London (AFP) – Craig Shakespeare believes Kasper Schmeichel must be viewed as one of the game’s top goalkeepers after his saves enabled Leicester City to record a fourth successive victory.
First-half goals by Riyad Mahrez, Robert Huth and Jamie Vardy gave the champions a 3-2 win at West Ham United on Saturday, easing the relegation fears that led to manager Claudio Ranieri’s sacking last month.
But West Ham hit back through Manuel Lanzini and Andre Ayew and Leicester needed Schmeichel to make two high-quality saves from Andy Carroll before they could celebrate another win.
“He is in the best form I’ve seen since I’ve been here, so I don’t see why not,” said Shakespeare when asked whether Schmeichel — son of Manchester United goalkeeping great Peter — deserved to be bracketed alongside the Premier League’s star shot-stoppers.
“All goalkeepers are important, but to bring off those crucial saves was vitally important.”
The game at London Stadium was Leicester’s first since they saw off Sevilla in the Champions League on Tuesday to set up a last-eight tie with Atletico Madrid.
Shakespeare has known nothing but success since he stepped up from assistant manager to replace Ranieri, initially in a caretaker capacity, but he said it was the result of a simple recipe.
“There’s no secret,” he said. “Hard work, endeavour, resilience — we showed all of them today, aligned with some good football.
“We scored the goals at the right time. They gave us a foothold in the game, but we know that hard work is paramount to success and we have to keep on doing that.
“We spoke about the importance of starting brightly and playing on the front foot if we could, very similar to the other night, but we had to show real resilience in the second half.”
– Antonio doubtful for England –
The loss increased the focus on West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who has seen his side fail to win any of their last four games.
The east London club are not in any relegation danger, but the Croat knows a significant section of the home support are not happy.
“We can talk about a lot of positives, but we lost the game so we have to talk about a lot of negatives at the beginning of the game,” he said.
“Of course we knew they were a good side and they had a lot of momentum, but the three goals they scored in the first half weren’t from the chances they created.
“The first goal was very sloppy and the others were from set-pieces. In the second half it was all positive and I only had to ask the players why we had to go behind.
“The second half was our best performance this season, but the ball just didn’t want to go in.
“I really think we deserved at least a point. We created enough chances. Their keeper made amazing saves from Andy Carroll with the header and that last one.”
The Hammers also lost acting captain Winston Reid and midfielder Pedro Obiang to injury and Bilic revealed that Michail Antonio has a hamstring problem that might cost him his first England cap.
“He is probably going to be withdrawn — that’s what the medical team told me from England,” Bilic said.
“But it is just the first report from straight after the game, which doesn’t all the time have to be exact ones.”