Jamie Vardy netted his 100th Premier League goal as Leicester kept their hold on third place with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace.
Vardy could not have wished for an easier goal to secure his ton, with a dreadful mistake from Mamadou Sakho gifting the ball to Harvey Barnes, who squared for him to net just his third goal of 2020 (77). In injury time, he then doubled his tally on the break with the finish of a man finally feeling confident again.
His goals added to Kelechi Iheanacho’s opener four minutes after the break, from Youri Tielemans’ inviting low cross, which should have been dealt with by a hesitant Vicente Guaita before the Nigerian striker tapped home his second goal in four days.
Crystal Palace struggled to test Kasper Schmeichel as their run of defeats was extended to three, while the Foxes kept their fate in their own hands with a first win since the restart, which guarantees they will end the weekend in third place.
Vardy double relieves pressure on Foxes
Out of form and facing a tough run-in, this was about as close to a must-win as it gets for a Leicester side with a number of sides now firmly on their tails in the race for a Champions League spot.
But out of form and low on confidence, it was a bad time for the Foxes to come up against an organised Crystal Palace defence, and on the odd occasion they did breach it, Vardy came up short.
It was right-back Justin who came closest to breaking the deadlock before the break, rattling the bar with a rasping 20-yard drive 15 minutes in, but Vardy should have been involved with at least one goal.
A heavy touch on an inch-perfect ball from Ayoze Perez denied him a clear run on goal, while he also dallied on the ball inside the box with Iheanacho ready to tap home.
“They’re not quite flowing at the moment, they need a bit of confidence,” Jamie Redknapp told Sky Sports at the break. “Sometimes you need that goal which can change everything.”
Like clockwork, it arrived within four minutes of the restart. Tielemans’ excellent low delivery from the left was missed by Guaita, leaving Iheanacho to net his second goal in four days with a chance he could barely miss.
Palace were undeterred by such an early bodyblow and improved, knowing they would need to brush up in front of goal to get anything out of the game.
And Gary Cahill should have been the man to do it. James McArthur’s cross from deep on the right was begging to be turned home but the ex-Chelsea defender’s free header was easy enough for Schmeichel to hold.
After a relatively sturdy defensive showing, Palace threw all their hard work away 13 minutes from time in a mess of a second goal. Sakho failed to shake off Barnes from Guaita’s short throw, before slipping on the ball and giving the substitute the simple job of teeing up Vardy to secure his 100th Premier League goal, in his 206th game.
Suddenly, he looked like the Vardy we have come to know over the past six seasons. With Palace forced to press forward, he ghosted in on the half-way line from Barnes’ through-ball in injury time, before lifting the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to put the gloss on a fine afternoon’s work, and take Leicester one step closer to next year’s Champions League.
Leicester’s trip to Arsenal is next up and live on Sky Sports Premier League this Tuesday from 8pm; Kick-off at 8.15pm.
Live Premier League
Tuesday 7th July 5:30pm
Palace are back on the box the same day against Chelsea, live on Sky Sports Main Event from 5.30pm; Kick-off at 6pm.