Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said it is “a privilege” to work with Jamie Vardy after the striker’s “phenomenal achievement” of reaching 100 Premier League goals in the win over Crystal Palace.
Vardy took his top-flight tally to 101 with a second-half double to give City their first win since the restart and boost their hopes of achieving a top-four Premier League finish.
His century goal was a simple finish, tapped into an open net after Harvey Barnes had reclaimed possession in the box and fed him the ball.
Having failed to find the net in three games since the Premier League’s resumption, Vardy then added a second, running clear of the Palace defence before chipping a neat finish past Vicente Guaita.
“From the first moment I came here I told him I was happy he was here because he is a master finisher,” said Rodgers of his 33-year-old forward.
“Sometimes these milestones can weigh on you a little but it was only going to be a matter of time before he reached it.
“You see the last goal, in the dying seconds of the game to get away – it is a good sign for us for the remainder of the season. And it is a phenomenal achievement – 101 goals, coming into the Premier League at the age that he has.
“I am very privileged to work with him.”
Kelechi Iheanacho had given the home side the lead, side-footing home a superb, low left-wing cross from Youri Tielemens to claim his second goal in as many games.
This came after a fairly drab first half in which Justin James had struck the bar with a fierce drive for the home side, but little else of note happened.
It is a much-needed win for City, who had seen their grip on a top-four spot weaken following two draws and a loss since the restart.
It puts them six points clear of fifth-placed Wolves, who face Arsenal later on Saturday.
It was another disappointing display from Palace, who set out primarily to contain their opponents and then could not impose themselves in order to alter the outcome once they fell behind.
Gary Cahill came closest to salvaging something from the game for them with a downward header, saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
After winning their first game back, Roy Hodgson’s side have now lost three on the bounce – a run that surely ends any hope they had of snatching a Europa League qualification spot.
Vardy joins 100 club
Vardy brought up his 100th Premier League goal in his 206th appearance – not quick enough to place him in the division’s top 10 fastest to the milestone.
That table is led by the Premier League’s all-time record goalscorer Alan Shearer, who hit the century mark in just 124 matches.
|Fastest to 100 goals in the Premier League|
|Robin van Persie||197|
What separates Vardy from his peers in the centurion club is the route he took to reach the top flight, which saw him rise rapidly from non-league football with Stocksbridge Park Steels and Halifax, via Fleetwood, to the Foxes.
He probably will not have had an easier finish in his entire career than the one presented to him for his 100th goal, with Barnes forcing a mistake from Palace and winning the ball before laying on an open goal for the striker to find.
His second goal was classic Vardy, though, with the striker drawing on his pace to beat the defence, and his deft touch to finish – indicative of him at his best.
It is a timely return to goalscoring form, for both the former England international and his club.
Having scored 17 goals in 19 games before the turn of the year, his form fell off a cliff in 2020, bringing him just two more goals in 10 matches. Leicester won just two of those to leave their grip on a top-four place looking very precarious.
But with Vardy back scoring, and Iheanacho a capable and willing foil, suddenly things look a lot rosier for the Foxes.
“Since the lockdown we should have had a win but we hadn’t up until now,” said Rodgers. “When you have the mentality that you have had all season, not getting those results can affect your confidence.
The players showed real determination to get back on track and get that win for us.
“We are in a brilliant position, but we have to keep up the performance level and get the results. But there are a lot of games, with not a lot of recovery time.”
Palace limping over the line
Having comfortably beaten a dire Bournemouth team before suffering at the hands of a rampant Liverpool side on the cusp of the title, Palace’s most telling result so far has been their 1-0 home loss to Burnley.
Expected to take the initiative against a side in a similar league position and with similar qualities to themselves, they were neutered by the Clarets and picked off by one moment of precision – a ploy they know only too well.
Here, they were never in the game, barring a half-chance or two – Cahill’s header and Luca Milivojevic free-kick that he curled just wide of the top corner.
Their big issue is an ongoing inability to get anything remotely approaching his best out of their most potent attacking weapon, Wilfried Zaha, who has only shown in flashes this campaign the kind of form that courted admiring glances from elsewhere.
You would barely notice he was playing, such was his position on the periphery of the action, although Christian Benteke and top-scorer Jordan Ayew also did little to impact the game.
Only Norwich (16) and Watford (14) have failed to score in more different Premier League games than Palace this season (13).
However, having earned enough points now to remain in the division for another year, largely thanks to what is usually an extremely robust defence, such attacking issues are ones Hodgson has at least one – albeit shortened – off-season to rectify.
“I thought we were in the game for a long time into the second half despite conceding that goal, which was a bad one to concede,” said Hodgson.
“We got over that disappointment and got back into the game and looked like an equaliser might be on the cards.”
Hodgson also praised Vardy, who he gave his international debut to during his time as England boss.
“I have always admired him as a player. He is a top-class striker,” he added. “I actually thought we handled him quite well in the game but he is on the spot to take those chances and get over the 100 mark.”
Man of the match – Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
Leicester double post-restart goals tally
- Leicester scored more goals in this match (3) than they had in their three previous games combined since the Premier League restart (2).
- Leicester have remained unbeaten in all of their home games against London sides in a single Premier League season for the first time since 2000-01.
- After a run of four consecutive Premier League victories, Crystal Palace have lost their last three by an aggregate score of 8-0.
- Crystal Palace mustered just one shot on target in this match, by defender Gary Cahill.
- The Eagles failed to score in the first half for the 25th time this season – more than any other side.
- Kelechi Iheanacho has scored in back-to-back Premier League games for Leicester, having netted in just one of his previous 12 in the competition.
- Harvey Barnes provided his seventh and eighth Premier League assists of the season, more than any other Leicester player.
Both teams are back in action this coming Tuesday. Palace host Chelsea in an 18:00 BST kick-off, while Leicester are at Arsenal at 20:15.