Kelechi Iheanacho Is Fulfilling His Potential As Leicester Hunt Champions League

The Nigerian scored a crucial winner to keep their top four hopes alive...
22:20, 26 Apr 2021

Kelechi Iheanacho is finally living up to his potential in a Leicester City shirt. His winning goal in Leicester’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace was the strike of a man brimming with confidence, now with nine goals in his past seven games. That win takes Leicester another step closer to Champions League football next term, when questions were being asked of the Foxes when 1-0 down.

Iheanacho’s turnaround at the King Power has been nothing short of remarkable. A £25m man back in 2017, the Nigerian has struggled for consistent game time and this season, he was still playing second fiddle to Jamie Vardy - starting just three league games this term before the end of February. 

Then, an injury crisis hit and Brendan Rodgers was forced to change tact. Instead of his 4-2-3-1 system, with Ashley Barnes and James Maddison out, the Northern Irishman switched to a 5-3-2 system, providing space for both of his strikers. 

The partnership between the two has worked better than he could have possibly imagined, but the signs have always been there. That is now 28 goals in 27 games for the pair when they have played together while Iheanacho has netted 14 goals in his last 14 appearances in all competitions, as many as he managed in his previous 76 for the Foxes.

It was an epic turnaround after a difficult game for the hosts as an impressive Palace took the lead early on. Christian Benteke put in a strong challenge on Wilfried Ndidi to win the ball back as Ebere Eze then slid the ball through to Wilfried Zaha, who made no mistake when one on one. Zaha has been involved in seven goals in his last seven Premier League appearances against Leicester, scoring six and assisting one, while this finish equalled his best league goals tally of ten - but his good performance would be overshadowed by that of Leicester’s number 14.

The Foxes starting eleven just weren’t looking as sharp as usual. Maddison, who looked way off the pace as he continued his recovery from a hip injury, flashed the ball across the six yard box but both strikers didn’t gamble as Rodgers searched for the answer to break down a stubborn Palace side, who had set up with five across midfield. 

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Leicester were much brighter at the start of the second period and got their equaliser after some excellent work from the in-form Iheanacho. The Nigerian collected the ball inside the box before laying it off to the oncoming Timothy Castagne who fired the ball into the top corner with his left foot. 

Palace remained dangerous on the break and wasted a golden opportunity to go in front as Zaha released Jairo Riedewald who when one on one, attempted to roll the ball to Christian Benteke rather than go for goal himself. Jonny Evans got back in time to intercept a certain goal and keep Leicester’s Champions League hopes on track.

The Belgian forward then saw his close range header saved by Schmeichel as Palace created lots without the cutting edge up top. As the game progressed, Leicester began to push further forward with Vardy and Tielemans going close but it was to be Iheanacho who bagged a sensational winner. With little room to manoeuvre, latched onto a long ball and cut back, before firing the ball venomously past Vincente Guaita. 

Leicester’s Champions League hopes are well on track, and their £25m man is finally proving why they bought him in the first place. If he fires them to a top four finish, that investment will look like a bargain.

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