Crystal Palace 0-1 Leicester: Riyad Mahrez winner keeps Foxes in control
By James Walker-Roberts
Last Updated: 21/03/16 11:32am
Leicester retained their advantage at the top of the Premier League after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.
Riyad Mahrez scored the only goal of the game after 34 minutes, finishing from Jamie Vardy's low cross.
The Foxes were on the back foot for much of the second half but they held out as Kasper Schmeichel saved from Bakary Sako and Damien Delaney volleyed against the crossbar in injury-time.
Victory briefly left the Foxes eight points clear of second-placed Tottenham, although they closed close the gap again on Sunday with a 3-0 win at home to Bournemouth, but the Foxes have just seven games left to seal their first top-flight title, and complete the fairy tale.
While Claudio Ranieri's side managed to earn their fourth 1-0 win in their last five matches, Palace are still without a victory in 2016 and have now lost a club-record six consecutive league games at home.
Both sides were unchanged from their previous fixtures and there was little to choose between them in the early exchanges.
The best opportunities of the opening 20 minutes both fell to Mahrez. The Algerian was unable to make contact with a cross from Shinji Okazaki and was then denied by Wayne Hennessey after being played in on goal by Danny Drinkwater.
But Palace, aided by a tactical tweak, enjoyed an encouraging spell around the half-hour mark. Wilfried Zaha volleyed wide at the back post from Yannick Bolasie's cross before Bolasie missed the target with a header.
The wind was taken out of their sails, however, when the Foxes got the breakthrough after 34 minutes. Drinkwater slipped it into the box for Vardy and he crossed low for Mahrez to finish first time.
Schmeichel kept the Foxes ahead with a smart save from Bolasie's deflected shot while Hennessey kept out Albrighton's shot at the other end.
Palace made a double change at the break, bringing on Martin Kelly and Sako for Papa Souare and Emmanuel Adebayor, and although Leicester started the second half positively, with Okazaki firing just wide and then missing the target with a close-range header, it was the hosts who turned the screw as the half wore on, but with Adebayor off, they too often lacked a focal point in the box.
Sako put in a few dangerous crosses and forced Schmeichel into a save after cutting in from the right, but otherwise Palace's threat was limited.
They did manage to create one excellent chance in injury-time, only for Delaney to volley against the bar after Scott Dann headed a corner down for him on the penalty spot.
Soccer Saturday verdict - Phil Thompson
"Leicester were fantastic in the first half. Some of the moves they created were nothing short of sensational, they cut through Palace. I was rubbing my eyes at the speed at which they got through the defence, it was absolutely fantastic.
"There were some absolutely terrific performances from the usual suspects. It wasn't Jamie Vardy or Mahrez today though, this result was down the Kante and Drinkwater. They were sensational.
"When Palace applied the pressure in the second half, Huth and Morgan were incredible. They have players all over the pitch that can get results and they deserve to be where they are."
Crystal Palace: Hennessey (6), Ward (6), Dann (6), Delaney (6), Souare (5), Zaha (5), Cabaye (5), Jedinak (5), Ledley (5), Bolasie (6), Adebayor (5).
Subs: Gayle (5), Sako (7), Kelly (6).
Leicester: Schmeichel (6), Simpson (6), Morgan (7), Huth (7), Fuchs (7), Mahrez (7), Kante (7), Drinkwater (7), Albrighton (6), Okazaki (6), Vardy (6).
Subs: Amartey (5), Schlupp (5), Ulloa (5).
Man of the match: Danny Drinkwater