Leicester City 2 West Ham United 2
When the definitive story of Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League title challenge is penned, the names of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez and N’Golo Kante will be written large.
Now, though, a little-known referee from West Yorkshire has every chance of a chapter of his own should the Foxes fall short in the tense weeks to come.
With a performance of staggering inconsistency, Jonathan Moss ensured he will be forever linked with the most memorable footballing tale in a generation of Leicester fans.
Depending on the outcome of the thrilling title race, yesterday might well be the defining day of his career as well as of Leicester’s trophy challenge.
His decision to book Jamie Vardy for a dive and send the Leicester striker off when his goal separated the sides may be the most debated decision of the season.
Then, his award of a penalty to each side for offences the like of which were being committed throughout the game left both sets of players and supporters livid.
The spotkick given to Leicester in stoppage time had all the hallmarks of a referee attempting to atone for earlier mistakes, while the one West Ham converted earlier came from the kind of penalty-box tangle that went unpunished a dozen times.
The venom that greeted Moss as he left the field has rarely been matched towards a referee, even though a draw that extended Leicester’s lead to eight points was a fair reflection of another pulsating occasion at the King Power Stadium.
“He never dives,” said Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri of his star striker’s dismissal.
“He’s always good and very fast, and at this speed, if you touch him even a little then he can fall.
“But it’s okay. I didn’t see the sending off, I didn’t see the first penalty and I didn’t see our penalty. What changes if I say something or you say something?
“It is 2-2. This is my philosophy. Nothing changes. Never have I spoken about referees. Referees are part of the match.
“The end was fantastic. It is more important than one point. Psychologically it says ‘we are there’.”
The game got off to a raucous start in the stands and a frantic one on the field as West Ham went agonisingly close to an early lead.
Dimitri Payet was clattered by Danny Simpson to earn the Hammers a free-kick and his set-piece found the head of Cheikhou Kouyate.
His effort was tipped brilliantly by goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel onto one post before rolling across the line, striking the other upright and running back into the arms of the Dane.
West Ham began well but, with 18 minutes on the clock, came the goal that encapsulated Leicester’s season; a penetrating counter-attack that featured their three-standout players doing what they do best.
Riyad Mahrez’s delicate touch allowed N’Golo Kante to use his power and drive, and Vardy collected the Frenchman’s pass before producing a fine finish.
Leicester started the second half well but their task became harder when Vardy was dismissed on 56 minutes, booked for a second time for an alleged dive in a tangle with Angelo Ogbonna and shown a red card.
West Ham almost made their numerical advantage count immediately as Winston Reid leapt to connect with a flicked shot from a corner but his shot struck Schmeichel’s left-hand post. Moss then ensured he would be the central figure by awarding a penalty when he deemed that Morgan had hauled down Reid.
Carroll made no mistake with the spotkick as he sent Schmeichel the wrong way.
And within two minutes the game had been turned on its head as Leicester half-cleared an Antonio cross and Aaron Cresswell lashed a left-footed shot over Schmeichel.
There was still time for more controversy as Carroll was penalised for the softest of shoves on Jeff Schlupp in stoppage time and Leonardo Ulloa stepped up to give Leicester a potentially priceless point.
“I think it was a poor decision,” said Carroll of the penalty.
“I think he’s trying to even it up and I think a lot of people have said that.
“It’s not acceptable, week-in, week-out we’ve had bad decisions. It is eight points now that we’ve dropped. It is not acceptable.
“Four decisions went against us. When we had our penalty, Wes Morgan said ‘he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he’s been bad all game.’
“We could have been third in the league now if we had eight points, and now we’re still fighting for fourth, fifth spot and we’re slipping down by losing these points.”
LEICESTER CITY (4-4-2): Schmeichel 7; Simpson 6, Morgan 6, Huth 7, Fuchs 6; Mahrez 6 (Amartey 78), Kante 8, Drinkwater 5, Albrighton 5 (Schlupp 54, 6); Okazaki 6 (Ulloa 59, 7), Vardy 6.
Subs not used: King, Gray, Wasilewski, Schwarzer.
WEST HAM UNITED (4-3-3): Adrian 6; Antonio 6, Reid 6, Ogbonna 6, Cresswell 7; Obiang 5 (Carroll, HT, 7) , Kouyate 5, Noble 6 (Lanzini 63, 6), Moses 5 (Valencia 72), Emenike 5, Payet 6.
Subs not used: Randolph, Tomkins, Collins, Byram.
Referee: Jonathan Moss
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