Roy Hodgson crowned his new status as the Premier League’s oldest manager with a thumping victory that leaves no doubt Claude Puel’s reign must come to an end.
This was a seventh defeat in nine matches for Puel and any lingering faith in the Frenchman is shattered by the fact Leicester are now as close to the relegation zone as seventh place.
Numerous figures at the club, including Puel, have repeatedly stated European qualification as this season’s aim but that appears gone and Peter Schmeichel’s recent assessment telling indeed.
Luka Milivojevic held his nerve from the penalty spot to score Crystal Palace’s third and all but seal victory
The captain celebrated close by the Palace supporters after giving his side some breathing space in the contest
Schmeichel Sr said Puel is not getting the best from a talented squad and while players cannot be absolved responsibility for winning just four games at home all campaign it is inescapable that the manager is failing dramatically.
The King Power Stadium deserted as Wilfried Zaha slammed in Crystal Palace’s fourth and those who stayed booed loudly. Puel’s methods have long caused friction at the club, and his perplexing issues with Jamie Vardy became evident at Tottenham, and it appears clear a change is required.
Hodgson, once a Leicester target to replace Claudio Ranieri, wore a giant grin as he picked up three points on the day he overtook Sir Bobby Robson’s record. Hodgson is 71 years and 198 days old and seems able to carry on a good while yet.
PLAYER RATINGS, LEAGUE TABLE AND MATCH ZONE
LEICESTER: Schmeichel, Ricardo Pereira, Evans, Maguire, Fuchs, Tielemans (Iheanacho 74′), Ndidi, Maddison, Ghezzal (Gray 45′), Vardy, Barnes (Okasaki 84′)
Subs not used: Soyuncu, Morgan, Ward, Mendy
Booked: Ndidi, Schmeichel
Goal: Evans 63
Manager: Claude Puel
CRYSTAL PALACE: Guaita, Ward, Tomkins, Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur, Milivojevic, Schlupp, Townsend (Kouyate 80′), Batshuayi (Ayew 87′), Zaha
Subs not used: Dann, Meyer, Hennessey, Benteke, Riedewald
Goals: Batshuayi 40, Zaha 70, 93 Milivojevic (pen) 81
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Referee: Anthony Taylor
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And to think Leicester began well. Back in the starting line-up, Vardy had his team’s first chance on nine minutes, rising high to meet a cross by Harvey Barnes and glancing his header narrowly over.
Wilfried Zaha was lucky to escape sanction for a poor challenge on Youri Tielemans, having put his studs into the Belgian’s knee. Barnes then drew a save from Vicente Guaita with a low shot from 20 yards.
Tielemens was once again showing his class, after a fine debut at Wembley, and his understanding with James Maddison looked to have strengthened since. Tielemens slipped a pass to Maddison, who snapped a shot that Guaita held.
Leicester were zipping the ball about in their best first-half performance at home this season but there was a sting in the tail five minutes before the break. Leicester were livid at the circumstances but had little cause to be.
Right on cue, Wilfried Zaha popped up at the back post to volley home a lofted through-ball from team-mate James McArthur
Kasper Schmeichel tried to make himself big, but ultimately could not stop the powerful effort of the Ivory Coast star
The forward immediately peeled away and began to roar in celebration after hitting the back of the net
Zaha unleashed his pent-up emotion on the corner flag while celebrating in front of the travelling Palace supporters
With his arms outstretched and his tongue sticking out, Zaha lapped up the adoration from the jubilant away fans
First the Palace goal. Luka Milivojevic bypassed Leicester’s midfield with a purposeful pass, giving James McArthur room to turn and get a shot off from 25 yards. It was heading nowhere until Michy Batshuayi stuck out a leg and redirected the ball to totally wrong-foot Kasper Schmeichel. If the final destination was fortunate, Batshuayi does deserve credit for reacting quickly. A striker’s goal if ever there was one.
Schmeichel, though, was incensed and marched 50 yards to remonstrate with referee Anthony Taylor. Seconds earlier Leicester had appealed for a penalty when Barnes burst into the area and fell from a challenge by James Tomkins. But Tomkins got the ball, so Taylor was right to wave it away.
Schmeichel seemed to be complaining that Palace had won a free-kick in a similar situation, when Jeffrey Schlupp went down.
Either way it was a moot point. Not in doubt was that Leicester had now gone behind in 19 of 27 Premier League games this campaign.
Puel reacted at half-time by replacing Rachid Ghezzal with Demarai Gray, but that only highlighted his curious call to drop the young English winger in the first place.
Puel had made major play of starting Gray instead of Vardy against Tottenham to explore his ‘options’. If that sounded a little like school sports day it remained the case that Gray did well at Wembley and could be more than a little confused at missing out here. Ghezzal was woeful in Gray’s place and some Leicester fans cheered his removal.
Defender Jonny Evans pivoted on the penalty spot to lash Harvey Barnes’ pass into the back of the net and pull Leicester level
The Northern Irishman jumped and punched the air in celebration, after getting Leicester back into the contest
Earlier, Michy Batshuayi got Crystal Palace off the mark after getting a final touch on a long-range effort from James McArthur
The Chelsea loanee slid to his knees in celebration after getting the Eagles off the mark at the King Power
The Belgian proved his worth by getting on the scoresheet on what was his first Premier League start for the Eagles
January signing Youri Tielemans looked to make his mark in the centre of midfield with some weaving runs
Claude Puel remained animated on the touchline and was often seen barking commands at his players on the pitch
But Leicester’s route back into the match came from a less likely source. Midway through the second half Evans scored his first goal for the club. Maddison then Gray managed to keep a corner alive by jumping for headers, with the ball dropping to Barnes on the right of the box. His shot was scuffed but it went into Evans’ path and the defender’s sweeping shot was as sure as any centre-forward’s.
Leicester were only level for seven minutes, however as Palace constructed a wonderful goal. McArthur was central, twisting past Wilfred Ndidi and Maddison with one swift turn and crossing with his left to the far post where Harry Maguire had failed to detect Zaha. The winger’s volley was true and Schmeichel beaten again. It was a third game in a row in which Zaha had scored, either side of his suspension.
Then Leicester crumbled. On the night Gordon Banks was remembered Schmeichel pulled off a save worthy of the name, diving to stop Batshuayi’s fierce hit. But it was in vain. Seconds later Evans fouled Schlupp in the area and Luka Milivojevic dispatched. That was the cue for hundreds of Leicester fans to depart.
Zaha added a fourth in stoppage time when sent clear by Jordan Ayew and finishing strongly