Leicester City defeated 10-man Newcastle 5-0 at the King Power in Sunday’s only match this weekend. Ricardo gave the hosts a 1-0 first half lead while the Magpies were reduced to 10 men before half-time when Isaac Hayden was shown a straight red for his challenge on Dennis Praet. The Foxes were rampant in the second period, scoring four times via a Vardy brace, a Paul Dummett own goal, and a late Wilfred Ndidi strike.
As expected, manager Brendan Rodgers made a handful of changes to the lineup that saw off Luton Town in the League Cup on Tuesday. And, when I say “as expected”, I mean “I literally wrote out this lineup last night because it seemed pretty obvious.” Kasper Schmeichel returned in goal behind our first-choice back four of Ricardo Pereira, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, and Ben Chilwell. Wildred Ndidi was the lone holding midfielder, slotting in behind Ayoze Perez, Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, and Harvey Barnes. Jamie Vardy, as always, got the nod up top.
The Foxes almost had a perfect start to the match with a genuinely daft move. A through ball on the edge of the area found Vardy in space but he was a yard offside. The flag went up, but the striker peeled of and let Barnes run onto the ball and center it for Ayoze. The former Newcastle man got the ball caught under his feet and could only direct it at the keeper when scoring looked the more likely result.
While Leicester were bossing possession and carrying the most threat, the Magpies were looking industrious in possession and ought to have taken the lead on 12’. Isaac Hayden, correctly identified as the Newcastle danger man by our own Jack Lee, was given far too much time on the edge of the box. He scuffed his shot badly, but sent it directly into the path of Yoshinori Muto who was all alone six yards from the goal. Fortunately, the Japan international was as surprised as the rest of us by the quality of the “pass” and he failed to make any contact at all.
The Foxes were on top on the quarter hour mark thanks to a magnificent solo effort from Ricardo. The former Porto man played a one-two with Praet on the right wing and just drove directly towards the net. This tactic seemed to take Newcastle by surprise as no one picked him up. Vardy’s run carried a couple of defenders away, so when the Portugal defender looked up, he was alone in the penalty area. He took the shot left-footed, curling it just inside the far post and giving Leicester a well-deserved early lead.
A little unusually, the goal didn’t really change the game significantly. Leicester continued to boss possession and, while the Geordies would pour forward with purpose when they won the ball back, they invariably were the architects of their own demise. The was perfectly demonstrated on 38’ when Praet and Hayden went into a 50/50 challenge just outside the Leicester area. The Newcastle man committed 100% to the challenge, winning the ball, but catching the Belgium international with both feet, shins, knees, hips, and, pretty much everything else in the #14 short. The referee didn’t hesitate to produce a straight red, reducing Newcastle to 10 men.
Newcastle manager Steve Bruce withdrew Muto before the half in favor of Ki Sung-Yueng in an attempt to tighten up the defense. Spoiler alert: It wouldn’t work.
The teams emerged unchanged from the tunnel and so too did the run of play. If anything, Leicester’s sense of urgency ticked up a notch or two. Presumably, Brendan Rodgers’ half-time talk was something along the lines of “You know, you’re playing at home against the lowest-scoring time in English football and they’re down to 10 men...you might get some goals, yeah?”
It took nine minutes for Leicester to double the lead and put the game beyond doubt. A ball over the top found the just-onside Barnes, who slipped the ball into Vardy. The former Fleetwood Town hitman was one-on-one with goalkeeper Martin Dubravka who got a hand to the low drive, but was unable to keep it from crossing the line.
Quick, get Mr. Ronaldo’s statue-maker on the line!
It was 3-0 just three minutes later. A neatly worked counter-attack saw the ball fall to Praet in the Newcastle area. His cross-shot might have been goal-bound, but a deflection off of Paul Dummett wrong-footed the keeper and put the game beyond all doubt.
With the job done, Rodgers took off Barnes and introduced Marc Albrighton. The former Villa man’s first contribution was to tee up Vardy, but that didn’t prevent him from trying again just a few minutes later. On 64’, Albrighton took the ball on the left wing, cut inside, and fired in a cross to the far post. Vardy’s run was timed perfectly and he had the simplest task to head it past Dubravka for his second and Leicester’s fourth.
STOP PRESS: Vardy has got his second of the afternoon against Newcastle for his 85th Premier League goal and in the process passing Ronaldo's 84.— Mr Geoff Peters (@mrgeoffpeters) September 29, 2019
The intensity dropped a little at this point and so too did the frequency of Leicester goals. Rodgers took off Praet and Ayoze for Demarai Gray and Hamza Choudhury. The Foxes continued to have something approaching 100% of the possession but seemed content to knock it around rather than press for more goals.
Another goal came anyway, mind you. A long ball into the box pinballed around and fell to Ndidi who turned and scuffed a low shot inside the far post to provide the final 5-0 margin of victory. It was lax defending by the visitors who looked well and truly beaten, probably because that’s exactly what they were.
More of that, please. You’d think that a home match against a team that was already in a relegation scrap and was reduced to ten men in the first half would be a simple task, and today, it was. However, it wasn’t that long ago that Leicester struggled to break down packed defenses and regularly suffered reverses in exactly this sort of fixture. Today represents Progress-with-a-captial-”P” for the Foxes, who, without their most creative player, managed to carve up a determined back line and win easily.
Were there standout performances? We won 5-0, what do you think? The attack will rightly get the bulk of the plaudits, and rightly so, but it’s also worth noting that Newcastle managed only three shots and failed to get one on target. The centre-halfs and Ndidi kept everything calm and broke up each Newcastle attack with a minimum of fuss.
The win returns us to third on the table with 14 points from 7 matches and a vastly-more-impressive +8 goal differential. Next up, we travel to Merseyside to take on top-of-the-table Liverpool. We haven’t taken a point at Anfield since...*checks notes*...last year. All jokes aside, this is a big, big match for both clubs and ought to be entertaining. After that, it’s another #$%$%& international break and then home to Burnley on the 19th.
My sister’s husband supports Liverpool, so this isn’t personal for me at all.