'Top-class' Schmeichel keeps Foxes' revival humming

Kasper Schmeichel saving from Andy Carroll as the goalkeeper helped Leicester repel late West Ham attacks for their first away league win in nearly 12 months. It was the Foxes' fourth victory on the trot after the dismissal of Claudio Ranieri.
Kasper Schmeichel saving from Andy Carroll as the goalkeeper helped Leicester repel late West Ham attacks for their first away league win in nearly 12 months. It was the Foxes' fourth victory on the trot after the dismissal of Claudio Ranieri.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manager Craig Shakespeare believes Kasper Schmeichel must be viewed as one of the game's top goalkeepers, after his saves enabled Leicester to record a fourth successive victory.

First-half goals by Riyad Mahrez, Robert Huth and Jamie Vardy gave the outgoing Premier League champions a 3-2 win at West Ham on Saturday, easing the relegation fears that led to manager Claudio Ranieri's sacking last month.

But West Ham hit back twice when two goals down through Manuel Lanzini and Andre Ayew. And minutes away from recording their first away win in the Premier League in 342 days, cracks were starting to appear in Leicester's stout resistance.

For all that they have rediscovered of their champion swagger at home, their revival under Shakespeare had not been tested away from the King Power Stadium.

In the end, after a frenzied late assault from West Ham, they passed this test. That they did so owed much to the latest heroics from Schmeichel, who made two high-quality saves from Andy Carroll before they could celebrate another win.

"He is in the best form I've seen since I've been here, so I don't see why not," said Shakespeare when asked whether Schmeichel - son of Manchester United goalkeeping great Peter - deserved to be bracketed alongside the Premier League's star shot-stoppers.

"All goalkeepers are important, but to bring off those crucial saves was vitally important."

The game at London Stadium was Leicester's first since they saw off Sevilla in the Champions League on Tuesday to set up a last-eight tie against Atletico Madrid.

Shakespeare has known nothing but success since he stepped up from assistant manager to replace Ranieri, initially in a caretaker capacity, but he said it was the result of a simple recipe.

"There's no secret," he said. "Hard work, endeavour, resilience - we showed all of them today, aligned with some good football.

"We scored the goals at the right time. They gave us a foothold in the game, but we know that hard work is paramount to success and we have to keep on doing that. We spoke about the importance of starting brightly and playing on the front foot if we could... but we had to show real resilience in the second half."

The loss increased the focus on West Ham manager Slaven Bilic, who has seen his side fail to win any of their last five games.

"Of course we knew they were a good side and they had a lot of momentum, but the three goals they scored in the first half weren't from the chances they created," he said.

"I really think we deserved at least a point. We created enough chances. Their 'keeper made amazing saves from Andy Carroll with the header and that last one."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 20, 2017, with the headline ''Top-class' Schmeichel keeps Foxes' revival humming'. Print Edition | Subscribe