST HAM: Foxes are RELEGATED from the Premier League
Leicester 2-1 West Ham: Foxes are RELEGATED from the Premier League just seven years after winning the title… despite ending the season with a victory over Hammers
- Leicester were relegated from the Premier League despite beating West Ham on the final day of the season
- The Foxes put in an impressive performance on the final day at the King Power but it still wasn’t enough
- Everton’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth meant the club’s fate was sealed regardless of their result on Sunday
No-one needed a transistor radio to know that the beautiful Leicester City story had been reduced to dust – from champions to the Championship – inside seven years.
The news of Everton’s goal was imparted brutally from a gleeful West Ham contingent taking great delight in another team’s misfortune. ‘Going down,’ they sang of Leicester. ‘Going to Prague,’ they sang of themselves. ‘Say hello to Millwall.’
The weird reality of the modern last-day relegation fight also included Leicester’s fans launching into spontaneous cheers on a few occasions in the second half, which implied Everton had conceded an equaliser, when they had not. ‘West Ham fans were rubbing our noses in it. Our fans were jumping in where they thought we had a goal,’ manager Dean Smith said at the end.
And then, after only a second victory since the back-to-back wins which had created brief optimism in early February, came the final indignity for Leicester’s players – milling around on the pitch, clustered around a phone at one stage, awaiting the delayed final whistle at Everton. There were precious few words between them. Nothing to say. They watched West Ham fans acclaim Declan Rice and urge him to give them ‘ten more years.’ And then they were relegated.
A lap of honour was as risky as it was inappropriate, given the nine months which had preceded all this, so the players just walked in a vaguely circular motion just beyond the centre circle. Half-hearted boos rang out and they vanished down the tunnel.
Leicester City were relegated from the Premier League despite beating West Ham 2-1 – seven years after being champions
Everton’s 1-0 win over Bournemouth meant the Foxes’ nine-year stay in the top flight ended regardless of their result
It was devastation for Leicester’s players and supporters at full-time after their fate was sealed after a frustrating campaign
In truth, it has been a dismal season for the club who had no excuses after losing 22 of their 38 league games
A few hours earlier, the same supporters had gathered in numbers at the statue of Vichai Srivaddhanacpraba, ‘The Possible Man’ who built Leicester City into a Premier League club, while a singer a few yards away hammered out a rendition of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ – searching in vain for a little local enthusiasm.
The stadium announcer’s request that ‘if you are not a flag waver please pass yours on to someone who is,’ said a lot – because not everyone was in the mood for flags. ‘Leave them behind after the match,’ the announcer also asked. For what? To wave the one-time Premier League champions on against Huddersfield and Rotherham?
Though the match programme cover stated, in block capitals, that: ‘Foxes never quit’, it certainly didn’t look like that in the first 20 minutes, when Leicester couldn’t put three passes together.
But somehow, and from somewhere, that talk about them being a squad of players ‘too good to go down’ seemed a bit less hubristic.
Kelechi Iheancho, a figurehead of all that was good about Leicester in this match, got the show started. Harvey Barnes started to find some zip down the left. And James Maddison, whose last Leicester season will always taint what he had hitherto achieved, drove into the spaces in front of West Ham’s defence which Declan Rice occupied. It was a glimpse of what might have been, for Leicester.
There will be so many ifs and buts in the days ahead but the quality of their football for an hour of this game was testament to the folly of Brendan Rodgers describing the squad as one set for a relegation fight, way back in August.
The club never recovered from the machinations of that time, when Rodgers had realised he wouldn’t have the money he wanted. The quartet of Maddison, Barnes, Iheanacho and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall for much of this match showed he had plenty at his disposal all along.
It now promises to be a summer of change for Leicester with several key players like Harvey Barnes (centre) and James Maddison (right) among those likely to leave the club
Dean Smith was appointed as boss in April, but was unable to save the Foxes from relegation – missing out by two points
Harvey Barnes had put Leicester 1-0 up on 34 minutes after a one-two with Kelechi Iheanacho – before Everton’s vital winner
It sent the King Power Stadium into bedlam and put Leicester up to 17th in the table at the time above the Toffees
MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
LEICESTER CITY (4-2-3-1): Iversen 6.5; Castagne 6, Faes 6, Evans 5.5, Thomas 4.5; Soumare 6, Dewsbury-Hall 6.5 (Mendy 71); Maddison 7, Tielemans 6, Barnes 8; Iheanacho 7.5 (Vardy 77)
Substitutes not used: Smithies, Souttar, Amartey, Praet, Tete,
Manager: Dean Smith 8
Scorer: Barnes 34, Faes 62
WEST HAM UNITED (4-2-3-1): Fabianski 6; Kehrre 6, Coufal 6.5, Aguerd 6, Cresswell 6 (Emerson 71); Downes 6 (Lanzini 86), Rice 7.5; Benrahma 7 (Bowen 62 7), Lucas Paqueta 6.5 (Cornet 71 6), Fornals 6.5; Antonio 5 (Ings 62 5
Substitutes not used: Areola, , Soucek, Ogbonna, Zouma
Manager: David Moyes 7
Scorer: Fornals 79
Referee: Simon Hooper 7
After a few initial miscues, there was the kind of attacking prowess that Everton would have given so much for. Iheanacho rescued a Barnes cross from the dead-ball line, traded passes with Maddison and fired against the bar. Dewsbury-Hall lifted a ball onto the roof of the net.
And then, just beyond the half-hour mark, the goal which sent the roof off this stadium and agonies through Goodison Park.
A one-two traded between Barnes and Dewsbury-Hall which took two West Ham defenders out of the picture and sent Barnes in, shrugging off Flynn Downes and easing the ball past Lukasz Fabianski. Khun Vichai’s son, Top, shook the hands of the supporters in the row beneath the directors’ box.
False rumour then started stalking this place. Five minutes after that first goal went in, word took hold among the West Ham contingent that Everton were a goal up and a momentary cheer went up.
But there was no myth about the visiting contingent’s jubilation at Everton’s strike just before the hour mark. Leicester put the game beyond much doubt five minutes later – Wout Faes getting ahead of Nayef Aguerd to head home from a free-kick – but Abdoulaye Doucouré sucked the life out of the stadium. Leicester had been out of the relegation zone for just 23 minutes.
Wout Faes made it 2-0 as he headed home a fine Youri Tielemans cross from a free-kick – though Everton had just scored
The Leicester supporters did all they could to drive on their team to safety on the final day though it wasn’t enough
Pablo Fornals pulled one back as the Hammers piled on the pressure but the Foxes held firm to do what they needed to do
But Everton’s win meant that, seven years on from their famous title triumph, Leicester were relegated to the Championship
There were reminders of an incapacity to defend which – as Dean Smith admitted at the end – has played a major part in sending Leicester down.
A lofted ball over Luke Thomas – who was frankly a liability – allowed substitute Jarrod Bowen to force a save from Daniel Iversen and then lay off for Danny Ings who blasted over. It was Thomas’ misplaced pass which allowed a counter-attack from which Pablo Fornals ran at a back-pedalling Leicester defence to score for West Ham.
John Terry, Smith’s defensive coach, hurled out directions to Jonny Evans. Evans made it quite clear that he couldn’t hear.
In the aftermath, Smith held out some prospect of remaining here. But Leicester feels like a club in need of total re-set, with seven players out of contract and eight with only a year left.
The solitary Leicester moment to savour as the endgame approached was the arrival from the bench of Jamie Vardy – one of the three of the title-winning squad still on the books.
The stadium rose to one of the few members of this squad who can their heads high. Whatever happens next, he will be the stuff of legend: a totemic part of an extraordinary decade. But everything else had evaporated. There was nothing else to cheer.
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