Tuesday 6 December 2016

Leicester held at home by West Brom as title hopes take a hit

Published 01/03/2016 | 22:11

Craig Gardner celebrates scoring the equalising goal for West Brom
Craig Gardner celebrates scoring the equalising goal for West Brom

Leicester dropped two priceless points in their quest for the Barclays Premier League title after being held to a 2-2 draw at home by West Brom.

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The Foxes are three points clear of second-placed Tottenham, who go to West Ham on Wednesday, after being frustrated by the battling Baggies.

Goals from midfield duo Danny Drinkwater and Andy King cancelled out Salomon Rondon's early opener before Craig Gardner's classy free-kick earned a point for Albion.

Jamie Vardy and Shinji Okazaki hit the bar for the hosts, who were the better side, and Wes Morgan blew a glorious chance to win it late on.

Claudio Ranieri's side will now face an anxious wait when Spurs go to Upton Park, where a win for their title rivals will be enough to send them top on goal difference.

The Foxes' pre-match points tally of 56 was already their highest ever in the top flight but cracks showed despite their late 1-0 weekend win over Norwich.

The Canaries stifled Leicester for much of the game and Albion set about doing the same early on before taking a surprise early lead.

Darren Fletcher spotted the run of Rondon after 11 minutes and t he striker out-muscled Robert Huth in a heavyweight clash on the edge of the area before poking his shot through the legs of the onrushing Kasper Schmeichel.

In doing so, Albion became just the third visiting side in the league this season - after Tottenham and Aston Villa - to score first at the King Power Stadium.

It sparked Leicester into action and Okazaki volleyed over from six yards.

Vardy should have levelled on 27 minutes when, unmarked, he headed straight at Ben Foster from Riyad Mahrez's cross.

The Foxes, though, were building momentum and grabbed the equaliser three minutes later.

A corner routine was worked back to Drinkwater 25 yards out and the midfielder's drive clipped Jonas Olsson to loop in over Foster.

The goal, Leicester's 50th in the league this season, was fortuitous but the hosts capitalised and maintained their drive, only for Vardy's header to smack the bar after 36 minutes.

Since levelling the hosts had been the better side - although nowhere near their fluid selves- but did find a second in first-half stoppage time.

There had been little flowing football from the hosts but the Foxes conjured a sweeping move when Marc Albrighton's crossfield pass found Mahrez and he teed up King to steer in from 15 yards.

The midfielder, in the team because of N'Golo Kante's hamstring injury, had not scored in the league for 11 months.

But Albion hit back just four minutes after the break when, following Mahrez's handball, Gardner curled a brilliant free-kick past the motionless Schmeichel from 25 yards.

It allowed the game to take a similar pattern to the first half with Albion scoring early and Leicester pressing.

And just like the first period the Foxes hit the bar when Okazaki shuddered the woodwork with a 57th-minute header.

It was a glaring miss from the striker but the chances kept flowing as Jeff Schlupp's drive deflected at Foster minutes later.

Rondon then hacked over from close range as the game opened up before Foster denied Vardy - after he outpaced Gareth McAuley - with 20 minutes left.

Both sides pushed for the next goal, with Gardner shooting over and Huth heading wide, but the Foxes looked more likely to grab a priceless winner.

And, with four minutes left, Morgan almost found it when Olsson slipped in the area but the Foxes' skipper was denied by Foster from 10 yards.

Mahrez then volleyed wildly over and Leonardo Ulloa could not force the ball in during stoppage time as Leicester were forced to settle for a point.

TWEET OF THE MATCH

"Just got in the car to hear the latest. Boing Boing"

"I shall get back out of the car." - successive tweets from 'freelance football commentator' and Baggies fan John Dunn, a minute apart and punctuated by Danny Drinkwater's deflected equaliser (https://twitter.com/John_Dunn77/status/704761872801800193, https://twitter.com/John_Dunn77/status/704762152402493442)

RATINGS

LEICESTER

Kasper Schmeichel: 6

Danny Simpson: 6

Robert Huth: 6

Wes Morgan: 6

Christian Fuchs: 6

Marc Albrighton: 6

Danny Drinkwater: 6

Andy King: 7

Riyad Mahrez: 7

Jamie Vardy: 6

Shinji Okazaki: 6

Subs:

Jeff Schlupp: 6

Leonardo Ulloa: 6

Demarai Gray: 6

WEST BROM

Ben Foster: 6

Craig Dawson: 6

Jonas Olsson: 6

Gareth McAuley: 6

James Chester: 6

Claudio Yacob: 6

Darren Fletcher: 7

Stephane Sessegnon: 7

Saido Berahino: 6

Craig Gardner: 7

Salomon Rondon: 7

Subs:

James McClean: 6

Sandro: 6

Victor Anichebe: 6

STAR MAN

Salomon Rondon

The striker has taken time to settle in England after his summer move from Zenit St Petersburg but he has demonstrated what an asset he can be for Albion.

Sheer strength batted away Robert Huth as he scored the opener - his seventh goal of the season - and he was a good outlet, though he did sky one presentable chance over.

MOMENT OF THE MATCH

Andy King had not scored a league goal since April 2015 but his strike put Leicester back on track only for Albion and Craig Gardner to be the party poopers.

There had been little quality in the game with the Foxes guilty of trying to force the issue after Salomon Rondon's opener.

But Marc Albrighton and Riyad Mahrez combined for King - in for the injured N'Golo Kante - to sweep in just before the break.

MOAN OF THE MATCH

Stephane Sessegnon had every right to be furious with the officials after a late challenge from Christian Fuchs went unpunished.

The midfielder remonstrated with the assistant referee only to find himself in Mark Clattenburg's book.

Sessegnon will feel hard done by and he was withdrawn in injury time to ensure there was no late red card with tempers frayed.

VIEW FROM THE BENCH

Claudio Ranieri was an animated figure on the touchline as he willed the ball in during a heavy spell of Leicester pressure in the second half.

The boss will be philosophical about the result, where the Foxes had enough chances to win, but they must wait for Tottenham's result on Wednesday to discover if it is a point gained.

Tony Pulis has begun to work his magic again and, while the Baggies were never in any danger of going down, the manager has seen his side grind out another impressive result.

WHO'S UP NEXT

Watford v LEICESTER, Premier League, March 5

WEST BROM v Manchester United, Premier League, March 6

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