For a manager who relishes being in control, this wasn’t exactly what Brendan Rodgers will have had in mind. Two goals from Crystal Palace substitutes Michael Olise and Jeffrey Schlupp, a member of Leicester’s 2016 Premier League title-winning squad, earned a deserved point for Patrick Vieira’s side after a spirited second-half comeback that almost yielded all three.
Everything had looked so simple when Kelechi Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy helped to establish a 2-0 lead after 36 minutes despite Palace’s early superiority. Yet having so far struggled to recapture the form that took them to within a whisker of Champions League qualification in the last two seasons, the Leicester manager will be concerned with the way his side surrendered their lead so meekly here.
Rodgers had insisted this week that the challenge of attempting to bounce back from the uncharacteristically slow start made by his team is one that “excites” him. After last week’s draw at home to Burnley and the Europa League defeat to Legia Warsaw, he clearly knew the importance of this fixture going into the international break.
Iheanacho, who ended as Leicester’s top scorer last season with 17 goals, was finally handed his first premier League start of the new campaign as one of three changes from last weekend, with Hamza Choudhury and Ademola Lookman also both included. Yet while Palace may have seen their hopes of a memorable victory over high-flying rivals Brighton snatched away by the last kick of the game on Monday, by contrast there had been an air of optimism in this part of south London before kick-off.
Vieira may have only won once since replacing Roy Hodgson late in the summer but the former Arsenal captain’s influence is already becoming apparent in their evolving style of play – even if they were caught out by it this time. Having survived when Vardy failed to make contact with a pinpoint free-kick from Youri Tielemens, Palace dominated proceedings for the opening half an hour.
They could have gone ahead when Wilfried Zaha forced Kasper Schmeichal into a save with his foot following James McArthur’s driving run into the box. But Vieira watched on in horror as instead it was Leicester who took the lead. There didn’t appear to be any danger when the usually reliable Joachim Andersen took possession of the ball but Iheanacho was on to the Denmark international like a flash and suddenly bearing down on Vicente Guaita’s goal. The Palace keeper found himself in almost exactly the same position six minutes later after Vardy was played in by Harvey Barnes and the result was the same.
The all-action Conor Gallagher saw his effort sail over the bar at the other end as Palace attempted to respond before the break and it was the visiting supporters who were full of voice in the balmy autumn sunshine. A torrential downpour at half-time left both sides at first looking reluctant to resume despite the promptings of referee Anthony Taylor.
Barnes came close to extending Leicester’s lead after brilliant play from Iheanacho but Palace seemed determined to make a game of it and should have pulled one back when Odsonne Édouard’s shot struck the bar. The disappointing Jordan Ayew was withdrawn for Olise as the hosts continued to press forward in search of a lifeline. It duly came when Tyrick Mitchell’s cross from the left picked out the teenager who joined from Reading in the summer and he hammered home at the second attempt.
Édouard came close to creating an opportunity for himself as Palace smelled blood, with Rodgers responding by withdrawing Iheanacho for James Maddison. But it was the introduction of Schlupp that would prove to be decisive as he nodded home after Leicester had failed to deal with Olise’s searching ball into the box to complete the comeback. Vardy then needed treatment for several minutes after clashing with McArthur but was eventually able to continue before the best chance to win it fell to Schlupp, only for the Ghana international to direct his header wide of the target – much to Rodgers’ relief.