Newcastle United 0:3 Leicester City
City rang in the New Year with a fine performance and a 3-0 win against Newcastle at St James’ Park on Wednesday…
Brendan Rodgers made six changes to his side, bringing back the regular first teamers Ricardo, Soyuncu, Chilwell, Ndidi, Maddison and Tielemans after resting them against West Ham. Vardy (tight calf) and Praet (illness) had their break extended.
Fuchs retained his place however, with Rodgers opting for three central defenders and instructions for a high press.
City dictated the play from early on in this game, and the first chance came in the third minute. Maddison delivered a corner from the right and Evans connected with a thumping header from 6 yards. Dubravka managed to parry it away, Evans nodded the loose ball across the face of goal, but the Newcastle keeper managed to palm it away before it reached Pérez.
As City pressed forward again Chilwell fired in a low cross for Iheanacho, but Dubravka intercepted again.
Tielemans then tried his luck from 20 yards, and although Dubravka couldn’t hold on to the shot, Fernández reached the rebound just ahead of Pérez.
For all City’s possession dominance, United should have taken the lead in the 25th minute. A through-ball from Tielemans was blocked, the ball fell for Shelvey who delivered a long ball forward for Joelinton to charge after. Söyüncü displayed incredible pace to make up the yards and put enough pressure on him, while Schmeichel blocked the shot with his chest.
Chances at both ends got a bit more frequent around the half hour mark with Fuchs snuffing out a couple of Newcastle moves and Ndidi heading over from a corner.
But it was City who made a breakthrough thanks to a 36th minute gift.
Lejeune attempted a weak pass across the penalty area, Pérez nipped in to reach it ahead of Schär, before waltzing round the Swiss defender and sliding the ball home. Having been booed by his former-club’s supporters he wasn’t obliged to do one of those ‘respectful’ low key celebrations.
Maddison, another City player who’d been attracting boos from the home crowd for winning a couple of free-kicks, virtually put the game to bed three minutes later.
Again it was the generous Lejeune who set things up, attempting a clearance up the left that Ricardo easily blocked to Pérez, who squared for Maddison. He advanced a few yards into some inviting space before launching a glorious left-footer into the top corner from 22 yards.
It was almost 3-0 a couple of minutes before the break. Pérez crossed hard and low from the right, but Iheanacho didn’t quite get the right contact at the far post and Dubraka blocked on the line.
Steve Bruce had complained long and hard about the punishing schedule of fixtures and his players started to drop like flies. Manquillo and Willems both had to be substituted in first half injury time.
Bruce then had to make another change during the break, withdrawing Shelvey. And his woes increased when Schär developed hamstring trouble a couple of minutes into the second half. After attempting to play on he had to concede defeat in the 51st minute and Newcastle were down to ten men.
Maddison unleashed another fine shot in the 55th minute but Dubravka plucked it from the air. Then Tielemans sent Pérez away with a slide rule pass. The Spaniard picked out Iheanacho whose fired his shot too close to Dubravka, the rebound fell for Pérez but the overworked Newcastle keeper saved that too, before charging across goal to block a third attempt.
It was damage limitation for Newcastle now and they sat deep, as City passed and probed.
Gray replaced Iheanacho in the 63rd minute, and then Choudhury came on to a chorus of boos for Maddison, for the incident earlier this season that saw a long term injury to Matt Ritchie.
Choudhury, whose every touch was booed, didn’t let it get to him and he sealed the points in the 87th minute with a wonderful strike.
Gray cut a ball back from the left and Ndidi nudged it into the path of Choudhury on the edge of the area. His sweetly struck shot found the top right hand corner, his first goal for Leicester and a very special one.
That sparked a general exodus from the stadium which was almost empty by the time the ref’s whistle ended the game. Apart, that is, from the away section celebrating a second away win in four days.
Brendan Rodgers had nursed his squad through a very busy spell and, looking at Newcastle’s walking wounded, it had very much been the wise decision:
“We played very well in the first half with a new system. The players had great fluency. We pressed really hard. We worked them in the second half, stretched the game and it led to the third goal. All three of our goals were wonderful. James Maddison is a magical player who has so much talent and confidence. We are so happy for Hamza Choudhury to get his first goal – he’s a local boy who loves Leicester City. There is no way on this earth that you can ask players to play at the intensity we want without making a lot of changes.”
Happy New Year!
Newcastle: Dubravka, Schär (51), Fernández, Lejeune, Manquillo (Krafth 45), Hayden, Shelvey (S Longstaff 45), Willems (Yedlin 45), Muto, Almirón, Joelinton.
Substitutes: Carroll, Gayle, Darlow, Atsu
Leicester: Schmeichel, Söyüncü, Evans (Morgan 84), Fuchs, Ndidi, Ricardo, Tielemans, Maddison (Choudhury 77), Chilwell, Iheanacho (Gray 63), Pérez.
Substitutes: Justin, Albrighton, Ward, Barnes.
Referee: Martin Atkinson. Attendance: 52,178.