A dominant second half performance from Leicester City has deepened the pressure on Alan Pardew and West Brom and almost but not quite certified their relegation to the Championship come May.
The visitors to the Hawthorns yesterday were the side who three years ago performed possibly the finest ‘great escape’ the Premier League has ever witnessed. If anyone were to inspire the hosts, it would be the visitors on Saturday. Coincidently, it was a 3-2 victory at the Hawthorns which initiated the Foxes escape back in 2015. Yet, any hopes of a ‘great escape’ from the baggies was diminished with their loss and with United, Liverpool and Tottenham still to play, the chances of West Brom playing in the Premier League next season are becoming increasingly bleak. The foxes were clinical and unforgiving with their first league win in six games coming as a huge relief to all involved. As for West Brom, the commissary continues and there is almost a feel of acceptance for all involved in the West Midlands that saving themselves is almost a mere impossibility.
Despite the significant victory for the away side, it was the home side who got off to a flier and found themselves in front within 8 minutes. It was almost a case that West Brom had something to prove and if they are going to go down come May, they are certainly going to go down fighting. With Burke finding himself in space down the right wing, he wiggled away from Ben Chilwell and delivered a perfectly placed cross into the centre which found Solomon Rondon, who got himself beyond Wes Morgan and toe-poked the ball past Schmeichel in goal. It was a well-timed darting run from the Venezuelan who was clearly delighted with putting his side in front.
Yet, even though it was the home side who had the advantage, Leicester looked deadly and were ready to take advantage of a team low on confidence and form. However, on 16 minutes, Alan Pardew’s side could have easily been two goals to the good as Krychowiak’s left footed effort was tipped onto the bar by Schmeichel, as Leicester fans looked on nervously. Nonetheless, with the attacking prowess in Leicester’s ranks, you can’t afford to sit on one-nil for long. On twenty-two minutes, West Brom’s afternoon and hope of getting a result arguably ended abruptly. With Mahrez picking up the ball in his own half, he picked out the instinctive Vardy with a succulent loping ball over the West Brom back line, he found the left foot of Vardy who played a first-time left foot volley into the corner of Foster’s net. A goal of the season contender undoubtedly. This was Vardy’s fourth goal in four games at the Hawthorns and once the ball hit the back of the net, the afternoon was pretty much all Leicester’s. West Brom heads dropped as if to say, ‘that’s it, we’re on for another loss’ and City made them pay. A second Vardy goal just before the break was ruled out for offside and the teams went into the break all square.
It was a huge second half for both sides as Leicester tried to close the gap between them and Burnley sitting in 7th and the hosts tried to muster up some form of encouragement and gain what would have been an essential three points in their quest for survival.
With the introduction of Iheanacho on the hour mark, who replaced Japanese international Okazaki, the game really swung into Leicester’s favour. It was only three minutes later that the Nigerian made an impact as he placed an inch perfect scooped ball to Mahrez who’s perfect first-time touch allowed him to poke the ball over the oncoming Foster into the back of an empty net. The Foxes didn’t look back and it was the creator who turned the finisher for Leicester’s third of the afternoon. As Chilwell picked up the ball on the left-hand side, he picked out Iheanacho in the middle who planted the ball past Foster in the West Brom goal which all but sealed Leicester’s three points.
The foxes begun to play with real prowess and their slickness was almost too much for West Brom to handle at times. With almost the last touch of the game it was Vicente Iborra, who was bought back into the starting XI for the first time this year, who put the final nail in the West Brom coffin.
MOTM: Vicente Iborra – A substantial performance on his return to the squad. Offered something going forward and in defence and made an admirable partnership with Wilfred Ndidi. A goal was the superb ending to his performance.
West Brom: Foster, Nyom, Dawson, Hegazi, Gibbs, Krychowiak (Field, 59) Livermore, Brunt, Burke (Robson-Kanu, 83), Rondon, Phillips (Rodriguez, 70). Unused subs: Myhill, McClean, McAuley, Yacob.
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Morgan, Maguire, Chilwell, Iborra, Ndidi, Mahrez (Diabate, 88) Okazaki (Iheanacho, 60) Gray (Albrighton, 67) Vardy. Unused subs: Fuchs, James, Dragovic, Jakupovic.
Written by Eamon Kitching.