Fulham suggested that they might just stick around in the Premier League now that they have figured out how to score penalties. Leicester went into this game knowing that a win would put them level on points with the league leaders but Brendan Rodgers’ side were deservedly beaten by a team who showed a range of precious qualities and, unlike so often this season, finished emphatically from the spot. Ivan Cavaleiro made no mistake this time, unlike last week.
Ademola Lookman had opened the scoring on the half-hour for Fulham, who climbed out of the bottom three despite Harvey Barnes’ late goal for the home side.
Leicester have lost three of their five home matches this season and have developed a worrisome habit of falling flat when top spot is within reach. Last week they went to Liverpool with high hopes but never troubled the champions en route to a 3-0 defeat. This was supposed to be a more manageable challenge but they struggled to get going against a team who began the day in 19th place.
Although Scott Parker’s side arrived at the King Power having lost seven of their first nine league matches of the season, they did not look like a team who had had the confidence beaten out of them. Well-organised and tenacious, they gave Leicester’s creative players no space in which to conjure and then shocked them with two destructive counter-attacks.
That said, Fulham did need to survive a serious scare in the 18th minute when a free kick by James Maddison was repelled by the wall but came back to Youri Tielemans, who struck a splendid left-foot volley against a post from 20 yards. Wesley Fofana tried to score from the rebound but poked it against the crossbar.
The only threat that Leicester posed from open play in the first half came six minutes later when Dennis Praet hared down the right wing and crossed for Jamie Vardy. The striker had barely touched the ball until that point but he produced an acrobatic flick that demands a save from Alphonse Areola.
Fulham first showed their counterattacking menace when Ola Aina initiated a raid down the right that culminated with Antonee Robinson bringing a save from Kasper Schmeichel from 15 yards.
Leicester failed to heed that warning. Worse, they presented Fulham with a chance to attack again two minutes later, when the excellent André-Frank Zambo-Anguissa pounced on a careless pass by Tielemans and strode forward 40 yards before threading a pass through to Lookman. The striker rewarded that service with a cool finish, sliding the ball past the out-rushing Schmeichel. Rather than celebrate, Lookman ran to the touchline to collect and hold aloft a Senegal shirt like the one worn at the 2002 World Cup by Papa Bouba Diop, the former Fulham midfielder who died last the weekend at the age of 42.
Six minutes later Fulham were given an opportunity to double their lead following a foul by Christian Fuchs on Bobby Decordova-Reid. Schmeichel might have fancied his chances of rescuing the team, since Fulham had missed three of their four previous penalties this season. Undeterred, Cavaleiro, who bungled from the spot against Everton last week, guided a perfect shot beyond the reach of the keeper from 12 yards.
Rodgers made two substitutions at half-time as he searched for a formula to trouble visitors who were looking unexpectedly sure of themselves. Barnes and Cengiz Under replaced Praet and Luke Thomas. But still Leicester could not summon the wit to infiltrate a clever and determined defence.
Fulham did more than barricade themselves into their own half to protect their lead. Ruben Loftus-Cheek fired over in the 70th minute and Robinson led an even better attack five minutes later, racing down the left before cutting a pass back to Lookman, whose shot was saved by Schmeichel.
Not until four minutes from time did Leicester work an opening. Barnes exploited it perfectly, sending a thunderous shot into the net from 10 yards after Vardy nodded a cross by Tielemans back to him.