Travelling to the capital to take on an extremely out of form Crystal Palace side at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon, Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City looked to extend their five-point cushion at the top of the Premier League.
Hoping to build on their deserved 1-0 victory over Newcastle United on Monday evening at the King Power Stadium, players and fans alike looked very motivated for the game. However, despite the home side’s poor recent form, it seemed that the Foxes were not underestimating their struggling counterparts and put out a strong side to take on Alan Pardew’s team.
In a rather familiar tale for Claudio Ranieri's team this season, the first XI remained unchanged. Deploying key figures such as Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes fielded an extremely competitive team blessed with attacking talent. So, the home side's defence looked in for a tough game from the off.
Also, after receiving their debut international call-ups for their respective national teams in mid-week, Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante were once again set up to combine in the middle of the park and looked to continue their excellent form ahead of the upcoming international break.
Elsewhere, Alan Pardew only made one alteration to the squad which was unluckily beaten 2-1 by Liverpool in their last league game. Restoring Welshman, Wayne Hennessey, to the starting line-up, the former Charlton Athletic man stuck with a relatively settled team.
Furthermore, again joining Hennessey in the XI, the likes of Wilfried Zaha, Yannick Bolasie and Emmanuel Adebayor looked to provide the attacking impetus for the home side in what looked to be an intriguing and absorbing affair in London.
Early promise from the Foxes
As was expected, Leicester City started the game in a positive vein. Utilising the wings on numerous occasions, Ranieri's team could easily have taken the lead in the opening ten minutes. As it happened it was England forward, Jamie Vardy, who had the first chance. Meeting a dangerous Riyad Mahrez cross with his forehead in the centre of the penalty area, the ball only found its way into the arms of Wayne Hennessey.
Then, Mahrez himself spurned a golden opportunity to notch his 16th Premier League goal of the season. Finding himself only a few yards away from goal, the mercurial Algerian failed to connect with a Shinji Okazaki centre as the ball harmlessly bounced away (to the relief of the home supporters).
As a matter of fact, the former Le Havre winger than had an even better opening only minutes later. Using a trademark counter-attack, Danny Drinkwater played forward an excellent through-ball which soon saw Mahrez free in plenty of room and one-on-one with the goalkeeper. However, the 24-year-old just failed to slide his shot into the net thanks to a good save from Hennessey.
Palace pressurise but Leicester pounce
Nevertheless, the home side did start holding some possession late in the first half. Growing into the game, Pardew's side had a few chances of their own to get on the scoresheet. Firstly, Wilfried Zaha met an accurate Bolasie cross but his volley spun slightly wide and crashed into the side netting.
Then, it was Joe Ledley's turn to take a chance (or not in this case) in front of the Leicester goal. Whipping a driven square ball into the box, the Welshman only needed to meet the ball with his head to notch his second goal in two Premier League appearances. However, as Vardy earlier in the game, the ball just evaded his touch.
However, just as the home side were looking to halt their poor form in the Premier League, Ranieri's side took the lead thanks to Riyad Mahrez. Breaking forward at considerable pace, the Foxes got plenty of bodies into the penalty area and looked in a great position as Jamie Vardy picked up the ball on the left-hand side of the box.
Driving a wonderful centre into the middle, the England international found the mercurial Mahrez free in plenty of room towards the back post. It was easy from then on as the skilful winger swept the ball into the net with his left foot to give his side the lead in the 34th minute of the game (cueing wild celebrations from the away end in the process).
Pardew looks for reaction
Coming into the second period, it was clear that Alan Pardew required an immediate reaction to a poor first-half. Replacing Adebayor and Souare with Bakary Sako and Martin Kelly, it looked like a change in formation for the Eagles.
However, the changes looked as though they had little impact early in the second half as Mahrez and Okazaki both had chances to double the visitor's lead. The latter probably had the better opening has he got free in the area as he received the ball about 15 yards from goal. Nevertheless, the Japanese forward failed to meet the target as his ferocious shot sailed just over the upright.
The former Mainz 05 man then missed another glorious chance in the 56th minute. Picking up a throw-in on the left-hand side, the visitors looked to deploy Christian Fuchs and his powerful throwing ability. Launching the ball into the box, Okazaki connected but powered his header wide as the Palace defence was left standing still.
Backs to the wall for the Foxes
Although, it seemed that the numerous Leicester chances early in the second half gave the home side a bit of motivation as they looked to come from behind. Dominating possession for the majority of time after the break, the Eagles looked to come forward with the likes of Bolasie, Cabaye and Zaha, and but for the interventions of Huth and Morgan, the scores could easily have been 1-1.
Nonetheless, Palace's best chance came from one of their substitutes, Bakary Sako. Finding space on the left side of the penalty area, the ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers wide-man whipped in a peach of a cross which only just evaded the touch of Mile Jedinak.
In the closing stages, both teams could have had chances to get on the scoresheet. Firstly, the visitors believed that they had a strong appeal for a spot-kick. Seemingly having his shirt physically removed from his back during a Leicester corner, Robert Huth pleaded with the referee, who was unmoved.
Elsewhere, Cabaye and the unstoppable Sako then let fly with powerful drives outside the penalty area which were in turn blocked by Huth and Schmeichel. On the other hand, the Foxes then had their own chances to net. Racing free from the Palace defence using his terrifying defence, Jamie Vardy pace nailed-on to end his recent barren run in front of goal but was halted by Damien Delaney.
As it happened, the final chance went to the home side and the aforementioned Delaney. Latching onto a Scott Dann knock-down from a corner, the former Foxes defender struck the crossbar with a looping header to the relief of the away contingent.
As has been the story for the past few weeks though, Ranieri's team were able to hold on for a huge three points and as a result of another 1-0 victory, now sit eight points clear at the top of the Premier League table.