Leicester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Leicester strikers Shinji Okazaki and Ahmed Musa ended lengthy goal droughts as the Premier League champions beat Crystal Palace 3-1 on Saturday.
Claudio Ranieri’s side were on course for their first win in four league matches after Nigeria international Musa claimed his first Leicester goal in his 10th appearance since a pre-season move from CSKA Moscow.
Japan forward Okazaki doubled Leicester’s lead in the second half at the King Power Stadium with his first goal in 14 league appearances.
Austrian defender Christian Fuchs sealed the points in the closing stages with his first goal for the Foxes and Yohan Cabaye’s late reply was no consolation for Palace.
Leicester’s 20th home league game without defeat was the perfect birthday present for Ranieri, who turned 65 on Thursday, and it ensured they avoided making the worst start by reigning English champions since Leeds in 1974.
While Leicester have made a spluttering opening in the Premier League, they have looked more like the team that unexpectedly won the title during a run of three successive Champions League victories.
The latest of those memorable European wins came in midweek against Copenhagen and the positive vibes finally translated to Leicester’s domestic duties.
Okazaki replaced England striker Jamie Vardy, who was left on the bench after struggling for form and fitness of late, and the diminutive Japanese should have put Leicester ahead in the opening moments.
Palace goalkeeper Steve Mandanda kicked a clearance straight to him, but he rushed a weak shot that drifted wide.
Palace came close to a surprise opener when Martin Kelly’s cross picked out Christian Benteke and the former Liverpool striker’s powerful header beat Leicester goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, only to hit the crossbar and rebound to safety.
Leicester kept pressing and almost took the lead in fortuitous fashion when Riyad Mahrez’s shot from the edge of the penalty area deflected off Okazaki before flashing narrowly wide.
Palace had gone 13 league matches without a clean sheet and their defence was breached again in the 42nd minute as Musa fired home after Okazaki and Islam Slimani combined to set up the Nigerian forward.
Early in the second half, Danny Simpson’s cross towards Slimani was headed just wide by the Algerian, while Benteke wasn’t far from an equaliser with a header of his own.
Okazaki put Leicester firmly in control in the 63rd minute when he thumped home at the near post after Danny Drinkwater’s cross was only half cleared by Damien Delaney.
Vardy came on for the final 15 minutes, but it was Fuchs who stole the spotlight with a fine volley to make it three in the 80th minute.
Although France midfielder Cabaye netted five minutes later, there was no chance of a late Palace fightback.
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