On this day in 2015, Leicester City began the first instalment in their remarkable ‘Great Escape’ with a hard-fought 2-1 win over mid-table West Ham United at King Power Stadium.
City cult hero Esteban Cambiasso opened the scoring with a spectacular volley, but moments later, David Nugent squandered the chance to make it two from the spot as he missed a penalty.
West Ham’s Chiekhou Kouyate equalised with an instinctive finish, before Andy King stabbed home late on, which started a historic run for the Foxes.
This was the first of seven wins in their last nine fixtures for Nigel Pearson’s side, which lifted them from the foot of the Premier League to 14th.
Before what was a crucial clash on April 4th, City sat at the bottom of the division, seven points adrift of safety and every game was starting to become a must-win if they were to survive the drop.
Foxes boss Nigel Pearson made one change to the XI from the 4-3 defeat at Tottenham as he brought in the talented Riyad Mahrez for Matt Upton, who sustained an injury against Spurs.
Hammers gaffer Sam Allardyce also made just the one alteration after they beat Sunderland; Winston Reid replaced Matt Jarvis.
After a lively opening 10 minutes on Filbert Way, City took the lead in spectacular fashion. Nugent’s clipped pass was cleared straight to Cambiasso, who crashed a first-time 20-yard effort into the bottom corner beyond goalkeeper Adrián.
It was the Argentinian’s fourth goal of the campaign having signed on a one-year deal from Italian giants Inter Milan in summer 2014.
Less than three minutes after the opener, Leicester were handed with an opportunity to double their advantage when Carl Jenkinson brought down Leonardo Ulloa with a clumsy challenge inside the box. However, Nugent saw his low penalty saved by Adrian.
That miss allowed the Hammers to grow into the match, and they had a number of chances to equalise before doing so on 32 minutes. Jeffrey Schlupp misjudged Alex Song’s cross-field pass which allowed an unmarked Kouyate at the back post to take a touch and fire home past Kasper Schmeichel.
In an end to end contest, Leicester conjured-up lots of opportunities and many wondered whether it was going to be their day. On the hour mark, Schlupp drilled the ball wide from a narrow angle following good work by Jamie Vardy, before the latter saw a low shot fly inches past the post.
The visitors almost nicked it themselves on two occasions when Diaffra Sakho’s cut back found Kouyate whose effort hit the woodwork. Then, Schmeichel denied Jenkinson with a header from point blank range.
But with just four minutes to play, ‘Mr Leicester City’ popped up with an important strike in rather fortuitous fashion. Kramarić’s pull back found Vardy whose scuffed shot made its way to King, and the midfielder diverted the ball into the top corner to send the Foxes fans wild. A special moment in front of the Kop.
Nerves were jangling amongst City supporters as the final whistle approached, and they could’ve made it more comfortable if it wasn’t for Adrián as he prevented Vardy from making it three with a low stop.
However, Pearson’s men held on to secure a priceless victory which tightened the gap to 17th-placed Sunderland to four points, but this was just the beginning of what was an extraordinary ending to City’s 2014/15 campaign.
Leicester: Schmeichel, de Laet (King 79’), Huth, Morgan, Schlupp, James, Cambiasso, Mahrez (Albrighton 45’), Nugent, Vardy, Ulloa (Kramaric 72’)
West Ham: Adrian, Jenkinson, Collins, Reid, Cresswell, Noble, Song (de Carvalho 88’), Kouyate, Downing, Nolan (Amalfitano 65’), Sakho (Cole 80’)