Palace show resilience of old to run high-riding Leicester City close
Crystal Palace 1 Leicester City 1
Wilfried Zaha’s eighth goal of the season helped the Eagles gain a precious point as they halted their alarming slump in form.
A display of far greater togetherness than in their two previous outings almost brought them a win, but Harvey Barnes netted for the Foxes seven minutes from time to deny Roy Hodgson’s men all three points.
Although Palace’s defence was breached towards the end, the performance signalled the wisdom of a back-to-basics approach after their porous defence had conceded 10 in the previous two matches.
Zaha continues to prove that, for all the talk of wanting away, he is committed to the cause and he already has twice as many goals as last season.
His strike came just before the hour when he started and finished a fine move. It was his clever footwork near half way which opened up space, and after sweeping the ball out wide to Andros Townsend on the right, he was in the perfect place to receive a return cross to volley home at the far post past Kasper Schmeichel.
Palace were desperate to stem the avalanche of goals they have been conceding. They have simply not resembled the cussed outfit we have come to expect in recent games. Conceding three to a 10-man Aston Villa was almost as bad as letting in seven to a rampant Liverpool.
But here, they set out to ensure they would not be such easy pickings, with their two banks of four determined to stay in shape, as they accepted the need to hold their stations while the Foxes monopolised the ball.
That scenario relies on some good fortune and they got it in the 19th minute when Kelechi Iheanacho hit a penalty too close to Vicente Guiata and the Spaniard’s strong hand kept it out. It was his first spot-kick save, having been beaten by five previous penalties.
Iheanacho was preferred at the start to Jamie Vardy, the usual penalty taker, and the star man watching on the bench had further cause to wince when Iheanacho planted a near-post header into the Holmesdale stand from a Dennis Praet cross, when it seemed easier to score.
There was no disputing the penalty, as James Tomkins mistimed a challenge on the charging Luke Thomas and no protests came from the home bench.
That failure to make their dominance pay kept the Eagles believing and they ought to have taken the lead when Jeff Schlupp’s low cross was fired wide from close range at the near post by Townsend.
There was further encouragement at the start of the second half when Schlupp squared for Zaha to get a shot away – although it was always going over.
Then, on 58 minutes, Zaha put the Eagles in front and the home side suddenly had renewed vigour – their pressing going up a notch.
The introduction of Vardy kept Leicester in the hunt, but the home side were almost home and hosed when they failed to pick up Barnes at a throw-in and the midfielder slipped past defenders before sending a fine low shot past Guaita’s left hand.
The Foxes were on top at the death, with Ayoze Perez firing over when well placed, but Palace made sure they were going to get the point their efforts arguably deserved.
Palace: Guaita – Clyne, Kouyate, Tomkins, Mitchell – Townsend, Milivojevic, Riedewald (McArthur 73), Schlupp (Ayew 85) – Benteke, Zaha. Subs not used: Butland, Ward, Van Aanholt, Sakho, McCarthy, Batshuayi, Eze