Newcastle United secured a crucial 2-1 victory over Leicester City at the King Power on Saturday.
Both sides came into this fixture off the back of successive victories and were eager to complete the hat-trick. This alleviated the pressure from Newcastle and allowed them to play with a freedom that has scarcely been seen this season.Embed from Getty Images
During early proceedings the Magpies appeared sprightly and high on the confidence gained from previous displays, asserting an air of authority on the game. Then on 17 minutes the home side were caught in possession and Newcastle broke as Dwight Gayle latched on to a looping pass, hastily dinking a further ball through to Ayoze Perez. The Spaniard surged forwards displaying astute awareness to lay a ball through to the onrushing Jonjo Shelvey, who brilliantly faked the initial shot to create a clear sight at goal. A curling effort clipped Ben Chilwell on the elbow to remain beyond the reach of Kasper Schmeichel and put the away side a goal up.
Newcastle showed intelligence in the attacking build up as Perez could have driven for goal, but instead chose to hold the play up and bring others into the game. Shelvey has been criticised for a lack of defensive discipline but showed much greater determination to be involved in the final third and created his own luck with the finish.Embed from Getty Images
Leicester steadily grew into the first half but produced few clear cut opportunities. However, on 40 minutes Riyad Mahrez latched onto an exquisite ball through from Adrien Silva and found himself with plenty of space down the right channel. The Algerian burst into the penalty area and drew a challenge from Paul Dummett, the defender retracted his outstretched leg at the last minute. Despite this, Mahrez had begun to topple before any nudge occurred, the official’s saw right through it and Claude Puel will be rightfully disappointed with his star man’s decision making.
Newcastle came out from the break with a deserved lead and continued to sit pack early in the second half, defending the lead they had earnt, whilst also playing to Leicester’s weakness. This produced very few noteworthy chances, until in the 74th minute a clearance was pumped up field and Wes Morgan completely misread the path of the ball. Perez was now exposed, easily exposing the Jamaicans lack of pace and Harry Maguire made a tentative attempt to challenge for the loose ball. Once again Perez showed superb vision to spectacularly loft the bouncing ball over the onrushing Schmeichel and into the gaping net – thus doubling Newcastle’s advantage.
Another breakaway goal for the Magpies was slightly fortunate to be defended so poorly, and Leicester leave themselves with it all to do in the last 16 minutes.
With just 8 minutes of normal time remaining, Leicester have control of possession but can’t find any gaps to exploit through a resolute wall of black and white shirts. Play is transitioned out wide and with an intelligent piece of trickery Demari Grey generates room for a cross and loops it to Shinji Okazaki at the far post. The Japanese international had the foresight to knock the ball back across goal for Jamie Vardy to prod home from two yards out.
Vardy caused little problems all game but showed great instinct to be in perfect position to slot home. Though it was well worked from the Foxes, Dubravka in the away goal was uncharacteristically poor by hesitating when coming to challenge for the cross.
Thus setting up a tense finale to the affair, yet it wasn’t to be for the on looking home fans as their goal proved to be nothing more than a conciliation.Embed from Getty Images
Newcastle’s game plan of soaking up pressure and pouncing on opportunities worked to the desired effect on Saturday, thanks in most part to a little good fortune and a man of the match performance from Perez.
The result leaves Newcastle on the cusp of safety, needing just two points from their remaining six games to amass the all-important 40 mark. Continuing this late surge could see them finishing in the top half of the table, they currently lie 10th with a game in hand over Everton above them. After the otherworldly difference in spending between the sides, it would be quite an achievement to finish above the Toffee’s. A poor display coupled with a Burnley win leaves Leicester six points behind Sean Dyche’s men, they’ll have to get a result against when they face one another if the Foxes have any hope of European competition next season.
Written by Harvey Sayer.