Leicester 1 Newcastle 0 Monday 14 March 8pm
I couldn’t remember being so excited for a game in such a long time. After a chaotic week that involved me doing no university work – because I spent Monday to Friday refreshing my twitter feed every two minutes to see if Steve McClaren had been sacked, it all ended very well.
I don’t think any Newcastle fan in their right mind could say that they weren’t happy with the choice of Rafa Benitez, or argue that we could have got a better manager.
Rafa’s CV speaks for itself, he is easily one of the top 10 managers in the world. So let’s trust him and get behind the team for the remaining 9 games.
Leicester away was always going to be a game that we could perhaps ‘write off’ – a free shot if you like, to put in a good performance, and give the fans hope that things were going to change.
I think we certainly got that.
A positive team-sheet was named with no real shocks. By positive, I mean that neither Riviere or Gouffran started, nor did they get on the pitch (progress).
It was a team set up to frustrate Leicester, but still with the firepower (firepower is probably the wrong word I know) to get forward and try to cause problems.
I personally would have played Perez over Mitrovic, with Townsend out wide. However, it was positive that when we were a goal down and needed to change the game, Townsend was on the bench to change to try to come on and change the game.
A plan A and a plan B, so again progress!
No matter what happens between now and the end of the season – I don’t think Rafa Benitez can be blamed for anything. Fair play to the guy for accepting the challenge (although I would probably agree to manage Sunderland if they offered me the reported £3m to do so).
It didn’t work for Steve McClaren and we all knew it never would.
Under Rafa there is hope. Hope that he can get more out of Coloccini… I don’t think the importance of being able to sit down in a room with Colo and speak Spanish can be understated. That will be key for me.
I think, under Rafa, the message to everyone, especially the fans, will be to keep calm. Even if we lose to Sunderland as well on Sunday, it’s not the end of the world and it won’t be over. Just keep calm and take it game by game.
Remember, this is a guy who was 3-0 down at half-time to the great AC Milan team in the final of the Champions League, and he still managed to keep calm, make substitutions and get his side back in the game.
He will always have a plan, whether we understand it, agree with it or not, he has done enough in football for us to trust him.
Newcastle started off the better side, we created chances, denied Leicester time and space and everything looked very positive up until the goal.
If I am being picky, no way was it a free-kick to Leicester that led to the goal. It was something that went unnoticed in the media… and it seems Jack Colback, who gave away the foul, was the only one who put up an argument.
Anyway, it was one of those goals where you couldn’t complain too much, it wasn’t terrible defending, Leicester got the luck of the bounce and Okazaki produced a great finish.
There isn’t an awful lot to say about the game, you all saw it on TV no doubt… however there were a few things that were noticeably different:
Players were a lot more committed, they covered more ground, and really put Leicester under pressure for the whole game. I think the reason why in the last 5 minutes we never looked like scoring was that the players were actually too tired – a good sign and a bad sign!
This was highlighted by two runs from the usually lazy Moussa Sissoko, who twice sprinted half the length of the pitch to put Schmeichel under pressure.
Before the game, even the subs were put through their paces with fitness drills… unlike the usual situation in which the 7 subs don’t take part in the warm up and spend 45 minutes playing kicky ups with each other.
The team looked far more organised and Leicester only had one shot on goal. When defending, the full backs were compact and tight.
We went forward as a team – our attacks were built from the back but with a plan… although they often didn’t come off, that was mainly down to a lack of quality.
So… things are looking up, but are they looking up too late? We will see!
Although there weren’t many of us, you cannot fault the effort of anyone who did make the trip to Leicester, they should all be commended. This is especially given the fact that there were no trains back to either Newcastle or London after the game. Therefore, bus/car was the only mode of transport to take on a Monday afternoon, when many people have work and other commitments.
The sacrifices people make to go and watch their team never ceases to amaze me. It was also nice to see former player Adam Campbell in the away end cheering on the boys and best wishes to the lady who suffered an accident at the start of the game and had to be taking to hospital.
We hope you are well and if it makes you feel any better, you didn’t miss much!
Rob Elliott 7 – Didn’t have a save to make all night and couldn’t do anything about the Leicester goal.
Daryl Janmaat 6 – Offered plenty going forward and looked calm in defence for once.
Jamaal Lascelles 4 – Not good enough.
Steven Taylor 4 – Not good enough.
Jack Colback 7 – Mahrez didn’t really have a look in all night and Colback was unlucky to concede the free-kick that led to the goal.
Jonjo Shelvey 6 – Always looking to get on the ball and create something.
Vurnon Anita 3 – Not good enough. It is almost as if the ball is a hot potato.
Gini Wijnaldum 5 – looked more comfortable playing alongside Shelvey.
Moussa Sissoko 6 – Good… for once.
Ayoze Perez 6 – I think he will be key in us staying up.
Aleksandar Mitrovic 5 – Played well – but when your only centre forward can’t shoot and can’t score goals then does it really matter?
Commitment = 10/10 – now when was the last time we could say that?
Here are the stats from BBC Sport:
Leicester: Okazaki 26
Possession was Newcastle 50% Leicester 50%
Total shots were Newcastle 13 and Leicester 10
Shots on target were Newcastle 2 and Leicester 1
Corners were Newcastle 4 and Leicester 8
Team: Elliot, Janmaat, Lascelles, Taylor, Colback, Anita (Townsend 56), Shelvey (Doumbia 87), Sissoko,Wijnaldum, Perez (de Jong 71), Mitrovic
Unused Subs: Darlow, Saivet, Sterry, Doumbia
Ref: Craig Pawson