Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho fire impressive Leicester past West Brom

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Paul Doyle at the King Power Stadium
·4-min read
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<span>Photograph: Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Getty Images

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, meanwhile, are four points above fifth place and played here with a heartening mix of insouciance and menace. “They overran us,” admitted Allardyce, who says his side must win at least five of their remaining six matches to survive.

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They arrived on the back of two consecutive victories but Rodgers’ side tore into them like a team invigorated by Sunday’s victory against Southampton in the FA Cup semi-final. Leicester were also boosted by 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 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 the striker with a free shot from seven yards. Diagne 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 a pass over to Vardy, who was free in the centre and stroked in from the edge of the area, fooling 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 as Leicester fizzed. 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.

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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.

Rodgers, mind you, was not satisfied and at one point kicked over a plastic bottle near the dugout. “I was annoyed at half-time,” he said. “You have to strive for perfection and we gave away too many passes.”

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.

“We didn’t get anywhere near the level we’ve had in the last eight or 10 games and you have to give Leicester credit for that,” said Allardyce. “Apart from Manchester City, they’re as good a team as we’ve played.”