Leicester vs Crystal Palace match report: Joe Ledley heads crucial winner in relegation battle

Leicester City 0 Crystal Palace 1

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The Independent Football

Leicester’s survival prospects begin to look increasingly bleak.  Despite dominating possession and requiring Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni to deliver a man-of-the-match performance, Nigel Pearson’s side slipped to a 15th defeat of the season, a sixth at home.

Should Burnley beat West Bromwich today, the gap between Leicester and safety will have stretched to five points, and while that might not seem too alarming it could become significantly wider quite quickly. Four of Leicester’s next five Premier League fixtures are away from home, against Arsenal, Everton, Manchester City and Tottenham.

In any event, the maths are against them. With almost two thirds of the Premier League programme complete, they have 17 points. To stay up, they probably need at least 20 points from the final third. Teams who are bottom of the table in February rarely improve to  that degree.

Ledley powers in a header to earn Palace the three points

Pearson is reluctant to attribute success or failure to luck, but here was another occasion when fate was unkind to him. Of their five shots on target (from a total of 19), three were kept out superbly by Speroni, who beat out Jeffrey Schlupp’s fierce effort in the first half and made two splendid close-range stops from substitute Jamie Vardy close to the end.  In addition, David Nugent saw a first-half header hit the bar.

“It is frustrating for us today because it was one of those games where you would say we had a better chance of winning than some others,” Pearson said.  “But what we must not do is allow ourselves to get downbeat at how some people possibly will want to write us off.  There is a long way to go yet.

“I don’t like to blame good luck or bad luck, because what it comes down to is that you have to take the opportunities when they come your way.  What is costing us is our inability to convert the chances we create.” In the circumstances, questions were raised about why record signing Andrej Kramaric did not appear until late in the second half, although when he did come on he could not influence the outcome.

Palace, by contrast, are beginning to look relatively comfortable, their revival since Alan Pardew took charge extended to five wins in six matches.  This was not an eye-catching performance, with too little end product, but they were defensively efficient and determined enough to make themselves difficult to break down. The decisive goal came 10 minutes into the second half, when Marcin Wasilewski made a fine block to deny Yaya Sanogo and from the resulting corner, headed back across goal by substitute Brede Hangeland, Joe Ledley headed in.

Nigel Pearson and James MacArthur tangled on the sideline

Not that Pardew is taking survival for granted. “We are not looking up the table yet,” he said. “The focus is still very much on being a Premier League team next season.”

Leicester City: (4-4-2) Schwarzer; Simpson (Vardy, 79), Wasilewski, Morgan, Konchesky; Mahrez, James, Cambiasso, Schlupp (Albrighton, 66); Nugent (Kramaric, 71), Ulloa.

Crystal Palace: (4-4-2) Speroni; Ward, Dann (Hangeland, h-t), Delaney, Kelly; Puncheon, McArthur, Ledley, Zaha; Gayle (Guédioura, 78), Mutch (Sanogo, h-t).

Referee: Lee Mason

Man of the match: Speroni (Crystal Palace)

Match rating: 6/10