Palace 2-2 Leicester
Crystal Palace fought back from two goals down against Leicester City to add another point to the Premier League effort. Sam Allardyce’s men were, of late, uncharacteristically abject in the opening fifty-three minutes and Craig Shakespeare’s men took full advantage.
The defending Premier League Champions opened the scoring as early as the sixth minute with a simple long throw routine. Robert Huth matched up with Joel Ward and easily climbed highest to loop his header over a prone Wayne Hennessey.
The hosts had a big shout for a penalty when a Christian Benteke shot was saved by Kasper Schmeichel only for the ball to spring up towards the back post. Andy King, running towards his goal, practically caught the ball at the far stick but got away with the demeanour.
The Eagles were enjoying more of the ball than they have been used to in recent weeks, but Leicester were doing a superb job of containing the threat, and with Jamie Vardy up top, the Foxes could always threaten on the break. Seven minutes into the second-half, the old one-two of Mahrez to Vardy caught Palace out and the visitors had a two-goal lead.
The goal seemed to kick Palace into life, and they were level inside a minute. The midfield were suddenly intense with their pressing high up the field, a tactic that served so well against Arsenal on Monday night, and Leicester were hurried into a mistake. Eventually, former Leicester man Jeffrey Schlupp was advancing into the penalty box and his slip as he shot proved to be lucky as the ball deflected straight to Yohan Cabaye who made no mistakes from ten yards.
Leicester’s midweek trip to Madrid was now showing in their legs and were firmly on the back foot. Wilfried Zaha fired over when a cross might have been the better option.
Twenty minutes from time the equaliser came. Danny Simpson gave Townsend far too much time on the left and the winger picked out Benteke who dominated Yohan Benalouane before heading home in front of the Holmesdale Road end.
Benteke had a chance to win the game only for Schmeichel to foil the big Belgian, and Danny Drinkwater fired a late effort high and wide, seeing both teams had to settle for a point.
What Happened in the First Hour?
The first hour saw us witness the problem that we have faced since Alan Pardew tried to turn us into a possession-based team – we struggle to break teams down that aim only to defend. We only found a way past Middlesbrough once and had to rely on an own goal from Troy Deeney to beat Watford in recent weeks at Selhurst Park.
Breaking teams down is a skill and teams only get better at it by coming up against the situation again and again. Chelsea, Manchester City, etc will still struggle at times to break teams down. It is not easy.
In this one we had to factors that enabled us to, eventually, get through. Their midweek exploits in the Champions League was a factor in them tiring in the second half. I was very surprised to see them name an almost full strength starting eleven and for the first hour, they were able to contain us with good organisation and high energy. The problem arrived for Leicester when we stepped it up a gear and our fresher legs made a difference.
The second factor was that we now have Christian Benteke. He is a mobile battering ram with ability and, on his day, good enough to play for a top five Premier League team. Even as Palace struggled in the first half to get a meaningful foothold in the first-half, the big man was bullying the two Leicester centre-backs, and it was only a matter of time before he would create enough space for one of Zaha, Townsend or Cabaye to do some damage.
Kasper the Time Waster
The below picture pretty much sums it up. Pathetic.
Holmesdale Fanatics Display
Man of the Match: Christian Benteke
He just pips Andros Townsend to the award. Winning twelve headers in any game is impressive, to do it against Robert Huth is plain ridiculous. He has now won 281 headers this season, 107 more than Sam Vokes in second place. He already has five more goals than any Crystal Palace player has scored in a season since we returned to the top flight and is now on the path to repaying the fee that we forked out.
Up Next: Liverpool
Next Sunday, we head to Anfield. I believe that a victory would see Crystal Palace become the first team to win three in a row at Liverpool since Arsenal in the 1970s (I didn’t thoroughly research this, I just checked all the teams that I thought could have done it). More importantly, a victory would see us hit the new magical number of 38 Premier League points needed for survival.
Come on you Palace!