Jamie Vardy netted his 100th Premier League goal as Leicester kept their hold on third place with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Vardy could not have wished for an easier goal to secure his ton, with a dreadful mistake from Mamadou Sakho gifting the ball to Harvey Barnes, who squared for him to net just his third goal of 2020 (77). In injury time, he then doubled his tally on the break with the finish of a man finally feeling confident again.
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His goals added to Kelechi Iheanacho's opener four minutes after the break, from Youri Tielemans' inviting low cross, which should have been dealt with by a hesitant Vicente Guaita before the Nigerian striker tapped home his second goal in four days.
Crystal Palace struggled to test Kasper Schmeichel as their run of defeats was extended to three, while the Foxes kept their fate in their own hands with a first win since the restart, which guarantees they will end the weekend in third place.
Leicester: Schmeichel (7), Justin (7), Soyuncu (7), Evans (6), Chilwell (6), Perez (7), Ndidi (7), Tielemans (7), Albrighton (6), Vardy (8), Iheanacho (7).
Subs: Bennett (6), Praet (6), Barnes (7), Fuchs (6), Choudhury (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Guaita (5), Ward (6), Cahill (6), Sakho (4), Van Aanholt (5), McArthur (6), Milivojevic (6), Riedewald (5), Ayew (5), Benteke (6), Zaha (6).
Subs: Kouyate (6), McCarthy (5), Townsend (n/a), Mitchell (n/a).
Man of the match: Jamie Vardy
Vardy double relieves pressure on Foxes
Out of form and facing a tough run-in, this was about as close to a must-win as it gets for a Leicester side with a number of sides now firmly on their tails in the race for a Champions League spot.
But with that in mind, it was a bad time for the Foxes to come up against an organised Crystal Palace defence, and on the odd occasion they did breach it, an off-colour Vardy came up short.
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It was right-back Justin who came closest to breaking the deadlock before the break, rattling the bar with a rasping 20-yard drive 15 minutes in, but Vardy should have been involved with at least one goal.
A heavy touch on an inch-perfect ball from Ayoze Perez denied him a clear run on goal, while he also dallied on the ball inside the box with Iheanacho ready to tap home.
Leicester gave Kelechi Iheanacho a starting role after his goal against Everton in midweek, and also recalled Ayoze Perez in midfield.
Crystal Palace welcomed back Christian Benteke from injury, alongside Jairo Riedewald and Mamadou Sakho.
"They're not quite flowing at the moment, they need a bit of confidence," Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports at the break. "Sometimes you need that goal which can change everything."
Like clockwork, it arrived within four minutes of the restart. Tielemans' excellent low delivery from the left was missed by Guaita, leaving Iheanacho to net his second goal in four days with a chance he could barely miss.
Palace were undeterred by such an early body-blow and improved, knowing they would need to brush up in front of goal to get anything out of the game.
Gary Cahill should have been the man to do it. James McArthur's cross from deep on the right was begging to be turned home but the ex-Chelsea defender's free header was easy enough for Schmeichel to hold.
After a relatively sturdy defensive showing, Palace threw all their hard work away 13 minutes from time in a mess of a second goal. Sakho failed to shake off Barnes from Guaita's short throw, before slipping on the ball and giving the substitute the simple job of teeing up Vardy to secure his 100th Premier League goal, in his 206th game.
Suddenly, he looked like the Vardy we have come to know over the past six seasons. With Palace forced to press forward, he ghosted in on the half-way line from Barnes' through-ball in injury time, before lifting the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to put the gloss on a fine afternoon's work, and take Leicester one step closer to next year's Champions League.
- Leicester scored more goals in this match (3) than they had in their three previous games combined since the Premier League restart (2).
- After a run of four consecutive Premier League victories, Crystal Palace have lost their last three by an aggregate score of 0-8.
- Jamie Vardy scored his 100th Premier League goal, the first Leicester player to reach treble figures in the top-flight since Arthur Lochhead in 1933-34.
- Only Norwich (16) and Watford (14) have failed to score in more different Premier League games than Crystal Palace this season (13), while the Eagles failed to score in the first-half for the 25th time this season - more than any other side.
Redknapp: Vardy a great example
Sky Sports pundits Redknapp and Ashley Cole were full of praise for Vardy's milestone after the game, and highlighted what has made the Leicester forward such a Premier League hit, despite making his top-flight debut at the age of 27.
"It shows you what hard work and dedication can do; to start in the lower leagues and get to the Premier League and achieve what he has done is phenomenal," said Redknapp.
"He's a great example to any striker. In the nicest way, you wouldn't say technically that he's one of the top players to have reached that club but his attitude, work-rate, finishing sets him apart."
Cole added: "You look at most of his goals, the timing of his runs in behind; that takes a lot of work and energy. He never gives up. Technically, he's not like a Thierry Henry or an Andy Cole, but it's the work ethic and the fact he's always in the right spot."
What the managers said...
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers: "They showed the mentality today to come in and put the work in, and they were excellent. We'll play better, but we changed the shape to be a little more aggressive, and had a number of chances. With a better final pass, we could've scored more.
"It's a remarkable achievement, you think when Jamie came into the Premier League and scored his first goal, to getting 101 at this level now, it's phenomenal. You saw his speed right at the end of the game, he's got a lot of goals left in him. I'm very proud to be manager at the time he did it."
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson: "I think it was a harsh defeat. I don't think on the balance of play we deserved to lose 3-0, but that happens when you give the goals away like we did.
"I thought the play in between times, we held our end up very well for long periods and at 1-0, I thought we had great chances of getting back in the game."
Leicester's trip to Arsenal is next up and live on Sky Sports Premier League this Tuesday from 8pm; Kick-off at 8.15pm.
Palace are back on the box the same day against Chelsea, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 5.30pm; Kick-off at 6pm.