Iheanacho stunner keeps Leicester on track
Kelechi Iheanacho scored a sensational goal and set up another as Leicester came from behind to boost their Champions League qualification hopes with a 2-1 victory over Crystal Palace.
Wilfried Zaha shocked Leicester when he put Palace ahead inside 12 minutes – his fourth goal in four games at the King Power Stadium.
But Iheanacho sparked the Foxes’ spirited second-half fightback, setting up Timothy Castagne for the equaliser within five minutes of the restart, before emphatically rifling in his 14th goal in 14 games in all competitions to complete the turnaround 10 minutes from time.
Having threatened to leave the door to Champions League qualification ajar for their top-four rivals, the victory sees Leicester consolidate third spot, seven points clear of fifth-placed West Ham, while Palace remain 13th, 11 points clear of the relegation zone but not yet mathematically safe.
Leicester: Schmeichel (7), Fofana (6), Soyuncu (7), Evans (7), Castagne (7), Tielemans (6), Ndidi (6), Thomas (6), Maddison (6), Vardy (7), Iheanacho (9).
Subs: Albrighton (6), Perez (6).
Crystal Palace: Guaita (6), Ward (6), Dann (5), Kouyate (5), Van Aanholt (6), Ayew (6), Milivojevic (6), Riedewald (6), Eze (7), Benteke (6), Zaha (7).
Subs: Townsend (5), Schlupp (n/a), McCarthy (n/a).
Man of the Match: Kelechi Iheanacho
Inspired Iheanacho keeps Leicester on track for Champions League
On his 350th senior career appearance, Jamie Vardy twice threatened to mark the occasion with an early Leicester goal, but he was repelled by Palace goalkeeper Vicente Guaita before he lobbed a shot a yard wide of the target.
The Foxes’ bright start was stopped in its tracks by a familiar foe on 12 minutes. After Christian Benteke was adjudged to have legally dispossessed Youri Tielemans, Ebere Eze waltzed through the midfield, released Zaha through on goal and, just as he had on his last four visits to the King Power, the Ivory Coast international found the net.
- Jamie Vardy made his 350th senior career appearance in an unchanged Leicester side from the win over West Brom.
- Scott Dann replaced the injured Gary Cahill in Crystal Palace’s only change from the defeat to Chelsea.
Zaha’s clinical finish past Kasper Schmeichel took his tally for the season to 10 goals – his joint-highest in a Premier League campaign – and laid the foundation for Palace’s stubborn resistance through to the break, which was typified by Patrick van Aanholt’s block to prevent Wilfred Ndidi driving Leicester back on level terms.
Palace refused to afford Leicester the time and space in the first period, but it took barely five minutes for the hosts to respond after the interval. Iheanacho capitalised on a defensive mistake from Cheikhou Kouyate and rolled the ball into the path of Castagne, who curled his first home Leicester goal into the top corner past Guaita.
Castagne’s equaliser survived a VAR check for a potential handball by Iheanacho in the build-up, and the Foxes were fortunate to escape without falling behind for a second time five minutes later, when a crucial last-gasp challenge from Jonny Evans prevented Benteke slotting home from Jairo Riedewald’s selfless square pass.
Benteke passed up another opportunity to restore Palace’s lead when he sent a free header from a corner tamely into the arms of Schmeichel, and Leicester made them pay as their relentless pressure eventually told.
Iheanacho had set up Vardy for an effort which was ruled out for offside, and another which the Leicester striker flashed across the face of goal, while Tielemans curled a shot wide of the post before the Nigerian capped an inspired performance with the winner.
Iheanacho arced a brilliant run in behind Scott Dann and Van Aanholt, checked inside onto his left foot and unleashed an unstoppable effort into the roof of the net that left Guaita with no chance, handed Leicester a seven-point cushion in the race for the top four and had them dreaming of the Champions League.
Foxes flying high – Match stats
- Leicester have picked up 62 points from their 33 Premier League games this season, only managing more at this stage of a top-flight campaign in 1962-63 (66) and 2015-16 (72).
- Only Harry Kane (18) has registered more goal involvements than Kelechi Iheanacho (16 – 14 goals, 2 assists) among Premier League players in all competitions in 2021.
- Leicester have picked up 19 points from losing positions in the Premier League this season, a figure only Manchester United can better (28).
- Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha has been involved in seven goals in his last seven Premier League appearances against Leicester, scoring six and assisting one.
- Only Harry Kane (14), Dwight Yorke (8) and Andrew Cole (7) have netted more Premier League goals against Leicester than Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha (6).
- Leicester’s Timothy Castagne scored just his second Premier League goal in 22 games, netting for the first time since his first appearance in the competition in September v West Brom.
What the managers said…
Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers: “When you go 1-0 down against Roy’s team, who are very well organised and defend with great discipline, it can be very tough, but we showed real patience in the game.
“I said to the players at half-time to stay calm, keep circulating the ball at speed, and in the second half they were outstanding. Jonny made a great tackle, but apart from that we controlled the game and scored two wonderful goals.
“Kelechi is a talented player. Over the last few months he’s been absolutely incredible. It wasn’t just his goal tonight but his work rate, he wants to press the game. He has no ego whatsoever and he works so hard.
“The goal he scored was sheer, sheer quality – the touch to come inside and then take it so early, it was a brilliant finish.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: “I thought for long periods we were going to get at least a point. At half-time I thought we might go on to win.
“Leicester scored quickly after the break but after that we looked as though we were seeing the game through reasonably well. Kelechi Iheanacho’s quick turn and strike is difficult to defend.
“Objectively I didn’t think it was a bad performance. Had we got a good result I don’t think people would have begrudged us.”
Man of the Match – Kelechi Iheanacho
? Kelechi Iheanacho – Man of the Match
2️⃣ Goal involvements (most in match)
4️⃣ Chances created (most in match)
1️⃣4️⃣ Sprints (most in match)@LCFC have 62 points from 33 games – 2nd most they’ve ever had at this stage of a PL season pic.twitter.com/8A6uHcF1pA
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 26, 2021
Kelechi Iheanacho has either scored (12) or assisted (2) in eight of his last nine appearances for Leicester across all competitions.
“Over the last few months he’s been absolutely incredible,” Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said. “Kelechi’s goal was sheer, sheer quality, his touch to come inside and then to take the shot so early, it was a brilliant finish.”
Leicester travel to Southampton on Friday Night Football at 8pm – live on Sky Sports Premier League – before Crystal Palace host league leaders Manchester City on Saturday at 12.30pm.