Brendan Rodgers defends decision to rest Leicester players in draw with Palace

Brendan Rodgers defended his decision to rotate key players after Leicester were held to a 1-1 draw by Crystal Palace.

James Maddison was not even part of the squad at Selhurst Park while top goalscorer Jamie Vardy was only on the bench, with seven changes made to the team which drew 2-2 with Manchester United on Boxing Day.

In the end the Foxes were indebted to Harvey Barnes, one of four players who started 48 hours earlier, to salvage a point with his fine 83rd-minute equaliser cancelling out Wilfried Zaha’s opener early in the second half.

While Leicester have moved up to second, the general feeling at full-time was they had let points slip in the race to catch leaders Liverpool, who visit Newcastle on Wednesday.

“James Maddison wasn’t fit so he couldn’t travel and Vards is managing an issue so to start him was always going to be really difficult, but we tried to get him into the game for half an hour,” Rodgers explained.

“If we felt we could play all the same players all the time and the team that played at the weekend, we would have done, but I have to trust the players.

“The performance today should have been enough to get the result and win. It didn’t and we accept that. If there is any blame, it is certainly on me because I pick the team.”

Kelechi Iheanacho was the man tasked with replacing Vardy and he squandered the chance to open the scoring in the 19th minute when he had a penalty saved by Vicente Guaita.

He also headed over from close range on the half-hour mark to cap a frustrating afternoon for the ex-Manchester City striker in the capital.

Rodgers added: “Kelechi is a boy that gives everything in training and he doesn’t get too many opportunities, but he has shown in the Europa League where he has performed really well for us.

“Ironically yesterday because Jamie wasn’t starting, him and Ayoze Perez were the two designated penalty takers and Kelechi got five out of five penalties.

“Great penalties and different types so it was a great opportunity but he seemed a little bit hesitant with it. He had another good chance at the near post, a good cross from Dennis (Praet), but it didn’t quite fall for him.”

After a dogged defensive display in the first half, Palace showed more intent after the break and were rewarded when Zaha brilliantly volleyed them ahead in the 58th minute following an inch-perfect Andros Townsend cross.

Barnes ensured it was not a return to winning ways, but after shipping 10 goals in defeats to Liverpool and Aston Villa, it was a step in the right direction for boss Roy Hodgson, who admitted strong words from assistant Ray Lewington at half-time had the desired effect.

He said: “We played well second half, I am really delighted with the second-half performance which was back to the Crystal Palace I have been used to seeing and what we are capable of doing.

“I wasn’t at all happy with the first half, and Ray Lewington at half-time was almost apoplectic in his criticism with what we were doing in that half, but luckily it produced the required effect.

“I thought we came out for the second half and did so much better and as a result one must feel it is a pity we couldn’t hold on to it.

“But if you look at the game over the 90 minutes – we had to save a penalty to stay 0-0, they were so clearly better than us in the first half and they are a good team, so I think I am pleased with a point and most pleased of all that we have broken a very nasty sequence that has damaged our confidence and caused us a lot of pain.”