Leicester City mauled Newcastle United by a score of 4-0 at the King Power on Sunday afternoon. A first-half Youri Tielemans penalty and goals by Patson Daka, James Maddison, and Tielemans after the break gave City a comfortable margin as the Foxes kept their first clean sheet since opening day despite losing Jonny Evans to a hamstring injury.
Manager Brendan Rodgers made only two changes to the side that lost 3-2 to Napoli on Thursday. The starting XI: Kasper Schmeichel (C), Timothy Castagne, Jonny Evans, Çağlar Söyüncü, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, Youri Tielemans, Wilfred Ndidi, James Maddison, Harvey Barnes, and Patson Daka.
It took less than five minutes for disaster to strike, but at least it was a novel form of disaster. Defending a ball over the top to Joelinton, Evans pulled up with a hamstring problem and was unable to continue. With both Jannik Vestergaard and Daniel Amartey unavailable, Rodgers introduced Boubakary Soumare and dropped Ndidi into central defence.
The Foxes compensated for the makeshift back line by denying the Magpies any possession at all. City had 70% of the ball over the first half-hour, ensuring that Schmeichel was essentially a spectator in the early going. This should not be mistaken for “dominance” as Leicester didn’t look especially threatening, managing only a Madders free kick that hit the top of the net and a Ndidi header that was saved by Martin Dúbravka.
City took the lead in a somewhat dubious fashion just before the 40’ mark. Tielemans robbed Jonjo Shelvey just outside the Newcastle area. He slipped it to Maddison, who spotted Jamal Lascelles extended leg and went over it in dramatic fashion. The referee pointed to the spot and VAR confirmed it, so it was a penalty, but it there wasn’t a whole lot in it. Tielemans took it in Vardy’s absence and blasted it into the roof of the net for Leicester’s first penalty of the year.
Newcastle attempted to hit back and pumped several dangerous balls into the box, but nothing came of it. Leicester went into the tunnel up 1-0, clearly the better of two sides, but perhaps a bit fortunate to have the lead.
The Foxes got the second half started in style, doubling the lead through a sublime team goal. Good work on the left by Thomas, Tielemans, and Dewsbury-Hall resulted in the ball falling to Madders just outside the box. HIs first-time flick was inch-perfect and put Barnes in behind the entire Geordie defence. One-on-one with Dúbravka, he selflessly squared it to Daka, who finished into an empty net from close range.
Are we not doing phrasing anymore?
With twenty minutes to play, Rodgers went to the bench and brought on Marc Albrighton for Barnes. Newcastle were, if not on the front foot, then at least on their feet and trying to get forward more. They very nearly pulled one back on 75’, or rather, City nearly gave it to them. Castagne’s rushed back pass from forty yards forced Schmeichel to hasten back and clear it off the line at full stretch.
The game was done and dusted just minutes later. Thomas won the ball on the left-wing and set Daka on his merry way. The Zambia man cut it back for Madders, who slid it to Tielemans all alone on the right side of the box. The former Monaco man made no mistake, blasting it into the roof of the net from five yards.
It’s not trolling if you...wait, no. This is most definitely trolling. Well played, Mr. Lineker.
It was four just three minutes later. Madders beat Joelinton in the air deep in the Newcastle half and tapped it to Daka, who returned it as the former Norwich City man continued his run. Behind all defenders, he smashed it left-footed across Dúbravka and into the back of the net. Job done, Rodgers withdrew Madders and handed Kasey McAteer his debut.
It wasn’t a terribly long debut, as the Foxes saw out the last few minutes of regular time and three minutes of stoppage time without any drama to speak of.
The biggest takeaway from this match was the sense of relief on the pitch as we finally won without any nail-biting and kept a clean sheet despite losing Evans in the first five minutes. It’s worth noting that, following Evans' departure, none of the outfield players were older than 25. Some of these players have been here so long and played at such a high level that it’s easy to forget just how young they are.
Alas, it wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. At this time, we don’t know the extent of Evans’ injury, but there’s no playing through a hamstring injury. There’s a very real chance we won’t see him again until mid-January. After a rough start, Ndidi was quite good at the back but that is not an ideal use of our midfield destroyer.
The victory gives us 22 points from 16 matches and moves us up to 8th on the table. There’s no rest for the wicked as we host Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday. A week from today, we line up against Everton at Goodison Park a good hour and a half before sunrise where I am, so that’s something to look forward to.