Willian and Tom Cairney hit braces for the Cottagers, with Carlos Vinícius also on the scoresheet. Although the home side always had a comfortable distance between them and the Foxes, Harvey Barnes netted twice too, while James Maddison struck from the penalty spot. Jamie Vardy also had a spot-kick saved in a high-scoring top-flight clash in west London.
Manager Dean Smith shuffled his pack to include Victor Kristiansen and Dennis Praet in the XI, lining the Foxes up in a 4-2-3-1 system, although it often became a 4-4-2. They were backed by 2,296 members of the Blue Army a short distance from where, two days earlier, the Coronation of Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Camilla took place in the capital.
Eleven minutes in, Fulham got started. Willian’s free-kick, on the left channel, was surely intended for a team-mate. Instead, the Brazilian’s curler flew through the area, past everyone, and beyond goalkeeper Daniel Iversen, into the far corner of the Leicester goal. It had been an open start to the game and that seemed to suit the Cottagers. The Foxes were unlucky not to level when Maddison drove into the area, crossing low for Barnes. City's No.7 couldn’t get there, but the knee of Kenny Tete nearly diverted the ball into Bernd Leno’s net. Harrison Reed then drilled wide, before Tosin nodded over for the home side.
It was about to get worse for City. Eighteen minutes in, they were two down, as Harry Wilson advanced through the middle, teeing up Vinícius to clip it past Iversen. A super stop from Leno prevented Vardy from instantly halving the arrears. City’s all-time top Premier League goalscorer had been gifted the ball by Antonee Robinson, before charging fowards. Vardy’s scored two in two for the Foxes but a strong arm from Fulham’s German ‘keeper parried it round the post. The former Arsenal shot-stopper was there again moments later to dive to his left and stop Vardy’s low hit from the edge of the penalty area. Timothy Castagne’s header was also deflected over, while Leno comfortably caught Wout Faes’ glanced effort too.
Fulham were a real threat. When Willian skipped into Leicester’s box, the former Chelsea man dragged it back to Reed, who forced an excellent save from Iversen. The Dane was alert to Kenny Tete’s follow-up as well, while Vinícius knocked a header wide later on. An afternoon to forget continued to get away from the Foxes before the break. Reed’s back-heel freed Vinícius inside the area. The Fulham man waited a moment and then gave it to Cairney to whip it into the far bottom corner. Into the second half, City's Tetê was on, and the visitors were pushing. Barnes’ low drive was bent around the base of the post by Leno. Fulham broke, though, and the home side's Tete crossed for Cairney to side-foot the Cottagers’ into a four-goal lead.
Leicester got one back just before the hour. Castagne’s cross was commuted into Barnes’ path by Maddison, central but with his path to goal blocked. A powerful shot from Barnes cannoned back down off the bar, licked the post and looped just over the line. There was a chance to make it 4-2 moments later too, when Leno fouled Vardy on the right-most outskirts of the 18-yard box. The decision was a Foxes penalty, but the Fulham ‘keeper dived to his left and denied the City No.9. Instead, it was 5-1 on 70 minutes, when Willian cut inside, 25 yards out, and whipped the ball into the bottom corner.
In spite of their plight, the visitors continued to have chances. Maddison’s free-kick was inches away. Tetê twisted and turned before knocking it wide as well. Maddison then scored from the spot after being fouled himself in the box by João Palhinha. Shane Duffy nodded a big opportunity wide for Fulham as well. In the dying moments, Barnes pounced again after substitute Patson Daka had capitalised on a determined but loose touch from Leno. It was all too late, though. Defeat in west London.
Major moment – Fulham's opener
Fulham raced into an early lead at Craven Cottage.
Going behind was such a blow for Leicester, whose fans knew the importance of this clash. It instantly set them back and, although they have often needed to come from a goal down in recent weeks, it wasn't to be today.
Where does it leave us? – 18th in the league
Dean Smith thanks the away supporters for their backing in the capital.
The Foxes drop to 18th in the Premier League, with three matches to play, following wins for 16th-placed Nottingham Forest and Everton in 17th. Forest are now three points clear of City, while Everton hold a two-point advantage.
Coming up – Liverpool (H)
Boubakary Soumaré pushes the ball forwards for the visitors.
Liverpool are the visitors to King Power Stadium next Monday (8pm kick-off). It’s a trip to Newcastle United on Monday 22 May (8pm kick-off), before West Ham United are on Filbert Way for the final day on Sunday 28 May (4:30pm kick-off).
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