Below par City let victory slip

Crystal Palace 2- Leicester City 2

Report by Chris Griffin

Before the game Brendan Rodgers spoke of experiencing the first bump in the road since his appointment. After the game he acknowledged: “We are not playing up to our level.” Most – even all – City fans will agree. Today’s side – despite the absentees– should be achieving better. Although winning a point City were out-tackled, outrun and out-passed by a high energy Palace side.

City brought in Castagne, Iheanacho and Choudhury for Ricardo, Maddison and the injured Ndidi. Tielemans and Choudhury were the middle two and even before the game some fans had concerns that Palace’s midfield of three might contain one too many for our midfield of two.

But City nearly made a flying start. In the first minute a superb Tielemans free kick from the right found Vardy unmarked on the six yard line. The striker made only a glancing contact with the ball and instead of bulging the net the ball was cleared at Palace’s far post. Palace hit back. A Vestergaard tackle saw the ball rebound to Edouard whose shot rebounded off Bertrand towards goal. Schmeichel quickly pounced on the ball and the danger passed.

City had another chance through a free kick after Guehi had clattered Barnes. This time Tielemans’ free kick found Vestergaard unmarked in the box but he failed to make a strong contact. Palace countered following a misplaced Tielemans pass. Zaha and Gallagher shot hard but Schmeichel used his feet to save both. The pattern of the game clearly favoured Palace. City were giving the ball away too often. The players were slow to move the ball or to find space so they could receive a pass.

When they did have some possession there was little togetherness. The players were not on the same wavelength. Choudhury rolled a gentle pass towards the touchline where he clearly thought Lookman would be. The ball rolled out for a Palace throw with Lookman ten yards upfield.

Meanwhile Palace sustained the pressure and their pressing in midfield was giving them lots of possession and opportunities. A fast break from Zaha saw the ball reach Ayew but fortunately his pull back across the six-yard box missed his team mates. City were not looking comfortable. Bertrand received a yellow for unnecessarily pulling Ayew back. City were proving their worst enemy, too often passing to players already tightly marked and easily closed down.

Then in the 32nd minute, against all the play and all expectations, City took the lead. This time Palace were guilty of self-inflicted wounds – or at least centre back Andersen was as he dallied on the ball 30 yards out with no cover behind him. Iheanacho was on him in an instant, won the ball and bore down on goal. He took the chance with great coolness and accuracy, carefully curling the ball around the advancing keeper.

This energised City and Lookman soon had a chance to shoot from outside the area but his effort lacked power. But in the 38th minute City poached another. A delightful forward dinked pass in midfield by Tielemans sent Barnes goalward. Before he reached the penalty area he slipped a pass left to the unmarked Vardy who advanced into the box and drove the ball home at the near post. City fans were jubilant although maybe a little surprised.

Palace responded and Gallagher drove a left foot effort over the bar. Schmeichel also held an Ayew cross shot safely. Before the break there was just time for Iheanacho to give a masterclass on how to hold up the ball and keep possession despite the aggressive attention of three opponents.

The second half began with referee Taylor awarding a harsh yellow card to Tielemans after a superbly timed and controlled tackle. City then broke down the Palace right and Vardy had a chance to shoot across goal but his effort was too near keeper Guaita. Then superb play by Iheanacho saw him control the ball, shrug off defenders and play Barnes in down the City left. Sadly the winger’s effort lacked direction and power merely hitting the side netting. Had either of those early second half opportunities been taken the game might well have had a different outcome.

Palace certainly were not giving up. Ayew drove a shot wide. A misplaced Barnes pass saw the ball reach Zaha who shot over the bar. Edouard blasted the ball against the crossbar and then put another chance in the side-netting having been played in by Zaha. Palace were totally dominant with City well and truly stuck on the back foot.

In the 53rd minute Palace coach Vieira replaced Ayew with Orise. It proved a good move. Palace kept sweeping forward with Leicester incapable of keeping the ball or exerting some control on the game. The defence kept clearing but the ball kept coming back.

Soumare came on for Choudhury and settled into the holding midfield role he had fulfilled at Lille last season when they won the French title. Palace kept up the pressure. An excellent run and dribble by left back Mitchell led to the ball being played dangerously into the Leicester box. The ball fell to Orise who shot twice –  his second effort flashing into the net giving Schmeichel no chance.

City countered and Barnes won a corner. There was some controversy when at the corner Andersen climbed all over Vardy’s back but neither referee Taylor or VAR were interested. As they say: “Seen ‘em given.” Taylor was not endearing himself to City fans. Ward barged Barnes over the touchline but the referee showed little interest in giving a free kick to Leicester or a card to the Palace man.

Palace continued on top which made it puzzling for many fans that Iheanacho was substituted in the 71st minute. He had been the only Leicester player who showed any sign of being able to control and hold the ball under pressure and – as he had shown – he can always get us a goal. Maddison replaced him and soon had half a chance shooting straight at the keeper.

Meanwhile ex Fox Jeff Schlupp had come on for Gallagher. He had been on the pitch for 48 seconds when he pounced on a loose ball in the City area to head home past the stranded Schmeichel. The immutable law of the Ex had made City suffer.

Albrighton came on for Lookman. Play came to a halt after a McArthur challenge on Vardy which looked as if the Palace man’s elbow had crunched into Vardy’s chest. To be fair to McArthur he signalled the need for medical attention immediately and both the Leicester and Palace medics treated the Leicester man on the pitch.

Palace were going for the win. Good defensive work by Bertrand stopped Schlupp from shooting then Schlupp’s header grazed the post.  An Orise effort was headed clear by Vestergaard.

City finished with a corner in the last minute of overtime but the ball sailed over the heads of attackers and defenders. A 2-0 lead had turned into holding on for a 2-2 draw.

The best that can be said is that somehow we stayed in the game. But it is four Premier league games without a win. As one fan said: “We seem to be less than the sum of our parts.” Manchester United at home is the next Premier game. Now that would be a good match in which to find our best form.

Crystal Palace: Guaita; Ward; Andersen; Guehi; Mitchell; Gallagher (Schlupp); Milovojevic; McArthur; Ayew (Orise); Edouard; Zaha.

Leicester City: Schmeichel; Castagne; Soyuncu; Vestergaard; Bertrand; Lookman (Albrighton); Tielemans; Choudhury (Soumare); Barnes; Iheanacho (Maddison); Vardy

Referee: Anthony Taylor

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