Kelechi Iheanacho

Foxes Too Strong For West Ham

Leicester City’s Development Squad overwhelmed West Ham United in a 3-1 victory in Premier League 2 at King Power Stadium on Monday evening.
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On the cusp of half-time, Kelechi Iheanacho opened the scoring before later efforts from Vicente Iborra and George Thomas. Antonio Martinez, meanwhile, struck in the 76th minute for the visitors.

Under-23s coach Steve Beaglehole had a bounty of first-team experience at his disposal as Eldin Jakupović, Robert Huth and Yohan Benalouane joined Iborra and Iheanacho in the starting XI.

City came out the blocks quickly and, when Jakupović’s hopeful ball found the feet of Josh Eppiah, strike partner Josh Gordon took control and fired it just over 'keeper Rihards Matrevic’s bar.

After 15 minutes, Iheanacho’s first opening of the match presented itself when Benalouane played a brilliant pass through into the Nigerian international’s path.

Iheanacho, 20, hit it first-time with his left foot, but Matrevic was there to get a hand to it. From the resulting corner, it was Iborra’s turn to go close, but his glanced header fizzed wide.

After a period of continued dominance for the hosts, the breakthrough finally came when, just before the break, Iheanacho swept it neatly into the bottom corner from close range.

City emerged from the interval a side intent on cementing their supremacy with more goals and, before the 50th minute, they had done just that.

First, Iborra muscled free of his man to power a header into the net, from a wonderful Connor Wood corner, before Thomas got his name on the scoresheet with a powerful low drive.

It could so easily have been four for the Foxes with 17 minutes to spare when Iheanacho broke the offside trap to dink it over Matrevics but Alex Pike was on hand to scramble it off the line.

From one end to the other, West Ham got a goal back in the 75th minute as Martinez seized upon Benalouane’s loose back-pass to finish, via a ricochet off the post, into the far corner.

Late on, with seconds to spare, Jakupović had to be alert to Pike’s searching cross, which landed onto the right boot of substitute Jahmal Hector-Ingram, but the Bosnian-Swiss saved well.

Key moment

Just two minutes into the second period, the match could have swung in either direction if not for Iborra’s perfectly placed header, which gave the Foxes an unassailable lead.

Vicente Iborra
Vicente Iborra

City may have been the stronger side in the opening exchanges, but Beaglehole’s men were within touching distance for the visitors – until the Spaniard pounced to double their advantage.

Who impressed?

Among a string of encouraging displays from City’s first team contingent, it was Thomas who caught the eye among the more regular faces in Beaglehole’s Under-23s ranks.

George Thomas
George Thomas

With a super range of passing, keen eye for goal and tireless work ethic, the former Coventry City midfielder, who scored Leicester’s third of the night, has been a great addition to the side.

Where do we stand?

City climb one place to fifth in the fledgling Premier League 2 standings with two victories, a draw and a solitary defeat to their name after four outings.

What’s next?

A tough challenge awaits the Under-23s next up when they travel to Meadow Park to face Arsenal on Friday evening (7pm kick-off).

Steve Beaglehole
Steve Beaglehole

Shortly after, on Friday 22 September, they then welcome Chelsea to Holmes Park (7:05pm KO).

City: Jakupović, Knight (Pascanu 73), Wood, Choudhury, Benalouane, Huth, Thomas, Iborra, Iheanacho (Hughes 80), Eppiah, Gordon (Ndukwu 69).

Subs not used: Iversen, Martis.

Goals: Iheanacho 45, Iborra 47, Thomas 49.

West Ham: Matrevics, Pike, Neufville (Syvestre 14), Makasi, Pask, Akinola, Haksabanovic (Hector-Ingram 61), Quina, Martinez, Browne (Kemp 45), Holland.

Subs not used: Powell, Scully.

Goal: Martinez 76.

Referee: Daniel Middleton.

Attendance: 598

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