Leicester City stormed out of the gates to score three first-half goals and beat West Brom 3-0 at the King Power Stadium on Thursday.
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The victory keeps Leicester on the top-four path for UEFA Champions League qualification, while West Brom simply sprint many steps closer to their inevitable relegation.
3 things we learned: Leicester – West Brom
1. Foxes tear into Championship-bound Baggies: Both of the following statements are true: 1) Leicester could not have looked any better, anymore dominant or complete; 2) West Brom could not have looked any worse, any less interested or engaged. Leicester is the only one of the two teams still with anything left to play for, and that fact showed from the opening whistle on Thursday. Having lost back-to-back Premier League games and watched as Chelsea, West Ham United and Liverpool creeped to within striking distance of knocking Leicester out of the top-four, the Foxes put their foot down and said, “We don’t let this slip [anymore],” much to the chagrin of manager Brendan Rodgers.
2. Leicester’s Vardy succession plan in place: At some point in the not-so-distant future, Leicester are going to have to move on from, and replace, the 34-year-old Vardy. It’s easy to forget he’s in his mid-30s because he got a late “start” to his career at this level, but he’s been on a fairly steady decline of output for a couple years now, which was a terrifying prospect for Leicester because they hadn’t landed his long-term (or short-, for that matter) successor. Turns out, they had, but he was still working out some considerable kinks. Iheanacho scored again on Thursday to make it 11 goals in his last eight games. The best part for Leicester? He’s getting goals, and making contributions, in every way imaginable. Iheanacho has been a more complete striker than Vardy since the day he arrived at the club from Manchester City in 2017, but he’s been nowhere as consistent or reliable as the striker 10 years his senior. The latter has shifted in recent weeks, to the point it’s a feel-good story when Vardy — not Iheanacho — is one of the many goal-scorers in a rout.
3. Maybe Leicester learned their lesson: When the 2019-20 Premier League season shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Leicester sat 3rd in the table with only nine games left to play and eight points between themselves and 5th place. Somehow, they threw it all away and finished 5th despite clearly being one of the four best sides in the league a year ago. Before losing to Man City and West Ham, the Foxes sat 3rd with nine games left to play and seven points between themselves and 5th. Thursday’s win over West Brom couldn’t have broken that mini-slump at a better time.
Iheanacho should have opened the scoring 150 seconds into the game, when he was through one-on-one with Sam Johnstone thanks to a terrible turnover at midfield. Alas, one bad touch at the wrong time gave Johnstone the chance to make himself bigger and eventually usher the threat away.
It wouldn’t be the last time that blue shirts converged on the West Brom penalty area, though, and in the 23rd minute it resulted in the game’s opening goal. Timothy Castagne was played in behind a failed offside trap, and that gave Vardy acres of unobstructed space to run into as Castagne immediately picked him out near the edge of the box. The first-time finish wasn’t as easy as Vardy made it look.
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Three minutes later, Jonny Evans headed home a loose ball in the box after West Brom failed to clear a corner kick.
The pressure didn’t stop there. 10 minutes later, Vardy turned provider as he danced past and nutmegged a defender down the left side of the box before picking out Iheanacho near the penalty spot. Iheanacho took his chance, with the aid of a deflection, to put the game to bed long before halftime.