Ayoze Perez’s seventh goal of the Premier League campaign means Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle have all but sealed their Premier League status for 2019/20 after an important 1-0 away win against Leicester this evening.
It was an important fixture for both sides: Leicester looking to continue their good recent form, while Newcastle were eager to silence any doubts over their Premier League status for the 2019/20 campaign after a string of inconsistent results saw them hovering near the relegation places.
The hosts started brightly, emphasised by their dominance in possession to accompany the joy that Youri Tielemans and James Maddison had in creative areas. Newcastle players were visibly struggling to mark them tightly as they interchanged positions ahead of Wilfred Ndidi, though Jamie Vardy was patiently waiting for his chance to strike with three central defenders to beat.
Rondon’s stinging effort prompts response
However, that all drastically shifted after 15 minutes. Salomon Rondon – who scored a free-kick against Bournemouth on March 16 – hit the crossbar from distance with an excellent set-piece. Newcastle, chasing shadows before that, suddenly had renewed belief that they could earn a favourable result after the manner of Rondon’s effort and how close they were to scoring.
Despite Harvey Barnes’ mazy run and shot, the Foxes struggled to create any real goalscoring opportunities to trouble goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. Instead, it was Newcastle who struck first: Ayoze Perez exposing Wes Morgan’s sloppy marking to head home at the near post after Matt Richie’s teasing delivery.
Morgan, 35, signed a new one-year extension last month and had netted twice in their last three games. But his defensive lapses in concentration reappeared as he was caught flat-footed and unaware of the Spanish forward running across him to attack Richie’s cross.
At half-time, Leicester had a deficit to overturn and found themselves frustrated. Nothing to show for their promising start, they lacked consistency in wide areas and failed to test Newcastle’s backline enough – considering the visitors had conceded nine in five league games prior, with a three-game winless run.
Almiron promising, Vardy struggles
Creative midfielder Miguel Almiron was typically busy, as he was eager to break his goalscoring duck after a club-record £21m move from Atlanta United in January. He came off to a warm reception from the travelling fans after 77 minutes, in another game where he was energetic and bright in the final third, though poor decision-making and playing at a relentless speed skewed many promising chances he otherwise would have had.
Vardy struggled to combine with Barnes as the pair often relinquished possession in promising situations, while Maddison dropped deep to try and weave his magic – something he did in flashes, despite a few disappointing choices too.
His floated cross narrowly evaded Vardy in the box as Leicester cranked up the pressure with time ticking down. Nampalys Mendy and Kelechi Iheanacho came on for a quiet Demarai Gray and Ndidi, whose impact was effectively nullified – though matchwinner Perez could have put the game to bed with 15 minutes to play. He produced a brilliant piece of skill to leave Ben Chilwell in his wake, before Schmeichel rushed off his line to thwart him from a few yards out.
Perhaps Leicester’s best opportunity to get back into the game was after a perfectly-weighted pass by Tielemans into Vardy’s path, unmarked and angling towards goal. He scooped his effort over Dubravka, but also over the crossbar, which proved the final nail in the coffin for Brendan Rodgers’ men. After four successive wins, the former Liverpool and Celtic boss was set to taste defeat again with his new employers.
Not even the return of Marc Albrighton, sidelined since January, could help salvage a point from a frustrating watch at the King Power Stadium, which sees their European aspirations continue to wean as other sides around them have favourable fixtures and games in hand.
what does the result mean?
The race for seventh and a potential European place continues to hot up, though Leicester now know that it’s not in their hands with 47 points.
8th-placed Wolves (47 points) and FA Cup finalists Watford (46 points) have played 32 games each, while 9th-placed Everton (46 pts) and West Ham in 11th (42 pts) have played 33 this term. The gap between seventh and 11th is just five points, going into the final few games of the campaign.
Saturday’s fixtures are as follows (3pm unless stated):
12:30 – Tottenham vs Huddersfield
Brighton vs AFC Bournemouth
Burnley vs Cardiff
Fulham vs Everton
Southampton vs Wolves
17:30 – Manchester United vs West Ham