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Leicester's slump continues as Zaha brace eases Palace relegation worries

Michy Batshuayi was also on target in his first Premier League start for the Eagles.

Zaha celebrates scoring a goal for Palace.
Zaha celebrates scoring a goal for Palace.
Image: EMPICS Sport

CRYSTAL PALACE MARKED a record-breaking game for manager Roy Hodgson with a 4-1 win at slumping Leicester City, who have now lost four games on the spin at home.

Palace boss Hodgson – who became the oldest person to take charge of a team in a Premier League fixture – watched on as his side clinically defeated their hosts to increase the pressure on opposite number Claude Puel.

Michy Batshuayi reacted swiftly to divert a wayward long-range drive from James McArthur beyond goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel for the only goal of the first half at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester equalised through Jonny Evans, the centre-back marking a notable milestone of his own by scoring on his 250th appearance in the competition, but Wilfried Zaha struck twice to sandwich a Luka Milivojevic penalty as Palace ran out comfortable winners.

Jamie Vardy, recalled to the starting XI after scoring – as well as missing a penalty – in a cameo appearance off the bench in the 3-1 defeat away at Tottenham last time out, glanced an early header narrowly over in a first half devoid of opportunities at both ends.

However, Palace claimed the lead five minutes before the interval, Batshuayi’s quick reactions to stick out a right leg seeing him score in the Premier League for the first time since October 2017.

Having struggled to create much, Leicester copied their opponents’ example to grab an equaliser 19 minutes into the second half.

Leicester City v Crystal Palace - Premier League - King Power Stadium Luka Milivojevic scored for Palace from the penalty spot. Source: EMPICS Sport

After Palace failed to clear a long throw into their penalty area, Harvey Barnes snatched at a shot to inadvertently set up Evans, who had gone up for the set-piece opportunity, for a first-time finish.

Yet the optimism at the equaliser soon dissipated when Palace snatched the lead back, McArthur’s clever clipped cross picking out the unmarked Zaha to side-foot in.

Evans’ clumsy trip on Jeffrey Schlupp set up penalty expert Milivojevic and Zaha rubbed salt into the Leicester wounds with a fourth in added time, though by then plenty of the home crowd had already headed for the exits.

While Hodgson – still going strong at 71 years and 198 days – was able to celebrate at full-time, Puel’s future with the Foxes will be the focus in the aftermath.

Another demoralising defeat for Leicester saw supporters vent their frustrations – they are yet to see their team win at home this year, their last success at the King Power coming against champions Manchester City on Boxing Day.

 The former Southampton boss may have temporarily boosted his popularity by recalling Vardy, yet the Foxes are currently floundering under the Frenchman.

Palace have struggled for a focal point up front this season but Batshuayi could be the answer to their problems.

The Belgium international, who endured a difficult time with Valencia in the first half of the campaign, will hope his goal can help him cement a regular spot in the team during the remainder of his loan spell.

Schmiechel could do little about the first three goals his side conceded before allowing a Zaha shot to slip beyond him in the third minute of stoppage time.

He was also booked for dissent after Palace were awarded their penalty, having already demonstrated his short temper by complaining vehemently to referee Anthony Taylor in the first half.

With a midweek round of Premier League fixtures on the schedule, both clubs are quickly back in action.

Leicester are at home again, Brighton and Hove Albion the visitors on Tuesday, while Palace welcome Manchester United to Selhurst Park the following day.

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