Newcastle 0 City 3
Report by Colin Hall
On Boxing Day, many Leicester City fans left the King Power Stadium chastened and despondent after a dispiriting defeat by Liverpool. There were genuine fears that the side were about to suffer another mid-season slump which would undo and reverse the significant progress it has made during the last four months.
Fortunately, though, such anxieties have largely been dispelled, following two away victories which have not only enabled the Foxes to maintain a grip on second spot, but also to extend the lead on 5th-placed Manchester United to an astonishing FOURTEEN points.
The latest victory, at St James’ Park, was achieved in some comfort against hosts who themselves were struggling to find form, confidence, and – as events transpired – fitness too.
When certain managers complain to the media about players suffering injuries as a result of honest opposition challenges, perhaps they should give the same amount of scrutiny to their own training schedules.
Meanwhile Brendan Rodgers was able to recall several players rested for the win at West Ham, except for Jamie Vardy. who it later emerged was suffering with a slight calf strain. The City boss sprang a surprise with the retention of Christian Fuchs in a 3-5-2 formation, perhaps as a means of dealing with whatever aerial threat the home side may have presented.
In front of what was officially a capacity crowd – although empty rows, and even blocks, were evident in several parts of the ground throughout the game – City started strongly, with Jonny Evans forcing home keeper Dubravka into action early on.
Although the visitors generally held the upper hand during the first half, with James Maddison playing a prominent role, the reshaped defence had to be alert to repel sporadic home attacks, with Kasper Schmeichel thwarting both Schär and Joelinton.
After Wilfred Ndidi had squandered a glorious chance to put City ahead, heading a Maddison cross over from close range, the visitors finally made the breakthrough nine minutes before the break. Ayoze Pérez, returning to his former haunt, seized upon a wayward pass from Lejeune to fire past Dubravka.
As the home defence was left reeling, City struck again three minutes later, when Ricardo intercepted another stray ball from Lejeune and enabled Pérez to tee up Maddison for a 20-yard drive which gave the home keeper no chance.
Newcastle suffered further blows during the remaining minutes of the half, with both wing-backs being forced off injured. City almost exploited this disarray further, but Dubravka somehow denied Kelechi Iheanacho from point-blank range.
Any hope the beleagured hosts may have had of regaining a foothold in the game was effectively ended soon after the interval when, with Shelvey also having been subbed, Schär limped off, thus reducing them to 10 men.
It was clear that damage limitation was now the home side’s only hope, and they defended in depth in an effort to avoid a Southampton-style hiding, although Dubravka produced a fine double save on the hour to stop Iheanacho and Pérez from extending City’s lead.
With the game safely in the bag, and a busy January schedule looming, City were content not to unduly exert themselves for the remainder of the game, although sub Hamza Choudhury finished off a fine move with a precise 20-yard strike three minutes from time to give the scoreline extra gloss.
Any damage to morale caused by the two recent defeats appears to have been well and truly banished. The only concerns from this game were Ben Chilwell’s distribution, which again failed to reach the standard he often produces in an England shirt, and the continuing indifferent form of Youri Tielemans.
In overall terms, though, this team appears well set to make 2020 another special year in the history of the club.
Newcastle (3-4-3): Dubravka; Schär, Fernandez, Lejeune; Manquillo (Krafth 45 + 3), Hayden, Shelvey (S Longstaff ht), Willems (Yedlin 45); Almiron, Muto, Joelinton. Subs not used: Darlow, Atsu, Gayle, Carroll.
Leicester (3-5-2): Schmeichel; Evans (Morgan 84), Söyüncü, Fuchs; Ricardo, Ndidi, Tielemans, Maddison (Choudhury 77), Chilwell; Pérez, Iheanacho (Gray 63). Subs not used: Ward, Justin, Albrighton, Barnes.
Goals: Pérez (36), Maddison 39, Choudhury (87).
Referee: Martin Atkinson Attendance (officially): 52178
The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation