Leicester City moved a step closer to securing Champions League football once again with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at King Power Stadium on Monday night.
Wilfried Zaha gave the visitors the lead within the opening quarter of an hour, before second-half goals from Timothy Castagne and Kelechi Iheanacho completed the turnaround for the Foxes as they advanced seven points clear of fifth-place West Ham United.
It was yet another display of character from Brendan Rodgers’ men who came from behind to claim all three points for the sixth time this season, which is only bettered by Manchester United (10).
However, it’s becoming a regular occurrence that Leicester concede the first goal, especially at home. Zaha’s early strike was the 21st time that City have let in the opener in all competitions this term. They have also gone behind an incredible 10 times in 17 matches on Filbert Way in the Premier League but have still managed to pick up points in over half of those games.
Although the Foxes tend to be slow starters, they have done well at responding to setbacks and have come away with crucial results this season. Leicester would sit second in the league table if matches were purely played in the second half, with 57 points from 33 games and only United have a better record.
The performance against Palace perfectly encapsulated that as the Foxes showed great determination to grind out the victory despite the best efforts of Roy Hodgson’s side to defend resolutely in a deep block. But Leicester looked a completely different outfit in the second 45 minutes. Their passing was quicker, more precise and they looked more of a threat going forward, attempting eight shots compared to the four in the first half.
This was a similar feat in the victories at Brighton & Hove Albion and against Liverpool earlier in the year. Leicester fell behind in both but were able to claw their back into the game, with all five City goals in those matches coming post-60 minutes. The mentality in which Rodgers has instilled into the squad to be able to come back from losing positions shouldn’t be underestimated.
Having won three consecutive matches, Leicester head into the run-in full of form, and the last couple of results would’ve given Foxes supporters confidence of securing Champions League football for next season.
The display against Palace wasn’t what City fans are used to, but they are showing a different side to their game recently to grab results when they aren’t playing as well. This didn't occur as often in 2019-20, so it shows the difference in how they are learning and developing as a top-level squad.
There's no doubt the form of Iheanacho has helped too. The Nigerian has scored 14 goals in his last 14 appearances for the club, which is more than he has netted in his previous 76 in a City shirt. Coincidentally, all but four of those have come in the second half, which correlates to Leicester’s strong finish to matches.
Although Jamie Vardy hasn’t hit the goalscoring form from what supporters are used to be seeing, his partnership with Iheanacho has flourished, with the pair directly combining to the most goals (three) of any Premier League duo since the start of March.
Adding to that is the sturdiness of the back-three as Leicester have conceded just once in their last three, and with Southampton and Newcastle United to come, the resilience that the Foxes have shown to grind out points will be something to take into the run-in.