Leicester 1-1 West Ham: Wilfried Ndidi strikes late to rescue a point for Claude Puel’s side after Hammers captain Mark Noble sees red in frantic first half
- Leicester left it late to rescue a point against the 10-men of West Ham thanks to midfielder Wilfried Ndidi
- The Nigerian midfielder took aim from outside the area and it deflected into the net off Fabian Balbuena
- It was Balbuena who gave Manuel Pellegrini’s side the lead on the half hour mark finishing off a set-piece
- The visitors were then incensed before the break as Mark Noble was shown a straight red card for a rash foul
- Noble chased down a loose ball but his sliding challenge on Ndidi saw him catch him high above the ankle
Wilfred Ndidi’s freakish late goal meant Leicester saved themselves from an excruciating defeat to 10-man West Ham, but whether it will be enough to alter the course of Claude Puel’s tenure remains uncertain.
For an hour Puel was staring at a result that would have left his position under intense scrutiny but in the final minute of normal time Ndidi tried his luck from distance, the ball hit the back leg of Fabian Balbuena, and spun in an almost impossible arc into the top corner.
Puel’s reaction was understated to say the least, a slow clap of acknowledgement absent of any evident emotion. Inside he will have felt it, of course. Losing to an injury-plagued West Ham, who played for more than 50 minutes without Mark Noble following a straight red card, might have promoted watching owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha into action.
Wilfried Ndidi rescued a point late on for Leicester as he fired home an effort from range courtesy of a wicked deflection
The Nigerian midfielder sent the King Power into raptures as it was relief for Claude Puel’s side following a dominant showing
West Ham thought they had done enough to win it as Fabian Balbuena’s goal separated the sides for much of the contest
Balbuena was in the right place at the right time as he had the enviable task of finishing off the well-worked set-piece routine
Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel could only fall back into his net to catch sight of the ball as it was fired beyond him
It was the perfect start for West Ham as Manuel Pellegrini’s side looked to show resilience away from home in the league
But Ndidi’s fortunate intervention prevented Leicester from losing a third straight game and probably affords Puel another life. He had made a big call by starting Jamie Vardy on the bench and witnessed a performance that only really got going once the former England international was introduced at the break.
Vardy did fail to capitalise on two excellent opportunities but Leicester had greater purpose with him on the pitch. West Ham were commendably resolute with a man light for so long, with Declan Rice again excelling in snuffing out danger, and could have won the game in added time if only Angelo Ogbonna had shown more composure at the end of a four-on-two break.
There were still boos from the home crowd at full-time, with Leicester’s attacking too often heading down cul-de-sacs, and Puel will know the doubts about his style have not been subdued.
This was a selection that he really needed to pay off. Leaving out your main goal threat is a gamble, more so when that player is as intrinsic to Leicester’s story as Jamie Vardy.
But their evening took a turn when club captain Mark Noble was shown a straight red card by referee Michael Oliver
The 31-year-old central midfielder chased down a loose ball but his sliding challenge saw him catch Ndidi’s ankle dangerously
Noble was left staggered at the decision to show him a straight red card but he eventually trudged off and down the tunnel
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND MATCH ZONE
Leicester (4-2-3-1): Schmeichel 6.5; Amartey 6, Maguire 6.5, Soyuncu 6.5 (Okazaki 80′), Chilwell 7.5; Ndidi 7, Iborra 6; Ghezzal 5 (Vardy 46′ 6.5), Maddison 7, Albrighton 8; Iheanacho 6.5 (Gray 61′ 6.5).
Subs not used: Evans, Ward, Ricardo Pereira, Mendy.
Goalscorers: Ndidi (89)
Manager: Claude Puel 6
West Ham (4-1-4-1): Fabianski 7; Zabaleta 7, Balbuena 7, Diop 7, Masuaku 6.5; Rice 7.5, Noble 5; Diangana 6 (Cresswell 75′, Anderson 6 (Ogbonna 81′), Snodgrass 7; Hernandez 5 (Antonio 61′ 6.5).
Subs not used: Adrian, Fredericks, Powell, Coventry.
Goalscorers: Balbuena (30)
Sent off: Noble (38)
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini 7
Referee: Michael Oliver 8
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West Ham broke the deadlock courtesy of a training ground routine with Fabian Balbuena on hand to finish off the set-piece move. CLICK HERE for more from MATCH ZONE
It is true Vardy had suffered from a stomach illness during the week – having been forced off before the end of last Monday’s loss to Arsenal – but he declared himself ‘back to full strength’ on the eve of the game.
So Puel’s decision to start Vardy on the bench was a significant cause of friction for the 31-year-old, whose wife Becky had given a flavour of her feelings by liking tweets critical of the Leicester manager’s tactics.
Puel also dropped Jonny Evans from the starting line-up, giving Caglar Soyuncu his debut. It was a curious choice given Evans has performed reasonably well and Puel has admitted his replacement, the 22-year-old Turkish international signed for £19million, had been taking time to adequately grasp English.
Pellegrini was wrestling with other issues, namely putting eleven fit players on the pitch. West Ham have nine first-team members out injured, so Grady Diangana, the 20-year-old winger, was handed his first Premier League start.
Claude Puel bravely opted to shuffle his pack for the visit of West Ham as he continues to combat pressure to keep his job
Main striker Jamie Vardy started the contest from the bench after being dropped by Puel as he looked to assert his authority
Leicester, as the home team, looked to put pressure on the visitors early on as they looked threatening from set-pieces
West Ham goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski showed his qualities at the King Power as he rose to punch over a Leicester effort
The makeshift nature of West Ham’s side showed initially as Leicester took advantage of some shabby defending. Inside two minutes Kelechi Iheanacho had a goal ruled out for offside, Marc Albrighton drove a shot wide, and Lukasz Fabianski had to avert an own goal by tipping over Fabian Balbuena’s misguided header.
But Leicester’s energy has a way of evaporating under Puel and the side began to run out of ideas and impetus. West Ham built into the contest, with Felipe Anderson snapping a shot Kasper Schmeichel needed to save, and Robert Snodgrass hooking a finish wide after some neat dribbling.
Then on half an hour West Ham took the lead. It was dreadful defending from Leicester. Anderson lifted a free-kick deep into the area and Declan Rice was free to head back after Wilfred Ndidi missed his attempted clearance.
Balbuena had so much space he was afforded the luxury of not one, but two shots at goal unchallenged. His first was a header that hit the post and his second a tap-in after Schmeichel had failed to collect the rebound.
Leicester’s Ben Chilwell, looking to impress in front of England boss Gareth Southgate, barked instructions to his team-mates
The England manager selected the King Power as his venue of choice with Chilwell, Maguire, Maddison and others to assess
With a man less, Manuel Pellegrini shuffled his pack to quell the danger from the hosts and they continued to hold their own
Grady Diangana impressed in the congested central midfield areas with Declan Rice taking defensive duties in a holding role
Puel stood stock still, hands clasped behind his back as the disgruntled murmurs in the King Power Stadium grew pointed.
But eight minutes later he and Leicester were given a major, fortuitous boost. Trying to retrieve a loose ball, Noble lost his composure and dived into a tackle on Ndidi that caught the Nigerian on his shin, studs up. Michael Oliver had no hesitation in showing the red and Noble’s complaints did not hold merit.
From the free-kick James Maddison sent the ball into West Ham’s box and found Vicente Iborra unmarked eight yards out. His header was firm but too close to Fabianski and it was a golden chance wasted.
As soon as Oliver blew his whistle for the interval Vardy was out warming up and his entrance for the second half was greeted with welcome cheers from fans who recognise his influence.
It proved quite the race down Leicester’s right as Marc Albrighton gained ground on Arthur Masuaku to fizz a strike at goal
On as a substitute to huge applause from the home crowd, Vardy missed a golden opportunity to send a message to his boss
The extra man unsurprisingly favoured Leicester and Pablo Zabaleta tried to use all his experience to guide West Ham home
James Maddison, another in the Foxes ranks trying to impress Southgate, unleashed an effort from the edge of the box
Vardy’s introduction did lift Leicester’s tempo. The hosts had had two penalty appeals turned down, correctly, by the time Marc Albrighton connected flush on the volley to Ben Chilwell’s cross in the 63rd minute. Fabianski reacted well to push the ball out then held Albrighton’s second effort.
Seconds later Vardy spurned a chance he should have scored. Albrighton was again involved, delivering an excellent cross to meet Vardy’s dart into the six-yard box but the striker’s near-post header went just over.
Harry Maguire went even closer shortly afterwards, hitting the bar with his header from Maddison’s corner.
Puel replaced Soyuncu with Shinji Okazaki and pressed the offensive. But West Ham had the better chances until Ndidi equalised. Ogbonna failed to connect properly to Snodgrass’s free-kick and Michail Antonio drew a save from Schmeichel.
Leicester pressure was relentless and they were almost level when defender Harry Maguire headed against the crossbar
The Foxes defender rose highest, connected firmly as Fabianski was at full stretch as he watched the ball clatter the bar
West Ham were made to do it the hard way but Michail Antonio helped provide fresh legs and real pace from the subs bench
As Leicester threw everyone forward for an equaliser, Angelo Ogbonna almost scored with his first touch after coming on
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