Willian inspires hosts to memorable win as Foxes’ relegation fears grow

Willian inspires hosts to a memorable win as Foxes’ relegation fears grow. Fulham beat Leicester in remarkable game at Craven Cottage; Willian, Carlos Vinicius and Tom Cairney scored before half-time, with Willian and Cairney scoring again in second period; Leicester hit back twice through Harvey Barnes, plus a James Maddison penalty.  Willian led Fulham to a memorable 5-3 victory at Craven Cottage, sabotaging Leicester’s chances of staying in the Premier League. With Everton and Nottingham Forest, two of the teams below them in the Premier League, still to play, Dean Smith’s team could be as low as 19th by Monday night, only above the relegation zone on goal difference.

With Liverpool and Newcastle following, followed by a match against West Ham on the final day, Leicester now face a daunting task in preventing a stunning drop into the Championship. Taking focuses in west London felt basic for the Foxes however those expectations appeared to be throughout by half-time on account of Willian’s free-kick, in addition to objectives from Carlos Vinicius and Tom Cairney. After the break, the visitors’ defense continued to crumble, with Cairney adding a second. Harvey Barnes then scored, and Jamie Vardy had a penalty saved by Bernd Leno. After that, Willian bent in a magnificent fifth, but the hosts lost their way. Leicester received another penalty kick, which James Maddison converted, and Barnes had the opportunity to sweep in his second after a terrible Shane Duffy header. It was short of what was needed for Leicester however, while Fulham close the hole on rivals Brentford – who are one spot above them in 10th – to only two places.

How Willian helped punish lousy Leicester

When Willian’s whipped free kick from the left touchline flew unabated into the far corner in the tenth minute, it set the tone for another Leicester defeat. There was no expectation or opposition as the ball beguiled each fox safeguard – simply an acknowledgment of their destiny. This pattern persisted throughout the pathetic first half, with Vinicius sliding Fulham’s second goal through a gap in the Leicester defense and Cairney bending in his first after Wout Faes’ weak clearance. Daniel Iversen made two saves to deny Harrison Reed, and Vardy’s shot was pushed wide by Leno after Antonee Robinson gave the ball away, giving Leicester only a 3-0 lead at halftime. Leno had to tip away Barnes’ shot after halftime, but Leicester’s defense went AWOL again, allowing Cairney to slot in his second after Kenny Tete charged down the right wing.

Willian inspires hosts to memorable win as Foxes' relegation fears grow

Cairney had all the time he needed to score. Soon after, Barnes scored with a deflected strike, and the fightback continued when Leno brought Vardy down in the area, but the goalkeeper saved Vardy’s weak attempt. Fulham conceded two goals in a tense final period of the game after Leicester’s poor performance appeared to have lulled them into complacency, and Willian’s bending effort from 25 yards reestablished the four-goal advantage. Maddison started the nerves when he won and converted a penalty kick to make up for missing a penalty against Everton last week. Duffy came off the bench to give Barnes his second on the spot after his headed pass fooled Leno and left an open goal. Fortunately for Fulham, they were able to regain their composure in time to end Leicester’s hopes and put their rivals in the unenviable position of likely needing to win their next two games against Liverpool and Newcastle, both of whom are contending for a place in the Champions League.

Willian inspires hosts to memorable win as Foxes' relegation fears grow

Smith: First half worried me

Smith insisted after the game that he has seen enough from Leicester since his appointment last month to believe they can stay up, but admitted their capitulation in the capital was unexpected.

“The game was lost in the first half,” said the Leicester boss. “I’m disappointed because I didn’t see that coming. We’ve had a good week in training so I expected a far better performance.

“It was far too easy to get into our box and create chances.

“We were quite happy to get in at half-time. I was certainly very worried in the first half. That’s the first time I’ve seen it with these players and I hope I don’t see that again. I’m sure I won’t.

“It wasn’t a lack of fight – we just didn’t get close enough to them.

“I’ve signs they’re good enough but you can’t keep conceding goals like we do. We’ve conceded some poor goals as well, where I don’t think the opposition have had to work particularly hard to score. That’s what has to stop.”

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