Leicester City 1-0 West Ham: Islam Slimani strikes as champions end year with flourish
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 01/01/17 10:27am
Leicester City ended a sensational 2016 with a flourish as the Premier League champions beat West Ham 1-0 at the King Power Stadium.
Islam Slimani's sixth goal of the season broke the deadlock on 20 minutes, with the Foxes well worth their half-time lead after a scintillating display.
The champions were contained for much of the second period by a West Ham side - who had seen Michail Antonio strike the woodwork - looking to seal a fourth consecutive league victory.
But Kasper Schmeichel and the Leicester defence were in no mood to surrender the points as they ground out a morale-boosting victory that lifts them up to 15th in the table, two points and two places adrift of West Ham and six clear of the relegation zone.
Claudio Ranieri recalled Riyad Mahrez following his omission against Everton - one of three Leicester changes - while Slaven Bilic named an unchanged side following West Ham's resounding win at Swansea.
However, the Hammers'exploits at the Liberty Stadium were soon a distant memory as Leicester flew out of the traps.
Keen to prove a point, Mahrez's venomous volley drew Darren Randolph into a fine save on two minutes, before, from a tight angle, Slimani headed Marc Albrighton's cross against the post two minutes later.
Antonio spurned West Ham's first opening, volleying Aaron Cresswell's cross over from close range on 11 minutes, although a slight Wes Morgan deflection may have contributed.
Despite this, Leicester retained their supremacy and took a deserved lead. Albrighton's willingness to support in attack paid dividends as he ran off Dimitri Payet and supplied the cross for Slimani to head a fine opener.
One so nearly became two when Angelo Ogbonna deflected Demarai Gray's cross towards goal, but Randolph kept the effort out.
Albrighton then produced a sublime tackle to dispossess Payet just before he was about to shoot, following neat work from Antonio.
As West Ham found some rhythm towards the end of the half, Antonio came within inches of drawing them level, only for his thunderous volley on the turn to cannon off the crossbar.
An eventful first period had a similarly eventful ending as Schmeichel and Randolph were called into action to keep free-kicks from Payet and Mahrez at bay.
West Ham's hopes of a revival suffered a blow early in the second half when Noble was forced off following a rash Daniel Amartey challenge, with the Leicester midfielder fortunate not to see red.
His replacement, Manuel Lanzini, almost made an immediate impact, releasing Andy Carroll with a long-range diagonal pass only for Robert Huth to dispossess the striker at the final moment.
Cresswell came closest to getting the illusive equaliser for West Ham on 68 minutes, but Schmeichel was alert to save his deflected free-kick low on the line.
For all their possession and territory, though, Leicester stood firm at the back, with Carroll's glancing header five minutes from time the closest they came to levelling.
Leicester: Schmeichel (8), Simpson (6), Morgan (7), Huth (7), Chilwell (6), Mahrez (6), Drinkwater (7), Amartey (5), Albrighton (8), Slimani (7), Gray (7).
Used sub: Okazaki (5), Ulloa (5), Fuchs (5).
West Ham: Randolph (8), Nordtveit (6), Reid (6), Ogbonna (6), Cresswell (6), Noble (6), Kouyate (5), Antonio (7), Ayew (5), Payet (6), Carroll (6).
Used subs: Feghouli (5), Lanzini (6), Fernandes (4).
Man of the Match: Marc Albrighton.