Leicester City defeated Newcastle United by a score of 2-0 at St. James’ Park on Saturday afternoon. A Jamie Vardy penalty and a Harry Maguire header from a corner provided the difference as City kept their second clean sheet of the season. The match lacked much in the way of quality, but a thoroughly professional performance by the visitors saw off the toothless Tynesiders in a match that will probably not be the top feature on Match of the Day.
As expected, manager Claude Puel made several changes from the lineup that started on Tuesday against Wolves in the Carabao Cup. Kasper Schmeichel reclaimed his place in goal from the impressive Danny Ward behind a back four of Daniel Amartey, Wes Morgan, Maguire, and Ben Chilwell. Nampalys Mendy and Wilfred Ndidi resumed their partnership in central midfield, with Ricardo Pereira and James Maddison on the right and left respectively (although, who are we kidding? Madders was always going to assume a more central role). Kelechi Iheanacho and Vardy, who assisted each other’s goals against Huddersfield Town, started in attack.
The match immediately settled into the sort of pace you’d (and we’d) have expected. City bossed possession for long stretches, moving the ball around patiently without creating too many chances, while the Geordies sat back and looked to hit Leicester down the wings on the counter despite their being the home side.
Newcastle’s nearly caught Leicester out on the break when Wes Morgan wandered down the right wing to the edge of the Newcastle box and lost possession, but the Foxes were saved by Ndidi throwing himself in front of a shot from near the penalty spot. Leicester’s best moves were coming from wide positions, with Ricardo going close from an extended move, and Chilwell getting free on the left to deliver teasing crosses.
City should have been behind on the quarter hour mark when Harry Maguire fell asleep and left Joselu get in behind him one-on-one with Schmeichel, but the Spanish striker dithered on the ball and Maguire was able to recover with a last-ditch sliding tackle to end the danger.
The warning bells rang yet again on 21’ when the Magpies broke down the left through Kenedy, whose cross set up brilliantly for Diame, but the Senegal man’s powerful header was wide when he really should have hit the target. A more-clinical side would have punished the Foxes by this point, but there are days when it is better to be lucky than good.
Breaking the patterns of the last few weeks, City heeded the warning and got back on the front foot. Leicester won a series of corners, with Harry Maguire’s bounced header forcing a good save from Dubravka. The Foxes won two more corners in quick succession and, on the second, Maguire’s scuffed half-volley struck DeAndre Yedlin’s upraised arms, giving the referee no choice but to point to the spot. Vardy stepped up and dispatched the ball into the lower-left hand corner to give the Foxes a 1-0 lead.
The last quarter hour played out without any significant goalmouth action on either end. Jonjo Shelvey tried an audacious lob from inside his own half, but Schmeichel was wise to it and looked severely unimpressed with the effort. There wasn’t a great deal of quality in the first half of football, but the scoreline was satisfactory and perhaps even deserved.
The second half got under way with both sides unchanged. City started brightly, pinning the home side back into their own area and winning back-to-back corners and generally controlling the run of play. There was a Newcastle penalty shout when Ayoze Perez wrapped his arms around Maguire and then threw himself to the turf, but the referee was wise to the ploy and nothing was given.
The next ten minutes or so were some of the...how can I put this nicely?....”least-attractive” football you’re likely to see this year. Both teams struggled to put more than two passes together. The tempo was quick, but the quality of play was poor at both ends of the pitch.
City carved out a couple of, let’s call them quarter-chances, from a free kick in the Newcastle half. Chilwell delivered the ball well to Maguire at the back post, but his knockdown to the feet of Morgan came to nothing. It was Maguire himself who had the next opportunity, attempting a spectacular volley from outside the area and missing the ball completely. The former Hull City man did get his boot to the next bounce, but blasted badly wide on the half-volley.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez made the first move, sending on Daryl Murphy for Matt Ritchie. Murphy’s first action was to foul Madders on the edge of the area, but the former Norwich City man’s free kick wasn’t quite of the same quality as the one against Huddersfield last week and the chance went begging.
On 72’, the Foxes doubled their lead when Kenedy bizarrely put a ball that was going out for a throw behind for a corner. Maddison’s delivery was absolutely sublime, finding the onrushing Maguire in the centre of the area, whose bullet header left the Dubravka no chance. Puel withdrew Vardy, who picked up a knock in a challenge from Shelvey, and sent Marc Albrighton into fray, with Madders moving behind Iheanacho up front.
The second goal seemed to kick the belief out of the home side. Puel sent Vicente Iborra on for Maddison to see out the final ten minutes. There was a brief scare two minutes from time when the Magpies worked the ball to Murphy on the edge of the area, but his snap shot always going wide of the post.
That was essentially that. Leicester knocked the ball around comfortably for long stretches of the final fifteen minutes as Newcastle failed to mount any serious threat of a comeback. Four minutes of time were added on without any serious incidents to report. Full time: Newcastle United 0 - 2 Leicester City.
Today’s win was no thing of beauty, but you’ll always take three points and a clean sheet away no matter how you arrive there. “Comfortable” would be the word I’d use to describe it. The Foxes struggled to create chances from open play, but they did the job defensively and in dead ball situations and there can’t be too many complaints about that.
It would be hard to say that one player stood out for the entire 90’, although this may have been Papa Mendy’s best match in a Leicester shirt. His role was crucial as Ndidi was unusually loose with his play today. Maguire was, barring a couple of worrying and/or comical moments, back to his usual excellent self. Chilwell’s running was superb even if his delivery wasn’t, and kudos to Amartey who is looking more and more comfortable at right back. The single best moment of quality goes to Madders, whose corner to Maguire couldn’t have been better.
The win brings Leicester all the way up to 7th on the table, surely silencing the “Puel out” crowd for the next week or so. Our next league match is next Saturday at the King Power against Everton, 3-0 winners over Fulham today.
Whether you're puel in or puel out, whether you think the opposition this week has not been that strong & that we should be beating anyway— Mark Goodacre (@MarkgLcfc) September 29, 2018
I think we can all agree this has been a really positive week for #LCFC
Enjoy the rest of the weekend
Couldn’t have said it better myself, Mark.