Leicester remained on parity with Nottingham Forest as a result of a 5-3 loss to Fulham – who snapped a three-game losing streak – but in potential danger of being overtaken, with Forest yet to play.
Starting the game outside of the bottom three on goal difference, Dean Smith’s side were ripped apart in the first half at Craven Cottage as Willian, Carlos Vinicius and Tom Cairney all took advantage of shambolic defending to bury Leicester before the break.
Cairney got his second and his team’s fourth early in the second half before Willian completed a brace of his own, rifling in a fine solo effort.
Harvey Barnes scored two and James Maddison tapped in a penalty to give visiting supporters momentary cheer, but the result was never in doubt. The prospects of their team remaining a Premier League club look slim on the evidence of a defensive display every bit as bad as the scoreline suggested.
Fulham scored with their first chance of the game, though it was more by luck than design. Dennis Praet fouled Antonee Robinson out near the left touchline, and from the resulting free-kick Willian’s cross evaded everybody inside the box before bouncing up into the top corner past Daniel Iversen.
Leicester, sensing the severity of their predicament, rallied. Maddison crossed low for Barnes arriving inside the box but he failed to make sufficient contact to turn it home under pressure. At the other end, Cairney released Harrison Reed who went toe-to-toe with Caglar Soyuncu before the Leicester defender deflected his effort narrowly wide.
Fulham’s second arrived before the 20-minute mark and started with a Leicester mistake. Boubakary Soumare lost his footing and gave away possession in his own half, allowing Harry Wilson to race away upfield. From his pass nobody in blue went with Vinicius, who had the simple task of striding into the box and rolling it low past the exposed goalkeeper.
Bernd Leno saved well from Jamie Vardy as Leicester threatened immediately to half the arrears, but it was Fulham who were well in control, going close to a third after half an hour when Reed fired straight at Iversen from Willian’s cut-back.
Leicester were hanging on and Fulham came again when Robinson fizzed a cross straight across goal that failed to find a touch, before Vinicius headed inches wide as the ball came back in.
It was a momentary reprieve and by half-time Fulham had three and Leicester looked buried. Reed showed good footwork to control the ball and feed Vinicius, who turned well and found Cairney. The Fulham captain took a touch to come inside Soyuncu before bending his shot smoothly into the bottom corner.
Leicester came out for the second half with some attacking urgency, going close when Barnes struck low towards Leno’s bottom corner which drew a fine fingertip save from the Fulham goalkeeper.
Defensively, they remained as disorganised as before the break. Cairney scored his second and Fulham’s fourth after a powerful run by Kenny Tete down the right. It was a cool finish from a deft first touch after he had been picked out by the full-back.
Barnes thumped in a consolation off the underside of the crossbar just before the hour, and the visitors were offered further encouragement when Leno brought down Vardy inside the box and the referee awarded a penalty. The Leicester striker took the kick himself but the goalkeeper redeemed himself with a two-handed save low to his left.
It extinguished whatever faint hope might briefly had been rekindled for the visitors, and minutes later their woeful defensive organisation was exposed yet again. Willian was barely challenged as he picked up the ball, drifted inside a blasted in Fulham’s fifth.
There was time still for Maddison to succeed where Vardy had failed, knocking his penalty past Leno but drawing barely a cheer from the visiting fans. The same was true when Barnes tapped home from Patson Daka’s pass.
It was a brave stab at recovery but Leicester had lacked courage when it mattered. A two-goal margin did not reflect the extent of Fulham’s dominance.
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