With relegation all but a formality for West Bromwich Albion after yet another chastening defeat, the only question that remains unanswered is how much longer the club’s board will tolerate the sight of Alan Pardew presiding over their hapless plight. This was their seventh successive loss, leaving them eight points adrift of safety with eight matches remaining, and Pardew cut a hapless figure on the touchline as Leicester City’s jubilant supporters mocked Albion about spending next season in the Championship.
Albion have now won only one of their last 28 league matches and it is increasingly clear that there will be no sequel to the 2005 Great Escape, when Bryan Robson managed to haul the club clear from a desperate position. Pardew, in contrast, has never looked like arresting the club’s slide towards the relegation zone. Albion have picked up only eight points from a possible 48 since he was appointed in November, with Leicester relishing the opportunity to inflict a bit more pain here with their fourth successive victory at the Hawthorns.
Jamie Vardy scored a wonderful equaliser after Salomón Rondón had put Albion ahead and there was a sense of inevitability about what would follow as the home team crumbled. Riyad Mahrez put Leicester in front, Kelechi Iheanacho registered his first Premier League goal for the club and Vicente Iborra completed the rout with a header in injury-time.
Hope has all but disappeared in these parts, with the sight of so many empty seats inside the Hawthorns indicative of the mood, yet there was a flicker of life from Albion during a bright opening that delivered a deserved goal for Pardew’s team. Rondón was the scorer, expertly steering a close-range volley beyond Kasper Schmeichel from Oliver Burke’s low cross. It was a well-worked Albion goal, with Allan Nyom sliding a measured pass into the path of Burke in the build up, yet Leicester will rue the way in which Ben Chilwell was caught out of position.
Claude Puel had made five changes to his starting lineup try to get a reaction from Leicester, but the visitors looked flat and disjointed in the opening 20 minutes and were fortunate not to concede a second. Grzegorz Krychowiak’s looping 22-yard shot took a deflection off Iborra and appeared to be heading for the top corner until Schmeichel, stretching every sinew, superbly tipped the ball onto the bar.
Albion’s supporters were in good voice at that stage and the team was playing with belief, but the complexion of the game changed in the blink of an eye courtesy of a moment of brilliance from Vardy that started with the striker making an intelligent run in behind Craig Dawson. Mahrez, afforded the time and space inside his own half to look up, delivered a perfectly-weighted 50-yard pass that Vardy allowed to drop over his shoulder before hitting the ball first-time with his left-foot. Ben Foster, the Albion goalkeeper, looked stunned as Vardy’s low shot flashed past him and into the far corner. Leicester had now roused from their early torpor and Vardy, running onto Demarai Gray’s pass, thought he had a second goal before half-time only for it to be ruled out – correctly – for offside.
With Albion desperate for a win, the game became more and more stretched and invited Leicester, always so dangerous on the counter-attack, to break with pace. There was a reprieve for the home team when Foster managed to claw Gray’s deflected cross to safety but the goalkeeper was powerless to prevent Mahrez from scoring Leicester’s second.
Iheanacho, who had just come on for Shinji Okazaki, played a lovely lofted pass that released Mahrez in behind Ahmed Hegazi. The Algerian controlled the ball with one touch and cleverly lifted it over Foster with his second. Iheanacho nodded in Chilwell’s fine cross to extend Leicester’s advantage, before Iborra headed in their fourth from Marc Albrighton’s corner.