Harvey Barnes salvages a point at the death with stoppage time equaliser as Foxes maintain push for European spot
Manuel Pellegrini was relatively calm, all things considered, after three decisions went against West Ham at Manchester United.
But not when it happened for a second week running.
Being pegged back in injury time by Leicester, after Harvey Barnes responded to being dropped by climbing off the bench to salvage a point for Brendan Rodgers’ side with his first Foxes goal, was bad enough.
That his side should actually have had a two-goal cushion rather than just one before Barnes pounced simply poured salt in Pellegrini’s wounds.
Lucas Perez had already put West Ham 2-1 up just four minutes after coming off the bench.
Then, as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, the Spaniard raced onto fellow sub Pedro Obiang’s ball and rounded Kasper Schmeichel to score.
The goal was chalked off for offside, though replays showed Perez was being played onside by Ben Chilwell.
Not long after Barnes levelled, after Michail Antonio and a revitalised Jamie Vardy, with his seventh in seven games under Rodgers, had traded goals.
Next season VAR will have seen Perez’s ‘second’ goal given.
Yesterday, its absence meant the game ended in a result that left Leicester eighth and well-placed to finish seventh but all but ended West Ham’s hopes.
Seventh position will come with Europa League football again this season if Manchester City win the FA Cup.
Pellegrini, whose side are six points off that spot in 11th, said: ‘Unfortunately for us, we have lost five points. Maybe if we had those points that we deserved from our last game against Manchester United and then today, we would be fighting for the seventh position in the table. It is part of the game.
‘When you have two games in a row with such big mistakes then of course it is difficult to understand or accept, but you must do it.’
Rodgers said, with a wry smile: ‘Thankfully VAR isn’t out yet so this is where VAR has worked for us. It looked a goal. So it was luck of the Irish.’
The pre-match ceremony ahead of kick off was one that sparked contrasting emotions.
This another significant step in West Ham’s bid to make the London Stadium feel like home as they played here for the first time since laying down a new pitch surround in club colours on what they dubbed Claret and Blue day.
Pellegrini said: ‘I am happy with it, because it is the colour of our club. You can see the pitch better and it is a beautiful colour.
‘I think it helps, it is a good idea, we are trying to improve the stadium and in every area of the club. It is good to improve.
Rodgers added: ‘It was nice and spongy I loved Upton Park but this is a great stadium and over time will get better and better.’
But there was also a poignant element to the clash too and sobering reminder of the tragic events which followed the last meeting between the two sides.
October’s King Power Stadium clash, a 1-1 draw, was followed by the horrific helicopter crash in which Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and four other people were killed.
Both West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini and captain Mark Noble referenced the tragedy with heartfelt words in their programme notes with the latter saying ‘a new level of respect’ has now developed between the two clubs.
Srivaddhanaprabha’s image along with the names of the five crash victims were also shown on the big screens against the backdrop of a standing ovation from both sets of fans while a tribute was also read out, further classy acknowledgments by West Ham.
Both sides looked happy to just enjoy a saunter in the east London sun early on until Antonio climbed above Chilwell to nod West Ham ahead.
And Antonio, renowned for his eye-catching celebrations, looked just as happy as Pellegrini marked the occasion by lying down on the new claret carpet and stroking it lovingly.
Whatever Rodgers said to his players at half-time clearly registered. They had noticeably more intent and urgency after the break – not that that was too hard – and were rewarded when Vardy showed brilliant movement to burst in front of Fabian Balbuena and poke Leicester level.
Pellegrini chucked on Pedro Obiang and Perez and the former’s shot hit the post before the latter turned in the rebound to make it 2-1 with just eight minutes to go.
But Barnes popped up to save the day for Leicester just when West Ham were in touching distance of ending their run of three-game losing run with a victory.