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Football: Leicester seal vital win over Palace

April 27, 2021 09:32 IST
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Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho celebrate on netting the late winner against Crystal Palace on Monday

IMAGE: Leicester City's Kelechi Iheanacho celebrate on netting the late winner against Crystal Palace on Monday. Photograph: Leicester City/Twitter

In-form Kelechi Iheanacho's late stunner earned Leicester City a crucial 2-1 home victory over Crystal Palace which tightened their grip on third place in the Premier League on Monday.

Nigerian Iheanacho set up Leicester's equaliser for Timothy Castagne just after halftime, then smashed home an 80th-minute winner to complete the turnaround at the King Power Stadium.

 

He has now scored 12 goals in his last nine games in all competitions for Leicester who are closing in on a place in next season's Champions League.

Thirteenth-placed Palace were the better side in the first half and took the lead through Wilfried Zaha in the 12th minute.

Leicester responded well though to claim the win that moved them seven points ahead of fifth-placed West Ham United.

They have 62 points from 33 games played, five behind second-placed Manchester United and four ahead of Chelsea.

If Leicester do go on to secure the top-four finish that eluded them last season after a late slump, they will have the 24-year-old Iheanacho to thank.

The former Manchester City player was a bit-part player earlier in the season but he has taken his game to new heights since February as Jamie Vardy's strike partner.

"He is a talented player and when you are a striker the rhythm of games is important and over the last few months he has been absolutely incredible," Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers said of Iheanacho's impact.

"The goal he scored tonight was sheer quality."

With Leicester looking for some inspiration, Iheanacho showed great strength in the 50th minute to get on the end of Youri Tielemans' pass, shrug off Cheikhou Kouyate and lay the ball back for Castagne to blast into the top corner.

As Leicester pushed for the winner, Vardy had a goal disallowed for offside and then fired across the face of goal from a tight angle after being played in by Iheanacho.

But Iheanacho produced a moment of stunning quality to seal the points. He showed a great touch to take down a searching pass by Jonny Evans, then cut inside before arrowing an unstoppable shot past Palace keeper Vicente Guaita.

Earlier in the night Leicester had looked nervous against a Palace side playing with freedom.

Palace took the lead when Tielemans lost the ball in midfield and Eberechi Eze sprinted away before slipping the perfect pass to Zaha who shot past Kasper Schmeichel.

Even after Castagne's equaliser, Leicester continued to suffer as Palace somehow failed to regain the lead when Jairo Riedewald burst through on goal but instead of taking the chance himself he tried to find Christian Benteke and Evans got back to make a last-ditch intervention.

It was not the best display by Leicester but all that mattered for Rodgers was the victory.

"It was a very important win for us. It was the third game in nine days so a tough schedule," he said.

"Going one behind against a Roy (Hodgson) team, they're super organised and tough to break down.

"I thought the players were outstanding. They kept the calmness and control and scored two very good goals."

AFC Champions League: FC Goa play out yet another draw

FC Goa conceded an 89th minute goal to squander the chance to become the first Indian club to win a match in the prestigious AFC Champions League (ACL) as they played out a 1-1 draw with Al Rayyan of Qatar in Margao on Monday.

Jorge Ortiz gave FC Goa the lead in the third minute of the Group E match but Ali Ferydoon equalised with just a minute left in the regulation time.

Al Rayyan had the majority of possession in the first half but it was an even contest in the second session.

The Indian Super League side went out of reckoning for a knock-out berth after Al Wahda of the UAE beat last season runners-up Persepolis FC 1-0 in another Group E match played earlier in the day.

Persepolis are still on the top group standings with 12 points while Al Wahda are second with 10 points. FC Goa are third with three points and Al Rayyan at the bottom with two points.

All the four teams have one match remaining in the double round-robin league.

The top team in each of the five groups and three best runners-up sides advance to the Round of 16 knock-outs. 

FC Goa had played out a 0-0 draw with Al Rayyan in their first leg match before holding Al Wahda to another goalless draw. The Goan side then lost to Persepolis FC 1-2 and 0-4 in the double header.

FC Goa's last match against Al Wahda on Thursday will thus be an inconsequential one.

Lazio cruise past AC Milan to keep top four dream alive

Lazio revived their hopes of Champions League qualification and subjected AC Milan to a second consecutive Serie A defeat as Joaquin Correa scored twice in a 3-0 win for the Roman club at the Stadio Olimpico on Monday.

Milan are in fifth place, level on 66 points with Napoli and Juventus and two points behind Atalanta, while Lazio are five points behind with a game in hand.

The Argentine international struck the opener after 77 seconds before beating his marker to fire home a superb second after the break.

Ciro Immobile fired in a third for Lazio late on, as the sixth-placed side earned a 10th consecutive home win that takes them up to 61 points.

"Now we need to show that we are strong, like I believe we are," Milan coach Stefano Pioli told Sky Italia.

"We must react straight away, because this is a heavy defeat."

The stakes were high for both teams ahead of kickoff, with Lazio needing a win to keep their top four hopes alive and Milan looking to avoid another setback after losing 2-1 to Sassuolo last week.

Correa put Lazio in front after 77 seconds when he exchanged passes with Immobile before calmly rounding the goalkeeper to tap in.

Manuel Lazzari fired home Lazio's second on the brink of halftime, but the goal was disallowed by VAR as the wing-back was narrowly offside.

The hosts doubled their lead six minutes into the second half when Correa dribbled past Fikayo Tomori and shot into the roof of the net.

Referee Daniele Orsato consulted VAR for a potential foul in the build-up, but allowed the goal to stand.

Correa was close to a hat-trick when his fierce angled drive was tipped wide by the diving Gianluigi Donnarumma, and Immobile was inches away from a goal when his lob came back off the post.

The Italy striker eventually found the net when he fired into the corner with three minutes remaining, but Franck Kessie almost grabbed a Milan consolation when his glancing header came back off the bar.

Napoli go fourth at Juventus' expense with win over Torino

Napoli climbed above Juventus into fourth place in Serie A with a 2-0 win at relegation-threatened Torino on Monday thanks to early goals from Tiemoue Bakayoko and Victor Osimhen.

Gennaro Gattuso’s side went level with the champions on 66 points, but leapfrogged them in the standings due to their superior goal difference, as the two sides’ head-to-head record is even.

Third-placed AC Milan also have 66 points but face Lazio later on Monday, while Atalanta in second are two points further ahead in a close race for Champions League qualification.

Bakayoko fired home a swerving shot from the edge of the box after 11 minutes, and Napoli had their second two minutes later when Osimhen’s effort was deflected into the bottom corner.

The visitors came close to making the win more comfortable as Piotr Zielinski and Lorenzo Insigne efforts rattled the post either side of the break, before Torino midfielder Rolando Mandragora picked up a second yellow card late on.

Torino remain 16th with 31 points, level with Cagliari and Benevento below them, but Davide Nicola’s side have a game in hand.

Ibrahimovic and Lukaku fined for verbal spat

AC Milan striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Inter Milan's Romelu Lukaku have been fined for unsportsmanlike conduct following an investigation into a verbal clash between the pair during a Coppa Italia match in January.

The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) said on Monday that Ibrahimovic had been fined 4,000 euros ($4,834), Lukaku 3,000 euros, AC Milan 2,000 euros and Inter 1,250 euros.

The two former Manchester United team mates exchanged insults during the cup quarter-final on Jan. 26 and Lukaku had to be restrained at the end of the first half after being left incensed by Ibrahimovic’s comments.

Both players were fined for “unsportsmanlike behaviour with provocative phrases”, while the clubs were punished due to their responsibility for the conduct of their players.

UEFA investigating Ibrahimovic's alleged ties to betting company

UEFA have appointed an Ethics and Disciplinary Inspector to conduct an investigation into Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for having an "alleged financial interest in a betting company", European soccer's governing body said on Monday.

Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported earlier this month that Ibrahimovic, 39, is a part-owner of betting company Bethard who he teamed up with in 2018.

FIFA's Code of Ethics state a player cannot have interests in entities or companies that "promote, broker, arrange or conduct betting, gambling, lotteries or similar events or transactions connected with football matches and competitions".

Ibrahimovic had quit international football after the 2016 European Championship but returned to Sweden's national team for their World Cup qualifiers last month while he also played in UEFA's Europa League for AC Milan this season.

If found guilty, Ibrahimovic would have to pay a fine of 100,000 Swiss francs ($109,373) and would be banned from any football related activity for a maximum of three years.

Last week Ibrahimovic signed a one-year contract extension that will keep him at AC Milan beyond his 40th birthday.

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