Both sides struggled to create chances in a drab first half until Milivojevic beat Foxes keeper Kasper Schmeichel from 25 yards out with a powerful, curling shot. Crystal Palace secured their first Premier League victory without Wilfried Zaha in over two years thanks to captain Luka Milivojevic’s superb strike in a scrappy win against Leicester at Selhurst Park.
Jamie Vardy earlier had a goal disallowed for a foul on Vicente Guaita as the returning striker caught the Palace keeper, making his Premier League debut, dawdling on the ball. After the interval, Guaita made a fine save to deny Vardy – flicking the ball onto the inside of the post and claiming the rebound.
That was as close as Leicester came, with Demarai Gray and substitute Rachid Ghezzal both sliding efforts narrowly wide. Palace also failed to exploit the openings they found but held firm under concerted pressure in the closing stages to claim a potentially vital win and move five points clear of the relegation zone.
Palace had lost their previous 13 league matches without talismanic winger Zaha – who was suspended on Saturday – a run stretching back to a 3-2 victory at Sunderland in September 2016.
The hosts still sorely missed him against Leicester, with Andros Townsend and Jordan Ayew both working hard but lacking Zaha’s creativity.
Despite not carrying much threat up front, Palace got through with a resolute performance from their defence and midfield, and a moment of exquisite quality.
Townsend and Aaron Wan-Bissaka worked the ball down the right but could not find a way through. It found its way to Milivojevic in a more central position and the Serbia midfielder took a touch before hitting a fine, arcing shot into the far corner.
Elsewhere, James McArthur, freed up from his nominal role on the right of a midfield four to run in between the lines, was excellent and caused Leicester problems. And Martin Kelly – in for the suspended James Tomkins – epitomised a largely solid defensive display from the hosts, routinely beating Vardy to head clear Leicester crosses.
Eagles still need a goalscorer
Palace will not be able to rely on sublime strikes from central midfielders all season and manager Roy Hodgson, despite his pre-match claim there are already “players within our ranks who can score goals”, should consider signing a goalscorer in January.
Palace has just five goals in eight league games at home this season, with only Huddersfield scoring fewer. Ayew was a willing runner throughout – a little too keen in straying offside several times – but he and Townsend lack a clinical edge, with both having shots blocked when free on the edge of the Leicester area.
Despite his overall importance, Zaha has not offered much of a goal threat this season either – the Ivorian has failed to score since netting three times in his first four appearances. Christian Benteke is still to come back from injury but only scored three times in a poor 2017-18 season, while Alexander Sorloth is yet to score in the league since joining in January.
Connor Wickham is also close to a return to the starting side but it may be asking a lot of him to provide the goals Palace will need to avoid a nervy relegation battle after a torrid spell out with a serious knee injury.
Man of the match – James McArthur (Crystal Palace)
Leicester still lacking
The Foxes are a curious side to watch this season. They have an assured goalkeeper, a solid defence, two capable defensive midfielders, tricky wingers and the menacing pace of Vardy up front.
And yet they are adding up to less than the sum of those parts. As a result, they are 11th in the table on 22 points, having scored and conceded 21 goals.
Following defeat by Spurs last time out, they were flat again on Saturday and never really did enough to justify an equaliser – apart from Vardy’s misfortune at seeing his poked effort not deflect in off the inside of the post after Guaita’s save on 79 minutes.
Manager Claude Puel made a change at half-time, bringing Rachid Ghezzal on for James Maddison and pushing Gray up front before later replacing him with Kelechi Iheanacho. However, aside from a fine run by Gray and Vardy’s chance, it made little difference, with the visitors only mustering two shots on target against a supposedly vulnerable Palace side.
‘We ground it out’ – reaction
Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson, speaking to BBC Sport: “In the first half I thought we were very good. “We lost Cheikhou Kouyate in the second half and when he had come off it handed the ascendancy to Leicester. We then had to make certain we worked hard and ground out the victory.
“We did not concede that many chances – the one we did that I thought they would score we had a stroke of fortune. “Martin Kelly deserves a special mention. To come in with not many games behind him and play like he did, he deserves an enormous pat on the back.”
Leicester boss Claude Puel, speaking to BBC Sport: “We did not start the game with the right intensity. We played a poor first half, it was not enough.
“We came back in the second half with a good intensity and quality. We had three or four chances to come back into the game. We deserved to come back but it is a big disappointment because we need the points.
“We were unlucky at the end but we lost three points. It is important to correct this and to play a consistent game from the start until the end.”
Leicester do not like London – stats
- Crystal Palace have won consecutive home league games for the first time since their final three matches at Selhurst Park in 2017-18.
- Leicester are without a win in their past 10 Premier League visits to London (D4 L6), since a 3-2 win against West Ham in March 2017.
- Palace have won and kept a clean sheet in their past three league games against Leicester.
- Since his Premier League debut in February 2017, Luka Milivojevic has scored more goals in the competition for Crystal Palace than any other player.
- Andros Townsend has been directly involved in three goals in his past two league matches for Palace at Selhurst Park (one goal, two assists), one more than he managed in his previous 14.
Palace are away at Manchester City in the Premier League on Saturday, 22 December (kick-off 15:00 GMT).
Source: BBC News