Three things we learned: Leicester - Crystal Palace
Leicester City went a long way toward securing a top-four finish in the Premier League by coming back from a goal down to beat Crystal Palace, 2-1 at the King Power Stadium on Monday.
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1-0 down at halftime, Brendan Rodgers’ side was facing the very real prospect of coughing up a nailed-on top-four place for the second season running. Alas, Timothy Castagne and Kelechi Iheanacho struck early and late in the second half.
3 things we learned: Leicester - Crystal Palace
1. Iheanacho dominates again (re-post, with updated stats, for prescience): At some point in the not-so-distant future, Leicester are going to have to move on from, and replace, the 34-year-old Vardy. It’s easy to forget he’s in his mid-30s because he got a late “start” to his career at this level, but he’s been on a fairly steady decline of output for a couple years now, which was a terrifying prospect for Leicester because they hadn’t landed his long-term (or short-, for that matter) successor. Turns out, they had, but he was still working out some considerable kinks. Iheanacho scored again on Thursday to make it 12 goals in his last nine games. The best part for Leicester? He’s getting goals and making contributions in every way imaginable.
2. Palace’s consistency is remarkable: Crystal Palace’s first seven seasons in the Premier League finished as such: 11th, 10th, 15th, 14th, 11th, 12th, 14th (current standing: 13th) — remarkable consistency, in terms of their finishing place, for a club to have experienced so much tumult and turnover. Five permanent managers came and went in the first five seasons before Roy Hodgson arrived in September of 2017.
3. But, a complicated summer looms large: Now, it’s looking likelier and likelier that Hodgson will retire from management this summer, thus ushering in a new manager to undertake a partial squad rebuild in an attempt to claw back into the top half of the Premier League table next season. That’s a big ask and a tall task all by itself, but a cursory look at the squad reveals further work to be done. Zaha and Eberechi Eze look like long-term centerpieces, but I’m open to moving on from every other player at the club for even a marginal upgrade.
The opening goal came without warning and against the run of play, as a Youri Tielemans turnover at midfield turned into a counter-attacking opportunity for Eze and Zaha. Eze slipped the through ball in behind for Zaha, and he took the chance first-time, far post.
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Leicester needed just five second-half minutes — and a bit of good fortune — to pull level. Kelechi Iheanacho tallied the assist as he slotted to ball to Castagne near the penalty spot for a left-footed finish just out of Vicente Guaita’s reach.
Six minutes later, Crystal Palace should have reclaimed the lead with impossible ease, but Jairo Riedwald made a heart-wrenching error at the worst possible moment. In behind the Leicester defense, in on goal with only Kasper Schmeichel to beat, Riedewald opted against taking the chance himself, instead laying the ball off for Christian Benteke, who was not all alone like Riedewald assumed. That’s because Jonny Evans was matching Benteke stride for stride and dove in to boot the ball clear.
The winning goal came with 10 minutes of regular time remaining, and in a manner befitting a star in tip-top form. Evans played an audacious ball over the top, into the right channel, for Iheanacho to bring down and control under the pressure of two defenders. A spin, a turn, a brief sight of goal, and a left-footed masterstroke (video at top).