The last time Leicester won their opening match of the season, they went on to win the title. Only a crank would proclaim them future champions on the basis of this performance but it is fair to say this victory should do them good after their sorry end to last season.
It might also help Brendan Rodgers’ chances of hiring more reinforcements before the closure of the transfer window, since the breakthrough at the Hawthorns was made by their sole new signing so far. Timothy Castagne, a defender bought for £21.5m from Atalanta, headed into the net after 55 minutes before Jamie Vardy, that old reliable, secured three points by scoring two penalties. It was Leicester’s first away win in the league since 1 January, and a chastening return to the top flight for West Brom.
Slaven Bilic has promised his side will be bold as they fight for survival and the manager certainly succeeded in transmitting that attitude to his players, who showed no trace of an inferiority complex in their first Premier League match after a two-year exile. They pushed the visitors on to the back foot from the start but lacked potency when it came to the punch.
Leicester looked groggy in the early stages, partly because of the continuing absence of key players, although James Maddison was fit enough to appear off the bench in the second half.
Rodgers was forced to field an improvised defence, with Castagne slotting in at right-back while Wilfried Ndidi took up an unfamiliar role at centre-back. West Brom adopted a new look out of conviction, Bilic opting for a back three in a bid to nullify Vardy and release his team’s attacking menace. The ploy worked well for a while. Matheus Pereira, Grady Diangana and Callum Robinson all made Leicester look lubberly with with their bright skill and movement.
While West Brom created openings, they lacked a cutting edge. When Robinson flashed the ball across the face of goal after nifty work by Diagana, no one could finish. With Leicester lethargic, West Brom continued to work their way into dangerous positions. They did so far too easily on 16 minutes when goalkeeper Sam Johnstone dropped a long pass into the path of Darnell Furlong, who was chopped down at the edge of the area by James Justin. The left-back was booked but Diangana could not inflict further punishment from the free-kick.
It took Leicester half an hour to get up to speed. Ayoze Pérez and Harvey Barnes sparked them into life with a couple of bright flourishes but then Barnes frittered away a great chance to open the scoring, dabbing a volley at Johnstone from 10 yards. He made the keeper work harder two minutes later after cute interplay between Youri Tielemans and Justin but, after Johnstone saved, Barnes shanked the rebound wide with his right foot.
After their perky start, West Brom were grateful to reach half-time with the scores level. But Leicester broke through after 57 minutes. Dennis Praet instigated the attack by conniving with Justin before clipping a delicate cross from the byline towards the back post, where Castagne arrived to beat two defenders and nod into the net.
As confidence swelled among Leicester, their passing and running gained pep. They began to pull West Brom asunder. The hosts hung on until the 73rd minute, when Bartley pulled back Vardy in the box an attempt to stop him collecting a pass from Barnes. There was no doubt what would happen next: Vardy, who had scored on every previous appearance at the Hawthorns, fired home from the penalty spot. He did the same again when Dara O’Shea tripped Justin with seven minutes remaining.