London (AFP) – Leicester City made it four wins from four under new manager Craig Shakespeare as the Premier League champions squeaked home 3-2 at West Ham United on Saturday.
The win added to domestic home victories over Liverpool and Hull City plus Tuesday’s Champions League success over Sevilla, which set up a last-eight assignment with Atletico Madrid.
First-half goals by Riyad Mahrez, Robert Huth and Jamie Vardy were enough to send Leicester six points clear of danger, but efforts from Manuel Lanzini and Andre Ayew had them hanging on at London Stadium.
Leicester were forced into a significant change to their preferred line-up, with captain Wes Morgan ruled out by a back injury sustained against Sevilla.
That ended the centre-back’s 87-game run in the Premier League and allowed the little-used Yohan Benalouane a first league start in almost two seasons with the Foxes.
Not that the change unsettled Leicester in any way as the champions motored into a two-goal lead within seven minutes.
Mahrez scored the first in the fifth minute, although his curling effort from the right was almost certainly a cross intended for either Shinji Okazaki or Vardy, who had given him the ball.
But there was no doubt about the second two minutes later.
Having traded passes with Mahrez from a free-kick, Marc Albrighton lofted the ball into the danger zone for the onrushing Huth to head home from seven yards.
West Ham’s woes were compounded when Winston Reid fell awkwardly and was helped off, to be replaced by Robert Snodgrass in the 19th minute.
Lanzini put a smile straight back on West Ham faces, however, with a perfectly placed free-kick a minute later to make it 2-1.
Danny Drinkwater fouled Michail Antonio 25 yards in front of goal, giving the Argentinian the opportunity to curl the ball over the wall and into the top corner, with goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel not even moving.
– Dire defending –
Leicester had to dig deep for a while as West Ham peppered their area with crosses, but then took advantage of some more dire defending by the hosts, this time from a corner.
Albrighton’s delivery was allowed to reach Vardy in front of goal and the England striker swivelled to smash the ball high past Darren Randolph.
Lanzini came close to pulling one back once again with a low shot that went wide of Schmeichel’s right-hand post, but the half ended with Leicester comfortably ahead.