London (AFP) – A defeat by an under-strength Leicester City proved to be Manuel Pellegrini’s last match in charge of West Ham, with the veteran manager sacked two hours after Saturday’s 2-1 loss at the London Stadium.
A fourth successive home defeat for the Hammers, who have won just twice in 14 matches, left them a point above the Premier League relegation zone, with the club subsequently announcing the 66-year-old Pellegrini had left with “immediate effect” following an 18-month spell in charge.
“It is with great disappointment that we’ve had to make this decision,” said David Sullivan, the West Ham joint-chairman. “Manuel is a gentleman and it has been a real pleasure to work with someone of his calibre.
“However, it has become clear that that a change is required to get the club back on track in line with our ambitions this season.
“We felt it was necessary to act now in order to give the new manager as much time as possible to try and achieve that goal.”
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to the side hammered 4-0 by leaders Liverpool on Thursday, a decision that was as much a response to English football’s traditionally packed Christmas and New Year programme as it was a chastening defeat.
But that did not stop his second-placed side from securing victory, with Demarai Gray — one of the new faces — scoring the winner after he had an early penalty saved by Hammers goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianksi.
Pellegrini dropped Mark Noble to the bench following the Hammers captain’s on-field row with Angelo Ogbonna at Crystal Palace on Boxing Day, while the Italian defender was not even named in the Chilean boss’s squad.
West Ham’s slide down the table has coincided with Fabianksi spending three months out injured.
But the Poland international made a bad start to his return, his first act of the game coming when he bundled over Kelechi Iheanacho to concede a penalty.
Leicester were without star striker and regular penalty-taker Jamie Vardy, the England international missing the match as his wife Rebekah gave birth to a girl.
Gray took over the spot-kick duties in Vardy’s absence responsibility only to see Fabianksi make a fine save low to the keeper’s left.
The Hammers, however, did not capitalise on their reprieve and it was Leicester who went ahead five minutes before half-time when Ayoze Perez headed James Justin’s cross to the far post back to Iheanacho, who stooped to nod in from close range.
The goal stung West Ham into a response and they were level before half-time, with Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson sharing a one-two with Ryan Fredericks before crossing low for Pablo Fornals to score his first Premier League goal.
Leicester, however, regained the lead 11 minutes into the second half after Perez’s through-ball pierced the home defence with Gray curling a fine shot inside the near post after taking a touch.
This time, however, West Ham could not muster a response and that failure cost Pellegrini his job.
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