By Rachel Steinberg, PA
Roy Hodgson’s second spell in charge of Crystal Palace began with victory as the hosts secured their first three-point haul of 2023 with a dramatic 2-1 win over Leicester at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles had struggled to score this season but looked more assertive in Hodgson’s first match back in the dugout, with his side now firmly entrenched in the relegation battle.
Despite the hosts’ registering 20 shots by half-time, it was Leicester who broke the deadlock through substitute Ricardo Pereira after the restart.
But the Eagles replied almost instantly when Eberechi Eze’s free-kick took a touch off Foxes goalkeeper Daniel Iversen before going in.
That looked to settle the result until a last-gasp effort by substitute Jean-Philippe Mateta in the fourth minute of added time ensured the hosts walked away deserved winners.
Palace entered the encounter five places above the Foxes in the table but just two points clear of their opponents, who were unbeaten in their last seven meetings with the Eagles.
Hodgson was in the dugout the last time the south London side beat Leicester, a decisive 4-1 victory at King Power Stadium.
This season Palace had only managed to score more than once six times in their 28 Premier League matches leading up to Saturday’s contest.
It was an encouraging sign for Hodgson, then, when his side registered a shot within seconds of kick-off, Odsonne Edouard feeding Wilfried Zaha whose sharp effort was blocked by Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.
Cheick Doucoure became the next Eagle to test Iversen with a low strike and the hosts soon breathed a sign of relief when Victor Kristiansen’s cross clipped the inside of the post before going out.
By the halfway point in the period Palace had more shots on target – three – than they had in three consecutive matches in 2023 in which they had registered none.
They were threatening but still searching for an opener after Joachim Andersen nodded wide from a set piece and Iversen blocked Edouard’s effort through a crowd.
The hosts looked close to breaking the deadlock when Andersen sent a lovely ball to Zaha, whose acrobatic attempt at the back post instead took a deflection off a player inside the area.
There was then a huge blow to Hodgson’s side as Zaha keeled over moments before half-time and was in tears as he left the game with what appeared to be a groin injury.
Despite registering just two shots to the hosts’ double-digit efforts, Leicester seized on a rare opportunity 11 minutes after the restart when Timothy Castagne squared the ball back to Pereira, who sent a shot past a diving Vicente Guaita into the top-left corner.
Selhurst Park erupted three minutes later as Eze directed a free-kick at the Foxes goal, catching the underside of the crossbar before the ball went in off the unfortunate Iversen.
Palace went close to going ahead in the final 10 minutes from another free-kick but this time Marc Guehi could not connect to Michael Olise’s delivery.
Hodgson’s decision to swap Edouard for Mateta in the 86th minute proved an inspired one as the latter poked home in the final seconds of stoppage time to the delight of the elated crowd and his new manager.