Leicester brush aside West Brom to strengthen top four hopes

Jamie Vardy opened scoring before Jonny Evans and Kelechi Iheanacho also netted

Leicester City’s Jonny Evans celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Premier League win over West Brom. Photo Michael Regan/AFP via Getty Images

Leicester City’s Jonny Evans celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Premier League win over West Brom. Photo Michael Regan/AFP via Getty Images

 

Leicester City 3 West Bromwich Albion 0

With panache and no mercy Leicester hardened their top-four credentials and plunged West Brom deeper into the bottom three. This was a powerful way to discredit suggestions that Brendan Rodgers’ team could fade again as the season reaches its finale. They raced into the lead in the first half thanks to goals by Jamie Vardy, Jonny Evans and Kelechi Iheanacho and never looked like being caught by Sam Allardyce’s side, for whom relegation looms ever larger.

West Brom are nine points below 17th-placed Burnley with six matches remaining and an awful goal difference, which Leicester enjoyed making worse. Rodgers’ team are four points above fifth place and although that is not a plump cushion, they played here with an insouciant menace.

West Brom arrived on the back of two consecutive victories whereas Leicester had lost their last two league matches, but Rodgers’ side tore into the visitors like men invigorated by Sunday’s victory in the FA Cup semi-final.

They also got a boost from the inclusion of James Maddison in the starting lineup for the first time since February and, of course, again deployed a strike partnership that has given them new potency in recent months.

Yet Conor Townsend seemed unaware of the threat posed by Iheanacho in the third minute, allowing the Nigerian to dispossess him just inside his own half and scamper through on goal. Fortunately for the defender, Iheanacho’s recent sureness in front of goal abandoned him and he was forced wide by Sam Johnstone before the goalkeeper blocked his shot. Maddison then curled a follow-up effort over the bar from the edge of the box.

That was shoddy finishing but Mbaye Diagne was guilty of much worse a minute later. After Wesley Fofana failed to clear a cross by Matt Phillips, Matheus Pereira presented Diagne with a free shot from seven yards. He swiped at fresh air.

It took an old master to show how to finish. But before that it took a wonderful young creator to open the visiting defence, as Youri Tielemans sliced through it with an immaculate ball from deep. Timothy Castagne ran on to it down the right and slided it over to Vardy, who was free in the centre and stroked in from the edge of the area, using his body movement to fool the keeper into diving the wrong way.

Three minutes later Leicester inflicted more damage thanks to another combination between Tielemans and a trusty veteran. The Belgian delivered an outswinging corner and, after a deflection off Phillips at the near post, Evans butted a powerful header into the net.

West Brom’s defence was dissolving and Leicester fizzed with confidence and skill. Castagne nearly made it 3-0 before the half-hour after being allowed to zoom all the way down the right and into shooting range. His fierce low effort cannoned out off the post. Maddison then stung Johnstone’s hands from long range before Pereira warned Leicester against smugness by curling a corner against the crossbar.

No such warning was needed: Leicester had a lust for conquest and soon scored again. Iheanacho claimed his 13th goal in his last 13 matches thanks to more classy service from Vardy, who flew down the left before picking out his partner, who swept the ball into the net with the help of a nick off Townsend.

Iheanacho should have scored again before half-time but spooned a shot way over from 10 yards.

Allardyce replaced Callum Robinson with Semi Ajayi during the break but the change made no difference. Leicester remained sharper, stronger, more skilful and spry. A class above. West Brom needed to respond quickly but could barely get the ball, let alone pass it with Leicester’s pizzazz.

Rodgers’ only gripe could be that his team could have scored more. Vardy, who had netted only once this year before this match despite playing consistently well, spotted a chance to lob Johnstone from 50 yards but sent his shot wide. Later the goalkeeper flung himself to his left to turn away a free-kick by Iheanacho. – Guardian

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