And for a large part of the afternoon that looked like playing out as they went ahead through Harvey Barnes and Wout Faes before the crushing news of Abdoulaye Doucoure’s goal for Everton came through.
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 28, 2023
And with the Toffees hanging on at Goodison Park it condemned Leicester to the drop which represents a huge fall from grace, joining Blackburn as the only teams to lift the Premier League trophy and then be relegated.
That remarkable 5000-1 title came in 2016 but they have enjoyed much more recent success as they won the FA Cup in 2021 under Brendan Rodgers, who also delivered back-to-back fifth-placed finishes.
Rodgers was fired at the start of April in a bid to beat relegation, with former Aston Villa boss Dean Smith parachuted in on an eight-game SOS mission.
But they ultimately fell just short and Smith will surely now depart as the Foxes prepare for life back in the Championship for the first time since 2014.
West Ham, who made a game of it in the second half through Pablo Fornals’ strike, were already safe and a disappointing league season sees them finish 14th – six points clear of the drop – but their attention is firmly on the forthcoming Europa Conference League final against Fiorentina.
Given the nature of their predicament it was essential for Leicester to start well and buoyed on by a loud home support, they began with impetus.
But the visitors began to get into the game and they enjoyed the better chances in the opening 20 minutes.
There was plenty of space for them to counter-attack and Michail Antonio forced Daniel Iversen into a parried save after taking up a good position and then Fornals miscued his shot when he had more time than he thought after being played in by Vladimir Coufal.
Leicester needed to re-ignite the crowd and they did that in the 28th minute when they came within inches of going in front.
That raised the volume levels and the roof came off the King Power Stadium five minutes later when Barnes did open the scoring.
He played a lovely give-and-go with Iheanacho, held off the challenge of Flynn Downes and then coolly stroked the ball into the bottom corner.
With Everton still drawing against Bournemouth the goal moved Leicester out of the bottom three and they surged forward for another, with Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall firing over and James Maddison curling wide.
Leicester were unable to recapture that spark in the second half and the atmosphere soured when news of Everton’s goal at Goodison Park was kindly delivered by goading West Ham fans.
It almost got even worse for them as a slick move saw Said Benrahma glide into the area but his shot struck the base of the post and the Foxes survived.
They knew that one goal on Merseyside would change things and were able to consolidate their own lead when Faes climbed highest from Maddison’s free-kick.
West Ham, whose fans were basking in their opponents’ misery and their own imminent trip to Prague, should have got one back midway through the second half when Jarrod Bowen, whose shot had been saved by Iversen, teed up Danny Ings, but the substitute embarrassingly skied over.
The Hammers did get on the scoresheet with 12 minutes remaining as Fornals surged into the area and struck home.
Leicester were able to see it out but the news they desperately craved from Goodison Park never came and a disappointing season ended in the worst possible way.