Eagles devoured 2-1 by Foxes after Zaha gave south Londoners the lead
By Alessandro Schiavone at King Power Stadium
Crystal Palace succumbed to an agonising 2-1 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium tonight after going 1-0 up.
Wilfried Zaha ended a barren run of six games without a goal when he cooly slotted the ball past Foxes goalie Kasper Schmeichel after being teed up by Eberechi Eze’s killer pass after Christian Benteke had dispossessed his compatriot Youri Tielemans near the halfway line.
The Foxes were not fazed by the task at hand and came out on the front foot in the second-half with former Atalanta star Timothy Castagne levelling the score five minutes after the interval before Kelechi Iheanacho made it 10 goals in his last 10 Premier League outings with an exquisite, Bergkamp-esqe finish 10 minutes from time.
The win saw Leicester extend their lead on fifth-placed West Ham United by seven points and put sufficient daylight between themselves and the chasing pack in an attempt to qualify for the Champions League.
Brendan Rodgers’ men almost raced into an early lead when Jamie Vardy beat his marker to a through ball by Iheanacho and rounded Schmeichel but could not apply the finishing touch.
Cheikho Kouyate then prevented 34-year old Vardy from pulling the trigger with the Senegalese midfielder-turned-defender flicking the ball away in the nick of time after a long ball forward from Castagne.
The inventive Belgian winger then played a dangerous ball into the box, but neither Iheanacho’s attempted flick, which didn’t come off, nor Vardy who lurked behind him could give the assist the finish it deserved as the former England international made it a hat-trick of missed chances in the space of only 11 minutes.
And just a minute later, the missed opportunities came back to haunt the home side as Benteke dropped deep to win the ball in midfield before he played a quick pass to Eze. The 22-year old played a ball into space for Zaha who got the Eagles off the mark against the run of play with a clinical finish to score his first goal in three months.
In the 34th minute, Caglar Söyüncü sent his shot over after Johnny Evans had laid the ball off to him after a corner. Four minutes later Nigerian midfielder Wilfred Ndidi had a crack from distance but Patrick Van Aanholt, who is linked with a move to Galatasaray this summer, got in a foot in between as the ball was destined to end up in Vincente Guaita’s arms. On the stroke of half-time James Maddison dragged a shot wide.
A rigorous Crystal Palace side were struggling to get out of their own half as Leicester created chances after chance and were at their fluent best in the first-half. But despite largely outplaying and outwitting he Eagles, their end product left a lot to be desired with the Foxes hard to please in the visitors’ penalty area.
But if Roy Hodgson’s men were surprisingly 1-0 up at the break it had more to do with Leicester’s lack of cutting edge in front of goal than their own resolute defending.
Castagne, who nearly turned provider in the first-half had it not been for Vardy and company’s profligacy, then levelled the score four minutes after the break. The hard-working and indefatigable Iheanacho got on the end of a long ball before he cut it back for the Belgian winger who left Guaita no chance with an exquisite finish into the top far corner.
Only six minutes later, the Eagles had a chance to restore the lead had it not been for Jairo Riedwald’s poor decision-making. A first-class delivery from Zaha had sent the Dutchman through on goal but instead of having a crack himself, he played a sideways pass to Benteke which allowed Evans to recover with a sliding tackle.
In the 68th minute, Benteke rose highest to connect with Eze’s corner but planted a header straight at Schmeichel. A minute later the luckless Vardy then had a goal chalked off for offside.
Ten minutes later and after a brilliant one-two with Iheanacho, Vardy broke away from his marker but dragged his effort wide which summed up his evening in front of goal.