Leicester Win Ends Pellegrini's reign
By Tom Dowsett
Sunday 29 Dec 2019 13:29:00
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West Ham United have still only won two games at home this season after Leicester City extended their unbeaten run in East London by beating the Hammers 2-1 in Stratford on Saturday.

Seven changes were made from Boxing Day's encounter at Selhurst Park. Notably, Lukasz Fabianski finally recovered from injury to replace Roberto Jiménez Gago in goal. Issa Diop replaced Angelo Ogbonna in central defence, Carlos Sánchez made a rare start in midfield replacing Captain Mark Noble who dropped to the bench, meaning Declan Rice was given the captaincy.

Manuel Lanzini had been missing since the 3-0 defeat at Burnley on 9 November after a broken collarbone and he was welcomed back into the starting line-up, meaning Sébastien Haller had to play upfront on his own as Michail Antonio was named amongst the substitutes.

Another name to be included in the matchday eighteen was that of defender Winston Reid, who hadn't been involved in competitive first-team action since March 2018.

Although both teams had played on Boxing Day, West Ham had more time to recover due to Leicester's match against Liverpool kicking off at 8pm but it was the side managed by Brendan Rodgers who were on the front foot from the kick-off.

The home fans were delighted to see Fabianski back in goal and the Pole showed them exactly what they had been missing when he was called into action with just four minutes gone. He made an excellent save to keep out Marc Albrighton's powerful strike.

Up the other end, Haller had his shot well blocked by Jonny Evans before a moment of drama. 

Fabianski gave away a penalty after bringing down Kelechi Iheanacho. Fortunately after a long delay, the returning stopper redeemed himself when he saved Demarai Gray's weak effort.

That definitely gave the home crowd a lift and the Hammers responded well. They nearly went in front when Arthur Masuaku's attempt from 25-yards initially looked like it was destined for the back of the net but visiting goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel got back brilliantly to keep it out.

Manuel Pellegrini's side started to exert a degree of control. Albrighton lost possession to Pablo Fornals who then played the ball to Felipe Anderson, back in the starting line-up after missing the last two games. The Brazilian then set up the skipper but unfortunately, his effort was easy for Schmeichel to hold.

There was disappointment for the home faithful towards the end of the half though, as Ayoze Pérez headed back across goal for Iheanacho to beat Fabianski at his near post.

Haller went close up the other end but saw his header go inches wide before the equaliser eventually came, as Fornals claimed his first Premier League goal just before the half-time whistle when Anderson crossed over for the Spaniard to slot past Schmeichel.

The East Londoners could have even turned the game on its head before half-time but unfortunately, it wasn't to be, as an effort from Haller went just wide. 

Although there was nothing to separate the two teams at the break the home side were once again cheered off for their first-half efforts.

The Foxes again started the second-half on top but the Hammers were able to breathe a sigh of relief when a free-kick from Christian Fuchs failed to trouble Fabianski.

Leicester kept the pressure up and scored a second just six minutes later. This time, Gray got the better of Fabianski and restored the advantage for the side that started the day in second place, after Pérez had escaped the attentions of Diop.

The home fans were appreciative of the work that Haller had done throughout the first half so weren't very pleased when Pellegrini made his first change as the Frenchman was brought off to be replaced by Antonio.

In complete contrast to the reception that the manager received when he made his first change, on sixty two minutes, the reaction was much more positive when Robert Snodgrass was introduced for Sánchez. Eight minutes had passed with no change in the scoreline before the Irons' boss brought on Albian Ajeti.

The Swiss striker hasn't featured much this season but he almost made an impact here as he was set clear by Antonio but unfortunately couldn't find the equaliser, as Schmeichel was alert to the danger.

Boos could again be heard when referee David Coote blew the final whistle, meaning West Ham end 2019 still a point and a place above the relegation zone.

They will however start 2020 under new management, as it was announced after the game that the hierarchy had pulled the trigger on Pellegrini's time at the club.

With AFC Bournemouth arriving for a 5:30pm kick-off on New Year's Day, details of the Chilean's replacement will be confirmed by this site as soon as it is announced.

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