Demarai Gray

City End 2019 On A Winning Note At West Ham

Leicester City concluded 2019 with an impressive 2-1 victory over West Ham United at London Stadium on Saturday to maintain their second-placed standing in the Premier League.
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While manager Brendan Rodgers made nine changes to his starting XI less than two days after City faced Liverpool, the visitors in London secured their 13th win in 20 so far into the 2019/20 campaign, courtesy of goals from Kelechi Iheanacho and Demarai Gray.

James Justin came in to make his maiden top-flight start for the Foxes, alongside captain Wes Morgan, Christian Fuchs, Papy Mendy, Hamza Choudhury, Marc Albrighton and Ayoze Pérez.

Following an emotional minute’s applause in tribute to former West Ham and England midfielder Martin Peters, the Foxes made an encouraging start in the capital.

After just nine minutes, Rodgers’ men were awarded a penalty. It came as Iheanacho raced into the area before being bundled to the floor by Hammers goalkeeper Łukasz Fabiański.

It was Gray who stood up to take the spot-kick, but Fabiański was able to get a hand to it and so the score remained level, although the Polish ‘keeper was booked for his challenge.

Kasper Schmeichel would be required to make an assured stop from a long-range effort by Arthur Masuaku soon after, but the visitors were ahead on 40 minutes.

Justin, making his full Premier League debut, lofted a cross in for Pérez to head it back across goal and there was Iheanacho to nod home for his fifth goal in six matches in all competitions.

However, the Foxes would go in at the interval on level terms with their hosts, who also made seven changes, as Spaniard Pablo Fornals applied a smart finish to a counter before the break.

Not deterred by losing their lead, City emerged from the tunnel intent on regaining it as Fuchs' free-kick forced Fabiański into stopping one of City's eight shots on target.

On 56 minutes, Leicester broke free with Choudhury releasing Pérez, riding two challenges before threading the eye of a needle to locate Gray, who curled it across goal and into the bottom corner.

It was a fitting reward for City, who continued with the expressive, structured playing style which has defined their remarkable 2019/20 season so far.

Morgan could have widened the lead half-way into the second period with an audacious turn and half-volley inside the penalty area, saved by Fabiański, while substitutes James Maddison and Harvey Barnes also tested the Polish ‘keeper in the latter moments at London Stadium.

Major moment

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Demarai Gray
Demarai Gray

Demarai Gray wheels away in celebration after scoring the goal which ultimately won it for City.

City’s match-winning moment arrived within 11 minutes of the restart and it was as impressive as it was deserved with Demarai Gray completing a flowing counter attack.

Ayoze Pérez did outstandingly well to ride Issa Diop’s heavy tackle in the build-up, while the invention required to find Gray was bettered only by his team-mate’s composed finish.

Who impressed?

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Hamza Choudhury
Hamza Choudhury

Academy graduate Hamza Choudhury attracted the plaudits of Matt Elliott for his performance.

Matt Elliott said on LCFC Radio: "Hamza [Choudhury] worked hard from a defensive point of view, but he played his part in attack too. He didn't give West Ham any time on the ball. He played his natural game. His fitness and sharpness was a feature as well. He could have rounded it off with a goal, but unfortunately it wasn't to be!"

Where does it leave us?

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Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers

Foxes manager Brendan Rodgers watches on ahead of kick-off in London.

Following Manchester City’s 3-2 defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday, the Foxes open up a four-point lead over third, although Pep Guardiola’s men have a game in hand.

Leicester also currently hold a 12-point advantage over fifth-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Liverpool, meanwhile, are 10 points clear at the summit, with two more games to play.

Coming up…

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James Maddison
James Maddison

Second-half substitute James Maddison turns to the Blue Army at full-time.

City are next due at St. James’ Park on New Year’s Day to face Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United (3pm GMT kick-off).

Leicester City Crest

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