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Palace close on survival after comeback earns draw


Christian Benteke celebrates his equaliser

Christian Benteke celebrates his equaliser

Christian Benteke celebrates his equaliser

Crystal Palace recovered from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw with Leicester and take their latest step towards preserving their Premier League status.

Early in the second half at Selhurst Park goals from Robert Huth and Jamie Vardy had taken the visitors close to a momentum-building victory just four days ahead of their Champions League quarter-final second leg with Atletico Madrid.

Palace then swiftly responded through Yohan Cabaye and Christian Benteke then secured the draw that took them up to 15th, seven points clear of the bottom three and within five of ninth.

During Monday's 3-0 defeat of Arsenal, Palace played with an intensity that gave their visitors little chance. In Leicester they were encountering the opposite; Palace's equal in being direct and playing with pace, and a team willing to remain deep and attack on the counter.

The nature of their opening goal, after only seven minutes, therefore surprised for more than one reason. Sam Allardyce's reputation has largely been built on his ability to organise a defence and succeed with set-pieces, so when Christian Fuchs' long throw-in from the left wing was so casually headed in by Huth the Palace manager would have been concerned.

However unlike so often in recent times, his team's confidence did not suffer. Five wins from the previous six fixtures, including against league leaders Chelsea, would have contributed to that and it ensured they showed signs of response.

In the 17th minute leading goalscorer Benteke had a close-range shot smothered clear by Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel at his near post. The visitors' authoritative defending then restricted Palace's chances, and shortly before half-time frustrated Andros Townsend when Huth blocked another shot from inside the area with a sliding challenge.

It took only seven minutes of the second half for Leicester to double their lead, and demonstrate why their manager Craig Shakespeare has succeeded since replacing Claudio Ranieri. They have rediscovered the identity that won them last season's title, as they again showed when on the break Riyad Mahrez played in Vardy, who beat former team-mate Jeffrey Schlupp before curling inside the far post beyond Wayne Hennessey with his left foot.

Again Palace did not lose belief, and within two minutes scored their first goal. Wilfred Ndidi's air-kick gifted possession to Schlupp on the left wing and when the full-back's cross was deflected by Danny Simpson into Cabaye's path directly in front of goal, the Frenchman scored with a neat finish below Schmeichel.

Twenty minutes from time, and following further pressure, the hosts pulled level. In what was closer to something expected of one of Allardyce's teams, the rejuvenated Townsend's pace and footwork created space on the left wing to cross to Benteke and the striker leapt highest, over Yohan Benalouane, to head in towards the back post.

A winning goal eluded either team, denying each a sixth league win from seven. Survival nevertheless appears a near-certainty for both, which was far from the case just six weeks earlier.