A fantastic individual showing from James Maddison helped Leicester City on their way to three points against relegation candidates Fulham at Craven Cottage as the midfielder set up both goals in a 2-0 win.
The Foxes took the lead 17 minutes in when Maddison picked out Kelechi Iheanacho with an inch-perfect cross from the right, and doubled their lead through James Justin just before half-time. The Cottagers had no reply in the second-half, and remain winless in the league since they defeated these opponents back in November.
The result sees Fulham stay in 18th, while Leicester rise to 3rd for now.
Story of the game
Coming into the match, Scott Parker made two changes to the side that drew with fellow relegation candidates West Bromwich Albion last weekend: at wing-back, Kenny Tete replaced Bobby Decordova-Reid, while Harrison Reed came in for Mario Lemina in central midfield.
Visiting manager Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, made four adjustments to his starting line-up for the defeat to Leeds United, some necessitated by injury. Defenders Ricardo Pereira and Caglar Soyuncu took the places of Timothy Castagne and Wesley Fofana respectively, while Hamza Choudhury replaced Nampalys Mendy in the middle of the park and Iheanacho came in for Marc Albrighton to lead the line in Jamie Vardy's continued absence.
Prior to the match, a period of applause was observed to celebrate the life and achievements of Captain Sir Tom Moore, who sadly passed away yesterday.
There was little to separate the sides in the opening exchanges. Fulham nearly worked an opening when Aleksandar Mitrovic closed down Caglar Soyuncu, won the ball and tried to offload to Ademola Lookman, in acres of space and bursting towards goal, but the pass was just behind the winger.
It was Leicester's turn to threaten next when, just before the 10-minute mark, Maddison played a one-two with Iheanacho before taking aim from a little over 25 yards out, but it was one of his tamer efforts and a comfortable save for Alphonse Areola.
The hosts came close to taking the lead moments later. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa spread the ball out to Lookman in wide midfield and began darting forward. The latter returned the ball to Anguissa who, having evaded Leicester's offside trap, was able to drive towards the box. When he got there, the midfielder cut the ball back for Mitrovic on the penalty spot, but the striker's effort was blocked superbly by Jonny Evans.
A fantastically energetic first 15 minutes continued when the Foxes went straight down the other end trough Pereira. The full-back reached the byline and cleverly cut the ball back for Harvey Barnes lurking in the middle, whose shot was hit with real venom but just high of the crossbar.
Leicester wouldn't have long to wait for their early advantage. Maddison picked the ball up in a position on the right flank, roughly ten yards in from the touchline. He picked his head up and supplied a delightful cross into the centre, landing straight on the head of Iheanacho who left Areola stranded from the middle of the box.
They nearly had a second with 23 minutes on the clock. Ayoze Perez got to the byline following a set-piece and lofted a cross into the middle. Ola Aina's headed clearance didn't go for, landing in the path of Soyuncu just behind him at the back post. The centre-back volleyed at goal, but Fulham's shot-stopper was equal to it this time.
The Cottagers needed to steady the ship; Leicester's qualities had been there for all to see in the opening half-an-hour. They began to enjoy more of the possession and waited patiently any openings, but they were few and far between against a resolute visiting defence.
But their patience did come close to paying off five minutes before half-time. Lookman's floated corner caused all sorts of problems for Leicester's set-piece defence, and it med the head of Tosin Adarabioyo rising above everyone in the box, but the centre-backs powerful header was denied by an acrobatic stop from Kasper Schmeichel, his first real task of the match.
Adarabioyo will perhaps feel he should have found the back of the net there, and it came back to bite him and his team when the Foxes darted down the other end in the next phase of play. A reversal of roles from the first goal saw Maddison fed through on goal by Iheanacho, but instead of taking aim himself, the 24-year old opted to pass across to Justin on the other side of the area. The full-back rounded Areola and couldn't miss from six yards out.
Leicester had a deserved two-goal advantage heading into the break, and Maddison had been the architect of both — the first time he has provided two assists in a single Premier League match. The playmaker had been nothing short of superb in the first-half.
Unimpressed and knowing his team need to start racking up the points, Parker shuffled his pack at half-time, withdrawing Tete and Anguissa for Ivan Cavaleiro and Lemina, two moves which saw his Fulham team operate in something resembling two banks of four — with two strikers and wide midfielders slightly advanced — from that point onwards.
Cavaleiro nearly had an instant impact when he collected Loftus-Cheek's offload, aiming for goal with a vicious left-footed strike, but it shot inches wide of the post. Create more chances like that, and they were still in with a shout here.
Fulham kept pushing. Antonee Robinson threw the ball to Lookman on the left flank and the winger measured up a strike from 25 yards, but it was just high and wide of the far top corner. Mitrovic was in space on the edge of the box and was furious not to have been picked out by his teammate.
The visitors weren't exactly dominant in the second half, but had their hosts exactly where they wanted them: unable to halve their two-goal deficit. Goalscoring chances were few and far between for both sides, but Leicester looked content with their lead as it was, happy to rely on their defensive exploits to keep it intact.
Decordova-Reid's introduction with 20 minutes of regulation time remaining injected more pace into the Fulham attack, but still they failed to break their hosts down. First, his strike on the 80-minute mark from a tight angle failed to trouble Schmeichel, and a second effort moments later looked destined for the net after a tee-up from Mitrovic but it was blocked spectacularly by Justin.
Mitrovic and Decordova-Reid linked up again when the latter floated a cross into the box, but the striker's glancing header was harmlessly wide of the target. And with the passing of that chance, Leicester had held on, the clean sheet topping off a good evening's work for the visitors.
Takeaways from the match
Time is of the essence for Fulham, and it will soon start running out
This Fulham team aren't a bad watch by any stretch; they often seem to match their opponents in everything other goals which, of course, is the most important statistic in football. For how much longer can they afford to play well enough without securing the points?
They were up against a good team here, inspired by some supremely talented individuals, and they put up a fight today without any reward. Commentators on the Cottagers say this week in, week out — performances are all very well and good, but they need to start winning, and the threat of relegation will remain very real until they do.
Leicester prove their ability despite notable absentees
Fofana, Castagne and arch marksman Vardy were all missing here, but Leicester still looked the part and reacted brilliantly to their defeat to Leeds last time out, much more assured at the back and clinical in attack.
The Foxes were inspired by Maddison who set up both goals, but they were also incredibly sturdy in defence, preventing their opponents from finding a route back into the contest — this was a super display from the visitors.
Fulham: Areola; Aina, Andersen, Adarabioyo; Tete (Cavaleiro 46'), Anguissa (Lemina 46'), Reed, Robinson; Loftus-Cheek (Decordova-Reid 69'), Mitrovic, Lookman.
Subs not used: Rodak, Odoi, Hector, Ream, Bryan, Onomah.
Leicester City: Schmeichel; Pereira, Soyuncu, Evans, Justin; Choudhury (Mendy 60'), Tielemans; Perez (Albrighton 60'), Maddison, Barnes (Amartey 75'); Iheanacho.
Subs not used: Ward, Daley-Campbell, Fuchs, Thomas, Leshabela, Under.
Following defeat here, Fulham are at home again on Saturday, with fellow Londoners West Ham United their visitors.
Meanwhile, Leicester face another away game on Sunday, this time travelling to Wolverhampton Wanderers.