Football: Izzet's late leveller rewards Leicester's fighting spirit
Crystal Palace 1
Among the many admirable qualities of this Leicester City team, there are surely none as important as their indomitable spirit. As they proved once again at Filbert Street on Saturday, Martin O'Neill's side never know when they are beaten.
For 90 minutes Leicester looked desperately short on ideas and creativity. Despite playing for more than an hour against 10 men - who had taken the lead shortly before half-time - and enjoying the majority of the possession, the home team had failed to create a single clear-cut chance and seemed to be heading for their third successive goalless game in front of their own fans.
Leicester kept at their task, however, and 90 seconds into injury time Muzzy Izzet salvaged a point with a piece of skill totally out of keeping with what had gone before. Coming back on to the field after injury, Izzet caught the Palace defence on the back foot and created space for himself after a short corner. With Palace expecting a cross, Izzet instead curled an exquisite lob over Kevin Miller from the corner of the penalty area.
Late goals have cost Leicester points of their own against Chelsea and Newcastle in recent weeks, but the statistics show that O'Neill's team are never more dangerous than in the closing stages. Seven of their 18 Premiership goals this season have been scored in the last 15 minutes. Palace, meanwhile, have scored just once in that period, and this was the third time in their last nine matches that they have let victory slip from their grasp.
On this occasion, however, it would be unfair to question their resilience. Following Marc Edworthy's 29th-minute dismissal - an absurdly harsh punishment for catching Rob Ullathorne with a trailing foot after a tackle - the visitors staged a sterling rearguard action in stark contrast to their insipid performance in defeat at West Ham three days earlier.
Carl Veart was an effective replacement for Edworthy in the unfamiliar role of wing-back, while Paul Warhurst hardly put a foot wrong at the centre of the defence. Warhurst wants to play in attack for Palace, but on this accomplished showing Coppell must be tempted to keep him at centre- back.
If the match was painfully short on attacking flair it was hardly surprising given the players who were unavailable. Leicester were without, among others, Emile Heskey, Steve Guppy, Ian Marshall and Garry Parker; Palace's absentees included Andy Roberts, Bruce Dyer and Attilio Lombardo.
O'Neill was able to bring back Ullathorne for his first appearance since he broke his ankle on his debut last season, but the Leicester manger is well aware that his squad is not strong enough. "Today only highlighted the problem I knew already existed," he said. "I have made a number of enquiries about players but nothing is remotely close."
Palace had already hit the woodwork before Michele Padovano gave them the lead after 43 minutes, scoring his first Premiership goal with a shot just inside a post after exchanging passes with Neil Shipperley. However, the Italian looked ill at ease with the pace of the game and was substituted early in the second half.
Palace, who have earned more points on their travels this season than any other Premiership team, should have secured their sixth away win of the campaign when Warhurst sent Shipperley clear 16 minutes into the second half, but the striker's shot was blocked by Kasey Keller.
Goals: Padovano (43) 0-1; Izzet (90) 1-1.
Leicester (5-3-2): Keller; Savage, Prior, Elliott, Kaamark, Ullathorne (Wilson, 51); Campbell (McMahon, 77), Lennon, Izzet; Fenton, Claridge (Watts, 62). Substitutes not used: Arphexad (gk), Oakes.
Crystal Palace (5-3-2): Miller; Edworthy, Linighan, Warhurst, Hreidarsson, Gordon; Veart, Emblen (Davies, 73), Rodger; Shipperley, Padovano (Fullarton, 53). Substitutes not used: Nash (gk), Zohar, Ginty.
Sendings-off: Crystal Palace: Edworthy. Bookings: Leicester: Fenton. Crystal Palace: Emblen, Hreidarsson, Padovano.
Referee: U D Rennie (Sheffield).
Man of the match: Warhurst.
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