Monday 5 December 2016

Christian Fuchs caps Leicester's return to form with stunning strike

Published 22/10/2016 | 17:06

Leicester had reason to celebrate again on Saturday
Leicester had reason to celebrate again on Saturday

Champions Leicester returned to form in the Premier League after Christian Fuchs' wonder strike capped a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.

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The defender scored his first goal for the Foxes when he fired in a brilliant half-volley from 25 yards as Leicester bagged their first league win for over a month.

Ahmed Musa and Shinji Okazaki had put them in control as the hosts made light of Jamie Vardy starting on the bench before Yohan Cabaye pulled a goal back late on.

Leicester recovered from a slow start after Christian Benteke hit the bar for Palace. T he striker also had a header cleared off the line and was denied by Kasper Schmeichel.

Vardy was benched as he battled a groin injury and came on as a second-half substitute, the first time the striker had not started a Premier League game when available since March 2015.

The England forward had not scored in his previous nine games for club and country and Claudio Ranieri opted to take him out of the firing line.

Replacement Okazaki should have opened the scoring inside 90 seconds when presented with a gift by Steve Mandanda.

The Palace goalkeeper swapped passes with Damien Delaney but then miscued his clearance straight to Okazaki but, with Mandanda out of goal, the Japan international could only chip wide from 25 yards.

But it was a rare opening as Leicester's league struggles continued in the opening stages, leaving Palace to dictate the play.

Danny Drinkwater and Andy King failed to unsettle the visitors' rhythm, with Andros Townsend a constant threat, and Cabaye fired wide before Benteke rattled the woodwork after 12 minutes.

Wilfried Zaha's shot was blocked and fell to Martin Kelly, who crossed for Benteke and his 10-yard header bounced off the bar with Schmeichel beaten.

The subdued hosts were too open, allowing Zaha and Townsend space to roam although the pair lacked a final delivery.

Slowly, led by Riyad Mahrez, the Foxes began to wrestle back some control and Okazaki deflected Mahrez's drive over after 34 minutes as Leicester upped their work-rate and unsettled Palace.

Islam Slimani and Okazaki both failed to make an impact and it was up to Musa to open the scoring three minutes before the break.

The Foxes' pressure had been growing, although Nigeria international Musa had been virtually anonymous before getting his first goal for the club since a £16million summer move from CSKA Moscow.

Ineffective on the right, he moved inside to link up with Slimani and, with Mandanda unsighted by his backpedalling defence, cracked a low drive in from 18 yards.

The Foxes had dragged themselves ahead and Slimani almost doubled their lead two minutes after half-time when his header rippled the side netting.

Palace's response was muted, with Benteke increasingly starved of service, and Cabaye fired well over - but Leicester had the measure of the visitors and they doubled their lead after 63 minutes.

Okazaki had not scored in the Premier League since March but justified his selection when he rifled in from 12 yards after Delaney cut out Drinkwater's cross.

Schmeichel saved Zaha's drive but Palace had lost their poise from their opening spell as Leicester threatened to swarm all over them.

Yet the Foxes lived dangerously as Palace almost pulled a goal back on 73 minutes when Schmeichel saved Cabaye's close-range effort and then, from the resulting corner, Danny Simpson cleared Benteke's header off the line.

But Leicester made the game safe with 10 minutes left when Fuchs scored a brilliant first goal for the club.

There seemed little danger when Benteke cleared a corner to the Austrian but he rifled an unstoppable angled half-volley into the corner from 25 yards.

Benteke was then denied by Schmeichel after being put clear but Cabaye did make it 3-1 with five minutes left when he steered in Zaha's cross.

Mahrez also had a chance to put the gloss on the victory but his injury-time volley was saved by Mandanda.

Press Association

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