Ahmed Musa scores in Leicester win

Ahmed Musa scores in Leicester win
October 22 22:07 2016

Leicester stretched their unbeaten home run to 20 league games as the Foxes followed up their midweek Champions League win with victory over Crystal Palace.

Record signing Ahmed Musa scored his first goal for the club, while Shinji Okazaki and Christian Fuchs struck after the break – the latter’s effort a superb volley – to secure a convincing win.

Yohan Cabaye scored a consolation for the Londoners and Palace pressurised the hosts in the final five minutes as they attempted an unlikely comeback.

But it was too late against a Leicester side who showed something of the form that won them the title last season, even without England striker Jamie Vardy in the starting line-up.

Vardy, who played in the 1-0 win over Copenhagen and has not scored in eight games, was rested with manager Claudio Ranieri saying he needed to rotate his players as they juggles European and league commitments.

The Italian’s decision was justified as Okazaki added guile to the Leicester attack, while Islam Slimani was a menacing presence up front.

Leicester play to their strengths

Leicester are one victory away from the Champions League knockout stages after making it three wins from three in their group with victory over Copenhagen on Tuesday, but their Premier League form has been less satisfying – they have already lost one league fixture more than in the entirety of last season.

But this victory will give Foxes fans confidence their team can cope with the rigours of Champions League and Premier League football.

It is not that the defending champions have suffered European ‘hangovers’ this season – they have picked up seven points in the league after their three Champions League games.

It is in matches leading up to European nights – all away from home – that they have suffered, although the three defeats that have preceded their Champions League wins did come against Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Ranieri was criticised for resting players during last week’s 3-0 thumping by Chelsea, leaving Riyad Mahrez and Slimani out of the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge. This week it was Vardy who stepped down, but he was not missed as others starred in what was the Foxes’ best league performance of the season.

The hosts attacked with pace, with Musa, Okazaki and Mahrez in particular giving Palace problems. The opener by the lively Musa was deserved, with the Nigerian’s manager saying the winger is now “ready” for the Premier League.

Okazaki also caught the eye, doubling Leicester’s advantage by drilling Damien Delaney’s clearance in at the near post for his first goal in 14 appearances.

Fuchs’ volley across goal was the icing on the cake, however, as the full-back – who extended his contract with the club this week – gave Steve Mandanda no hope in the Palace goal. “I just hit it as hard as I could,” said the Austrian.

Positives for Palace

Palace manager Alan Pardew talked this week of creating a legacy at Selhurst Park, and specifically of qualifying for Europe, but back-to-back league defeats will knock confidence.

Yet there are positives for Pardew to take in defeat.

His team fought until the final whistle, ending the match with 23 shots – six more than Leicester – and edged their opponents in possession and territory.

Wilfried Zaha was bright throughout, assisting the returning Cabaye as he beat both Andy King and Fuchs on the right wing, but unfortunately for Palace Andros Townsend on the opposite wing had a quiet match.

The match could have unfolded differently had Christian Benteke’s header hit the back of the net instead of the crossbar in the first half with the score goalless, but once the visitors fell two goals behind defeat seemed the only likely outcome as the Foxes thrived on the counter-attack.

What the managers said

Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri: “I feel good. For the first 20 minutes I felt not so good but after that we started to play our pressing, fast football against a very good team.

“That was our best performance so far this season. It was the shape and model of last season and we concentrated on doing our job. We knew our weaknesses but also strengths.

“This was not a game for Jamie Vardy just like last game was not a game for Riyad Mahrez. I want to rotate my players and now everybody is ready to fight for their place on the pitch.”

Crystal Palace boss Alan Pardew: “The scoreline wasn’t a fair reflection. We had a great start, hit the bar and that could have changed the course of the game.

“But then they cranked it up for the last 20 minutes of the first half and we struggled to hold on to them.

“The second half we had loads of chances but failed to capitalise. We were OK but their pace and power were too much for us at the end. They are champions for a reason.”

The stats you need to know

  • Leicester City (W13 D7) are one game away from matching the longest unbeaten home run in the top flight since Chelsea’s 21-game streak which ended in August 2015.
  • Christian Fuchs scored his first goal for Leicester City in his 47th appearance for the club.
  • Crystal Palace are just the fifth Premier League side to score against Leicester at home in their past 16 games at the King Power Stadium.
  • Shinji Okazaki scored his first goal in 14 Premier League games, last doing so against Newcastle in March.
  • Crystal Palace have conceded in their past 15 Premier League away games, their longest run on the road in the Premier League without a clean sheet.

 

What’s next?

Leicester’s next match will be at White Hart Lane against Tottenham on 29 October. They will then travel to Denmark to face FC Copenhagen on 2 November in the Champions League, where victory would ensure their progress to the knockout stages.

Palace have a less hectic schedule, but their next league match is also a tough test, at home against Liverpool on 29 October.

BBC