Leicester City topped Crystal Palace by a score of 2-0 at Selhurst Park in the early match this Sunday. The high-flying Foxes netted twice after the break through Çağlar Söyüncü and Jamie Vardy and the Premier League-best defense kept the Eagles at bay for the Foxes’ third league win on the trot.
Can’t imagine why opposing fans don’t like Vards...the Premier League’s top scorer.
In what amounts to the least-surprising news of the weekend, manager Brendan Rodgers made no changes to the side which thrashed Southampton 9-0 a week ago Friday. You can probably sing along with the lineup at this point: Kasper Schmeichel started in goal behind a back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Wilfred Ndidi was the holding midfielder, with Youri Tielemans and James Maddison in the centre and Ayoze Perez and Harvey Barnes on the wing. The Premier League’s joint-leading scorer Jamie Vardy held his place as the lone striker.
The opening quarter hour resembled my attempts to play guitar: choppy, no rhythm, and mistakes a-plenty. Both sides had one decent chance during this period. Leicester went close when Tielemans cut the ball back to Barnes at the end of a break, but he shot weakly at the keeper when there were other options available (including, but not limited to, shooting strongly at a portion of the goalmouth not occupied by the keeper). At the other end, Jordan Ayew got behind the City defense, but his shot from range was screwed horribly wide under no particular pressure from the Foxes’ defense.
The match settled into the pattern that one would have predicted prior to the opening whistle. Leicester bossed possession and moved the ball smartly around the Palace area without creating too many chances. The hosts defended in numbers despite being, well, the hosts, and looked to hit the Foxes on the break or to score at set pieces. City were looking the most likely, but both defenses were doing a fine job of nullifying the other side’s attack.
The first half just sort of fizzled out without much any the way of goalmouth action. Leicester had 2 shots on goal to Palace’s 1 and none of them forced notable saves. If you missed the first 45 minutes, congratulations! You missed nothing of note and it is my sincere hope that you made the most of your additional time. Perhaps you slept in, or spent it with your family. Good on you. The 0-0 halftime score was an absolutely perfect reflection of the run of play.
Both sides emerged from the tunnel unchanged as both managers were eager for “more of the same” apparently. And more of the same it most definitely was as a sloppy bit of passing from Leicester turned the ball over and forced Evans into ludicrous challenge for which he received a well-earned yellow. Palace managed to string together a few passes and saw a low cross somehow evade both Ayew and Schlupp in front of goal before falling to Zaha who fired in a badly-miscued effort from distance.
Leicester won a series of corners around 55’, all of which were aimed at Evans, who was starting to find the range and forced a fine save from Vicente Guaita to win another corner. Evans was the decoy this time, allowing Söyüncü to ghost unmarked to the middle of the six yard box. The Turkey international made no mistake, planting a bullet beyond Guaita and giving Leicester a 1-0 lead.
It should have been two moments later. The Foxes broke down the left and an inch-perfect ball from Madders found Barnes on the edge of the penalty area. Given a choice between controlling it and shooting first time, he did neither, guiding the ball gently into the keeper’s arms. Leicester had yet another promising attack broken up by James Tomkins, who reached out and collected the ball off of Vardy’s foot, earning a yellow card in the process.
The match was starting to open up and get a little scrappy, so Rodgers decided to change things by sending Demarai Gray on for Ayoze. The physios were seeing most of the action at this point, with two Palace players needing treatment for a clash of heads in the Leicester box. James McArthur had to come off after some innocuous-looking contact with Ndidi, and Evans required the ministrations of the magic sponge after colliding with Ayew going for a half-clearance.
With the introduction of Christian Benteke by Palace manager Roy Hodgson, Rodgers responded by withdrawing Barnes in favor of Wes Morgan. While I am extremely nervous changing the shape of the defense like this, it paid immediately dividends when the Belgium striker put his header well over under pressure from Morgan.
The match was settled just before the 90’ mark when Vardy doubled the Leicester lead. A low ball from the left wing by Tielemans was dummied by Gray to Vardy. Gray continued his run to receive the return ball. The former Birmingham City man pulled it back for Vardy, whose first time shot beat the keeper all ends up.
It could have been three when a long ball over the top released Chilwell. The England man controlled it perfectly and shot from a tight angle. He beat the keeper, but the ball cannoned off the inside of the post, denying him a chance to score in consecutive matches. Rodgers made his final change, sending Dennis Praet into the fray for the Madders.
The game was now in six minutes of injury time, but the second goal meant that there was very little drama in the time added on. Leicester looked comfortable seeing out the match and ran out comfortable 2-0 winners.
It wasn’t as comprehensive as the Southampton match, but I’m pretty sure they both count for exactly three points. We were the better side, but being the better side doesn’t mean much if you don’t score and this is exactly the sort of match we struggled to win this time last year. Defending deep and hitting Leicester on the break used to work a treat, but this year? Good luck with that.
James Maddison didn’t get on the scoresheet today, but he was tremendously influential and, with better finishing, he could have had a couple of assists. Söyüncü and Evans were massive at both ends of the pitch, and both Vardy and Ayoze kept the pressure on the Palace defense the entire match. Mostly, though, this was a team effort, where the players didn’t let mistakes get them down and they eventually got the fully-justified rewards for their efforts.
The win keeps City 3rd on the table with 23 points from 11 matches. We have scored the second-most goals in the Premiership with 27 and, more surprisingly, our defense has only conceded 8 times. This is joint-best in the league along with...Sheffield United? Respect. We return home to the King Power next Saturday to face Arsenal and then head to the south coast to face Brighton and Hove Albion after the break.
What will the media say? I think Ben has it bang on: