Leicester City 3:1 Crystal Palace
City’s Premier League season got back on track on Saturday, thanks to a vibrant 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at the KPS…
Claudio Ranieri made a couple of changes to his starting XI with Vardy and Albrighton making way for Okazaki and Musa, and they proved to be inspired choices.
Before the kick off there was a minute’s applause to mark the recent passing of the King of Thailand.
City were presented with a gilt-edged chance in only the second minute when Palace keeper Mandanda fluffed a clearance and sent the ball straight to Okazaki. But the Japan striker hurried his attempted lob from 20 yards out and his effort drifted wide of the left hand post.
But it was Palace who had the better of the opening 20 minutes.
Cabaye fired an effort from distance, and Morgan blocked a Zaha shot, before Benteke got onto the end of a Kelly cross but sent his header against the bar.
City, with Okazaki as their beating heart, and Drinkwater and King combining well, began to take control midway through the half.
Slimani was charging after everything and sent a couple of headers narrowly off target, and then Okazaki got his head to a Mahrez shot but the ball narrowly cleared the bar.
With half-time approaching, City made a vital breakthrough.
Musa started a move down the left, Slimani and Okazaki battled through a wall of yellow shirts to return the ball to the Nigerian, and he side-stepped his marker before firing home his first goal for the club.
City continued in the same vein after the break, and Slimani sent a diving header from a Mahrez cross a couple of inches wide of the right hand post.
The lead was doubled in the 62nd minute. A Drinkwater cross from the left was cleared at full stretch by Delaney, but Okazaki was following up and produced an unstoppable shot for his first Premier League goal since March.
Alan Pardew’s side tried to drag themselves back into the game with an attacking spell, but Schmeichel blocked a Zaha shot at his near post, and then showed great reactions to deny Cabaye at close range.
Simpson then cleared a Benteke effort off the line before Claudio Ranieri made his first change with 15 minutes remaining, Vardy replacing Slimani.
City’s third goal arrived in the 80th minute. As they hit Palace on the break, Vardy’s cross from the left beat everyone, but Musa’s hard work in chasing it down earned a corner.
Mahrez’s flag-kick was headed clear by Benteke, but the ball sat up nicely for Fuchs, 22 yards out, and he rifled home a superb half-volley. It was the Austrian’s first goal for City, but worth the wait.
Schmeichel raced out of goal to deny Benteke in a one-on-one late on, but was finally beaten in the 86th minute when Cabaye provided a neat finishing touch to a Zaha cross from the right.
At the other end Mahrez saw his shot blocked by Mandanda, but City were more than happy with a well-earned 3-1 victory.
It was a big-hearted performance that proved the City squad had the strength in depth required to tackle two competitions.
Claudio Ranieri told the post match press conference: “This was the shape and model of last season. It’s when everyone is concentrated and doing their job. We know our weakness but we also know our strengths. Crystal Palace are a very good team. They were better than us for the first 20 minutes and moved the ball very quickly. It was difficult for us but after that we put in a very good performance.”
Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Huth, Morgan, Fuchs, Drinkwater, King (Amartey 87), Mahrez, Musa (Gray 81), Okazaki, Slimani (Vardy 75). Subs Not Used: Zieler, Schlupp, Albrighton, Ulloa.
Palace: Mandanda, Ward, Tomkins, Cabaye, Townsend (Campbell 72), Zaha, Ledley (Lee 72), Benteke, McArthur, Delaney, Kelly (Fryers 77). Subs Not Used: Flamini, Hennessey, Wickham, Sako.
Referee: M Oliver. Attendance: 31,969.
PHOTOS: Simon Kimber.
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