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Fans turn on Leicester after ruthless Fulham slice and dice salvation hopes

Leicester City central defenders Wout Faes and Caglar Soyuncu in conversation during the Premier League match between Fulham FC and Leicester City – Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

For all of 10 minutes, Dean Smith was on to something. His pre-match pronouncement was that four clean sheets ought to be enough to secure Leicester City’s Premier League status. A statement that was factually correct, yet bold and fanciful. Did he really expect a defense that had not prevented the opposition scoring for 19 consecutive league matches to suddenly turn porous into impenetrable?

Smith’s words were undoubtedly more hopeful than expected. Leicester were sliced ​​and diced by ruthless (not an adjective often used to describe Marco Silva’s side) Fulham. Anyone who fancied a goal was, it seemed, welcome to one. Willian, Carlos Vinicius and Tom Cairney, twice, and Willian again all accepted an invitation offered by gaping holes, a fragile, disconnected shape and a general lethargy.

Leicester were already four down when Harvey Barnes netted what looked to be a consolatory effort, had conceded a fifth by the time James Maddison converted his penalty, and did not grab their third, through Barnes, until the 89th minute. Smith did, in fairness, also say that Leicester had goals in them.

Unfortunately, his attempts to play Nostradamus were hardly helped by Daniel Iversen’s howler for the opener. The decision to start the campaign with a pair of goalkeepers (Danny Ward being the other) sharing a combined three Premier League appearances, looks increasingly erroneous. Were there no options? Well, Bernd Leno was available for relative pocket change and saved Jamie Vardy’s penalty at 4-1 to quash any outside chance of a Leicester comeback.

Daniel Iversen error - REUTERS/David Klein

Daniel Iversen error – REUTERS/David Klein

Leicester were a complete mess, a club seemingly heading in one direction. This was supposed to be their winnable game, with Champions League chasing Liverpool and Newcastle next. For a couple of hours, owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha’s arms remained firmly folded.

Those who had boarded coaches early on this Bank Holiday were initially angry. They declared unfitness to don the shirt. Youri Tielemans – captain despite the fact that he will leave regardless of Leicester’s final standing – was jeered off. His replacement, Wilfried Ndidi, was jeered at. By the end, though, rage had morphed into resigned acceptance.

There was a desperate stench about Leicester from the start. A series of late challenges hinted at a difficult afternoon coming. It was from one mistimed lunge – Dennis Praet on Antonee Robinson – that led to the opener.

There had already been glimmers of Willian’s brilliance before his curling cross was aimed towards the back post. It was overhit in that no attacker was getting near it. Unfortunately for Leicester, such intervention was not required: indecision-hit Iversen made a complete hash of his work.

Regroup? No time: soon Boubakary Soumare was dispossessed by Joao Palhinha. Given this happened deep in Fulham’s half, there ought to have been no real danger. Yet seconds later, Carlos Vinicius finished neatly from the edge of the area. Harry Wilson looked stunned as he was allowed to drift through the middle. With Leicester’s center backs completely out of sync, his pass to Vinicius was simple. Who needs Alexander Mitrovic?

Carlos Vinicius of Fulham scores the team's second goal whilst under pressure from Caglar Soyuncu of Leicester City - Clive Rose/Getty Images

Carlos Vinicius of Fulham scores the team’s second goal while under pressure from Caglar Soyuncu of Leicester City – Clive Rose/Getty Images

Soon, Leicester outfoxed themselves again. Wout Faes’ clearance undersold Barnes, and Palhinha’s foot was there in a flash. A neat Harrison Reed flick on the edge of the area allowed Cairney to shimmy into the area and curl in.

Gap plugging was required at the interval, but it did not come. Soon after the restart, Kenny Tete burst into acres of space. Cairney was found and Cairney finished. Willian flitted in from the left and curled beyond Iversen for the fifth.

It is a little unfair to Fulham that they will be the sub-plot here. Their tempo was perfect, Palhinha dictating the metronome’s beat. His one error was a mistimed challenge to concede the second penalty. Willian and Cairney were the puppet masters, gliding around merrily, feet barely touching the turf. It gave their supporters a highly enjoyable afternoon, during which they regularly taunted former Chelsea man John Terry, brought in by Smith to try and sort Leicester’s defense.

Fulham’s European ambitions have long since fizzled out, sadly. This is the sort of entertainment those who have shelled out £3,000 for a seat in the now sold-out Riverside Stand will require next season.

For Leicester, Europe looks increasingly likely to be light years away.

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