AP NEWS

Vardy steers Leicester to 1st away win of PL title defense

March 18, 2017
Leicester's Jamie Vardy reacts after he failed to score during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Leicester City at London Stadium in London, Saturday, March 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

LONDON (AP) — Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez revived memories of Leicester’s title-winning campaign Saturday as the recovery under Craig Shakespeare continued with a 3-2 victory at West Ham that eases the champion’s relegation fears.

Since manager Claudio Ranieri’s firing, the Premier League champions have reeled off three successive victories to move six points clear of the relegation zone and sealed a first-ever place in the Champions League quarterfinals.

Leicester’s title defense has been so pitiful that it has taken until March and a trip to the Olympic Stadium to finally win an away game in the league — but only thanks to the second-half saves from goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Mahrez, who scored 17 goals last season in the astonishing charge to the title, put Leicester in front in east London after five minutes with only his fifth goal of the current campaign. The Algerian’s two goals in the three league games since Shakespeare took charge are as many as he managed in the previous 22 games under Ranieri, an alarming drop in form that was mirrored across the team.

Robert Huth’s header doubled Leicester’s lead within two minutes of Mahrez’s opener. After Manuel Lanzini pulled one back directly from a free kick, Jamie Vardy restored the two-goal cushion in the 38th minute with his third goal in the three league games under Shakespeare.

The striker had gone two months without a goal before this run of three wins in which Leicester has scored three times in each.

Vardy’s goal proved decisive after Andre Ayew’s second-half header put West Ham back in control. Ayew missed a chance to level when he struck over and Andy Carroll was twice denied from close range by Schmeichel.

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This version corrects the score to 3-2.