Benteke helps to silence Palace critics

By | December 17, 2017

Christian Benteke blasted his way back into Roy Hodgson’s good books by scoring his first goal for seven months and creating another for Wilfried Zaha before Bakary Sako gave a suitably emphatic look to Crystal Palace’s first away win of the season.

Palace had not even mustered a goal on their travels this season but they were worthy winners, showing the zest and sharpness that was strangely absent from a Leicester team that came into the game in vibrant form.

Wilfried Ndidi being sent off following a piece of simulation in the second half seemed apt on a day when Leicester played like a poor imitation of their recent selves.

Benteke, meanwhile, was far removed from the hapless figure who was lambasted by Palace fans and team-mates after defying orders and missing a late penalty against Bournemouth.

Palace were the better side from the start, as Leicester spluttered like the aeroplane that failed to take off after their thrilling midweek win over Southampton, forcing them to make a long bus journey home instead. But even though the visitors looked bright, there was no early indication that Benteke would find redemption. Jeffrey Schlupp presented him with an opportunity to do so in the sixth minute but the striker failed to connect.

He persisted, however, and achieved atonement in the 19th minute, aided by a wonderful cross by Andros Townsend and diabolical defending by the home team. Benteke was allowed to amble between Wes Morgan and Ben Chilwell to meet Townsend’s perfectly flighted cross from the right and guide a downward header into the centre of the goal, as Kasper Schmeichel was caught out.

It was the Belgian’s first club goal since May and, by way of celebration, he plugged a finger in each ear, as if to show he was not interested in hearing praise from people who had ridiculed him during his long barren streak. He almost gave critics a chance to jab back moments later by scoring an own goal. Happily for him, his defensive header flew inches past the post.

It was no surprise when they increased their lead. Benteke, brimming with new-found confidence, created the goal after Mahrez coughed up possession. The Belgian shrugged off Ndidi before slipping a pass to Zaha, who feinted his way past Chilwell and fired into the net from 10 yards.

Leicester were booed off at half-time by fans but Claude Puel made no changes.

Vicente Iborra had a goal correctly ruled out for a push. Then Ndidi was booked for collapsing in the box without being touched. Coming less than a minute after he had seen yellow on his 21st birthday, Ndidi had to go. Hodgson withdrew Benteke in the 87th minute and his replacement, Sako, rounded off the scoring in stoppage time.