West Ham are making it impossible to view last season’s exploits as a fluke. They are no longer a soft touch with David Moyes in charge. The trademark flakiness has disappeared, substance finally accompanying the style, and there is no doubt that West Ham will keep moving in the right direction if they continue to trust in Moyes, whose strong and talented side looked ready to push for another top-six finish during their emphatic destruction of Leicester City.
The London Stadium was bouncing at the end, the fans delighting in the authority of Declan Rice in midfield, the guile of Saïd Benrahma and the lethal finishing of Michail Antonio. Nobody was worrying about West Ham being the only Premier League side not to have made a permanent signing this summer. Although they need more depth given that the Europa League will test their light squad, they have developed into a seriously dangerous outfit under Moyes and sit top of the Premier League after scoring eight goals after their first two matches.
There was so much to admire about West Ham’s robust, creative performance. They were in control long before Leicester lost Ayoze Pérez to a red card in the first half. Leicester were awful, defending abysmally, and Brendan Rodgers had no complaints. “It was a disappointing performance,” Leicester’s manager said. “We made mistakes and got punished.”
It was a convincing way for West Ham to hit back at the idea that they benefited from playing in empty stadiums last season. Moyes had bristled at those suggestions and, with the stadium at full capacity for the first time in 18 months, there was no sign of the atmosphere working against his side. The home fans were up for it from the start and West Ham used their support to their advantage, threatening when Antonio charged at Leicester’s limp defence.
Antonio was a handful throughout the first half, his impressive hold-up play rattling Daniel Amartey and Caglar Soyuncu, and there was a lot to like about his understanding with Benrahma, who is looking robust and efficient in the final third after struggling to find consistency last year.
Leicester were swamped at times, the intensity constantly forcing them into errors. They wanted to build carefully through James Maddison, yet Rice and Tomas Soucek were always in the right place in front of West Ham’s back four. It was a struggle for Leicester’s creators and it summed up the pattern of play that the opening goal, converted by the impressive Pablo Fornals in the 26th minute, arrived when Jamie Vardy gifted possession to Rice.
West Ham’s captain was on to it quickly. The move progressed, Jarrod Bowen involved, and Leicester were in trouble when Fornals found Benrahma on the left. Benrahma has made an encouraging start to the season and the £30m Algerian produced a good final ball, turning a cross back for Fornals to screw a clever left-footed shot past Kasper Schmeichel.
It was no more than West Ham deserved and although they had an escape when Ricardo Pereira missed a chance to equalise, they had a tighter grip on the game when Pérez was sent off. The Leicester winger was rash when he went into a tackle with Fornals, bringing his studs down on the Spaniard’s ankle, and Michael Oliver had no option but to show him a red card after being told to consult the pitchside monitor by the VAR, Darren England. “He’s tried to stay on his feet and then he’s unbalanced because he’s clipped,” Rodgers said. “On the replays it doesn’t look too good.”
Leicester’s complaints were impossible to justify and West Ham should have capitalised on their numerical advantage before the interval. Antonio was furious with himself after botching an easy header at the far post.
There were more openings for West Ham at the start of the second half, Schmeichel repelling another Antonio header. Leicester, their defence weakened with Jonny Evans, Wesley Fofana and Jannik Vestergaard injured, were under siege. They had no way out of their half and the pressure eventually told, Soyuncu’s lazy backpass reaching Antonio, who gave Benrahma an open goal.