Crystal Palace 1 v Leicester City 1
28 December 2020, Selhurst Park 3 p.m. KO
Report by Steve Moulds
A familiar tale of City failing to beat sides in the bottom half of the table after great results against top six teams – there was the sense of having seen all this before already this season and perhaps proof that Leicester’s bench players are not as good as they need to be.
This time 12 months ago, having just lost 0-4 to Liverpool at home, City were sitting second in the league with 39 points, having played 19 games. This season is looking very similar and a more profitable Christmas week provided hope for a good result as the Blues went to Palace.
The Eagles had not had such a good Yuletide, having conceded 10 goals in two games, losing 7-0 to Liverpool and 3-0 to a Villa side with only 10 men on the field for half of the game. Expectation dictated Palace would come out more determined to get a result at home.
Rodgers made seven changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Manchester United on Boxing Day, indicating a need to rest some key players. Lining up in 4-2-3-1 formation and electing to start with Amartey, Thomas, Choudhury, Praet, Mendy, Pérez and Iheanacho, the side appeared lacking in creativity with a more defensive outlook, probably to counter Palaces expected attacking front three. The encouraging news saw Söyüncü return to the bench.
Leicester had won six out of seven away matches, finding a winning formula for away games. In the event, Palace lined up in a more conventional 4-4-2, perhaps wary of City’s ability to break quickly and not wishing to concede an early goal. Leicester made a confident start, with an Iheanacho swift turn and break leading to a corner in the first few minutes. City were playing confidently and looking comfortable on the ball, but with no real product in the final third to show for their early possession. Palace were certainly determined to get plenty of men behind the ball.
With the midfield congested, City were making more progress out wide with Perez and Justin on the right and Barnes and Thomas on the left. Eventually, this lead to a Barnes ricocheted pass running into the path of Thomas sprinting into the box and a poor challenge by Tomkins lead to a penalty. Up stepped Iheanacho only for Guaita to save what was a weak attempt. Chance missed and one City would eventually regret.
Palace were offering little up front until the 21st minute when a short back pass by Choudhury allowed Zaha to pounce – fortunately, Choudhury got back to rob Zaha in the box and force a corner. Increasingly, Palace were finding it hard to retain possession due to City’s high press and effective defending. Leicester were often able to win the ball back in the Palace half and move the ball across the pitch swiftly. In one instance, Justin played in Pérez whose deflected cross provided an excellent chance for Praet who should have done better. City needed to do more of this if they were to create chances.
The best chance for Palace came on 27 minutes, Schlupp made good progress down the left and crossed to an unmarked Townsend who prodded wide at the near post from the six yard line.
Goalless at the break, Leicester had around 70 per cent of the possession in the first half and should have been ahead, given the opportunities they had, despite the penalty miss – no product in the final third is something premier league teams often come to regret. Palace were probably the happier given their recent form.
There were no changes at halftime for either side. Palace came out on the front foot in the early minutes, leading to a half chance for Zaha who blasted over the bar from outside the box. Palace looked a yard sharper, hassling City’s midfield and pressing higher on the defence, resulting in a couple of late challenges and booking for Choudhury.
This sparked Rodgers into making the first change with Tielemans replacing Choudhury. However, this did not stem Palace’s adventure – a Townsend deep cross and Zaha demonstrated how a quality striker finishes in this league – one-nil to the Eagles, with Schmeichel beaten at his near post despite not yet having to make a save in the game.
Hodgson appeared to have got his tactical changes right, snuffing out the wide threat City had posed in the first half. Palace were now looking in control, keeping the ball and stringing passes together. It was time for Rodgers to up the anti and bring on Vardy for Praet.
On 71 minutes Gray made his first appearance of the season, his first cross was wayward and looking rusty – a cynic might say this was simply putting him in the shop window for the January transfer period. Leicester were seeing more of the ball but Palace were easily managing the game, with no need to stretch themselves looking for a second.
Then out of nothing, Barnes showed the same brilliance he had against United on Boxing Day and crashing a low shot past Guaita’s left. Having got back in the game, City began to take control once more, with Barnes creating another chance. Palace did not give up and also looked to create chances.
Leicester’s best final chance came from a free kick just outside the D, after Pérez drew a foul. However, up stepped Gray to place the ball in row X! Where was Maddison when we needed him? City continued to press into time added on and Pérez had a half chance in the closing minutes.
Last season, City did the double over Palace and this should be viewed as two points lost. Barnes was awarded man of the match – Rodgers will be thankful he rescued a point as he was the only bit of quality on show in a Leicester shirt. It may be a harsh final assessment, but Christmas came late for Palace as Leicester gifted them a point.
LEICESTER: Schmeichel, Amartey, Evans, Thomas, Justin, Choudhury (Tielemans 56 min), Praet (Vardy 65 min), Mendy, Barnes, Iheanacho (Gray 71 mins).
CRYSTAL PALACE: Guaita, Clyne, Kouyaté, Tomkins, Mitchell, Townsend, Milivojevic, Riedewald (McArthur 73 mins), Schlupp (Ayew 83), Benteke, Zaha.
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation