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Match Reports

Report: Leicester City 0-3 Crystal Palace

16 December 2017

Palace reached seven games unbeaten for the first time ever in their Premier League history with a superb victory at Leicester City – their first on the road this campaign.

Christian Benteke ended a near-eight month wait for an Eagles away goal when he nodded Roy Hodgson’s team into the lead, which was doubled five minutes before half-time by Wilfried Zaha to cap a fine first 45 for the visitors.

Excellent performances at both ends of the field meant Julian Speroni was rarely called upon throughout, with Leicester’s resistance ending when Wilfred Ndidi was dismissed on the hour mark for a second bookable offence, and Palace collected their seventh point in seven days when Bakary Sako netted a delicious third deep into stoppage-time to claim a scoreline that didn’t flatter the south Londoners.

They were in sparkling form during the opening 45 minutes, with their attacking play too hot for the hosts to handle. Just five minutes in Jeffrey Schlupp - back in familiar surroundings having lifted a Premier League title at the Foxes - was soon making himself at home again when he beat three defenders to slalom into the box, but his cross-cum-shot just evaded Benteke and the far post.

The bright start continued and some intricate build-up play between Benteke, Zaha and Ruben Loftus-Cheek created a chance for the England international however despite scuffing his effort, Kasper Schmeichel was still forced to parry it away, but on 19 minutes the Eagles’ positivity was rewarded.

The move began with Andros Townsend doing brilliantly under pressure on the right flank, and finding Yohan Cabaye before the ball was returned into the winger’s path. After taking a touch, he whipped a delightful cross into the box that caught out the Foxes defence, and Benteke was on hand to drive it home with his head and end his lengthy search to get on the scoresheet.

He nearly repeated the trick two minutes later when he came inches away from netting an own goal when defending a Leicester set-piece but his attempted clearance dropped marginally wide, but Hodgson’s team’s early dominance was evident as it took 33 minutes for Speroni to dirty his gloves but Jamie Vardy’s backheeled flick was weak enough for the Palace stopper – on his 400 Eagles start – to simply pick up.

Chances continued to come for the visitors and Zaha shot straight at Schmeichel after wriggling into the box, but he would get the second goal his side’s fine play deserved on 39 minutes. Once again, Benteke was involved as he powered past Ndidi before slipping in Zaha, whose step-over completely deceived Ben Chilwell, allowing the Ivorian international to fire his fourth goal of campaign past Schmeichel with aplomb.

A two-goal lead at the break didn’t flatter the Eagles who had bossed proceedings, but it was nearly halved four minutes after the restart. In typical fashion, Vardy made a nuisance of himself down the left flank, and sent the ball out to Riyad Mahrez on the right who tricked his way past Schlupp before firing towards the far corner, but Speroni produced an excellent save.

It looked in further jeopardy on the hour mark when Claude Puel’s team had a goal ruled out when Vicente Iborra was correctly adjudged to have pushed James Tomkins in the back on his way to heading in a free-kick, and 60 seconds later Martin Atkinson made another bold call when he showed Ndidi a second yellow card for a dive in the area, which also looked to be the right decision.

With a one-man and two-goal advantage, Palace were content to just sit back and look to for counter-attacks, with Leicester unable to real cause them any further concerns as Demarai Gray curled a free-kick over the bar before Chilwell rashly blasted much further off target with 15 minutes remaining, but Hodgson’s team were still looking dangerous and nearly wrapped up the points when Benteke connected with an excellent deep delivery by Townsend, however a starjump-shaped Schmeichel produced the kind of save that made his father famous.

It was then Townsend’s turn to try and grab a third when he picked up a pass from Loftus-Cheek and advanced to the edge of the area but fired over, and then Benteke saw a shot deflect off Wes Morgan, beating Schmeichel but not the far post.

But in injury-time, the gloss was put on the scoreline and an emphatic Palace performance. With the Foxes pushing forward, they were caught out and Loftus-Cheek countered down the left, before picking out Sako who produced a fabulous curling left-footed finish from outside the box that kissed the post on its way in to cap a wonderful afternoon for the Eagles.

Leicester: Schmeichel, Simpson, Maguire, Morgan, Chilwell, Ndidi, Iborra (Okazaki 76), Gray, Mahrez, Albrighton (King 76), Vardy (Ulloa 84). Subs not used: Hamer, Fuchs, Dragovic, Iheanacho.

Palace: Speroni, Kelly, Dann, Tomkins, Schlupp, Townsend, McArthur, Cabaye (Riedewald 84), Loftus-Cheek, Zaha, Benteke (Sako 87). Subs not used: Hennessey, Van Aanholt, Souare, Wan-Bissaka, Lee.

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