Still threatened by the risk of relegation, Dean Smith’s Leicester City headed down the M1 to Craven Cottage on Monday – where they’d face Marco Silva’s Fulham. The Cottagers have nothing to play for this season after their bid for Europe trailed off recently, but every game remains a cup final for the Foxes.
FUL: Leno; Robinson, Diop, Adarabioyo, Tete; Reed, Palhinha; Willian, Cairney, Wilson; Carlos Vinicius
LEI: Iversen; Kristiansen, Soyuncu, Faes, Castagne; Soumare, Tielemans; Barnes, Maddison, Praet; Vardy
Fulham took an early lead after the minutes, as Willian scored directly from a free-kick on the left flank. His delivery sailed in front of everyone in the box, but Daniel Iversen wasn’t caught out by a bounce – and the ball rolled straight past the ‘keeper.
There was a half-hearted chance for Leicester five minutes later, as Soumare managed to pick out James Maddison under pressure – but Harvey Barnes wasn’t able to turn his cross towards goal.
Fulham doubled their lead in the eighteenth minute thought, as Palhinha dispossessed Soumare to initiate a rapid counterattack. Harry Wilson found Carlos Vinicius with a lovely through ball, and the Brazilian was able to pick out the bottom right corner to add to the home advantage.
There was yet another chance for Leicester, as Jamie Vardy cut inside following a poor pass from Robinson – and despite sending Diop the wrong way, Leno was able to deny the Englishman’s strike. The forward forced another save from the Fulham ‘keeper a few minutes later.
Willian looked to create another chance from the left flank, as he found Reed on the penalty spot with a lovely cut back pass – Daniel Iversen produced a fine save with his feet to keep his effort out though. The Brazilian seemed desperate to create chances, and he flashed a ball across the face of goal that found Reed on the far side. Carlos Vinicius looked to get on the end of the cross into the box – though his header was sent just wide.
Fulham made it 3-0 before half-time, as Tom Cairney slotted home following a defensive disaster from Leicester. Wout Faes looked to rush a clearance, allowing Palhinha to steal possession and pick out Carlos Vinicius. The Brazilian then found Carney, who worked his way into space before powering an effort into the bottom corner.
It had been a dire first half from the Foxes, with chants of ‘you’re not fit to wear the shirt’ ringing out around Craven Cottage as the players headed down the tunnel. Marco Silva’s side had been clinical going forwards, though they’d certainly been aided by Leicester’s defensive mishaps.
The Foxes were quick out of the blocks at the start of the second half, as Maddison sent Harvey Barnes through on goal – but the winger’s strike was pushed wide by Bernd Leno, and the German ‘keeper was able to claim the resulting corner too.
Fulham punished Leicester minutes later, as Tom Cairney bagged his second of the game in the 51st minute – extending the hosts’ lead to a rather comfortable 4-0. The Cottagers won possession back deep in their own half, and Kenny Tete surged down the right flank before firing a low cross into the box. Tom Cairney was able to get on the end of it, firing past Iversen – seemingly crushing any hopes Leicester fans may have had of getting a result on the road.
Maddison seemed to be the only bright spark in a disillusioned Leicester City side, forcing his team up the pitch whenever they won the ball back. This time though, he opted to take on the shot himself – and Bernd Leno was able to hold onto it with ease.
It was Maddison that created Leicester’s opening goal, getting on the end of Castagne’s cross into the box. Unselfishly, he chose to play in Harvey Barnes – and the winger sent a strike ricocheting off the underside of the crossbar and over the line.
That seemed to wake the Foxes up, as they won a penalty five minutes later. Once more, Castagne whipped a cross into the box – and Jamie Vardy nicked it away from the onrushing Bernd Leno with a tidy touch. The ‘keeper took out the striker though, and the referee pointed to the spot. After a quick VAR check, Jamie Vardy stepped up to strike. Leno managed to push his strike wide of the post, before Harvey Barnes blazed the rebound over the crossbar.
Fulham looked to punish the Foxes for that miss, as Willian put the hosts 5-1 ahead with twenty minutes left to play. Palhinha was hauled to the ground but managed to play in Reed, who then picked out Willian on the left flank. Cutting inside, he whipped a great curling strike from distance – and it settled in the back of the net with Iversen unable to get a hand to it.
Yet again, Maddison sought to create chances going forward for Leicester as he picked out Tete on the right flank. The Brazilian worked his way infield and past Robinson before placing a curling strike wide of the far post.
The Foxes were awarded yet another penalty in the 81st minute, as Maddison surged into the box before being hauled to the ground by a clumsy Palhinha challenge. Having had a penalty saved against Everton last time out, Maddison stepped up to strike – and this time he made no mistake, firing to the right and sending Leno the wrong way. With less than ten minutes of the ninety left to play, Leicester had clawed their way back to 5-2. Could they do the unthinkable?
It certainly looked to be on the cards, as Harvey Barnes made it 5-3 in the 89th minute. Soyuncu’s long ball over the top caused problems for the Fulham defence, allowing Patson Daka to tee up the winger who drilled an effort into the back of the net.
Six minutes of added time could have been enough for the Foxes, but resolute defending from the hosts ensured that they clung on to the win – and the three points. Leicester remain above the relegation zone on goal difference, and will be hoping that Southampton manage to pick up a win at the City Ground against Nottingham Forest later on.