We must be safe now right?
There has been a lot said about the way Newcastle have done well to beat the sides around them this season, but lets not forget, that this is a Leicester side pushing for European football. This is also a Leicester side that hadn’t lost at home for 4 months.
However, going into the game, this was a Newcastle side that had only lost three times in the PL since the 17th December (Man City x2 and Liverpool), so maybe teams are starting to look at us now and think “oh boll…., we are playing Newcastle next week”.
I know one thing for sure, after travelling back from Russia next week, I bet one of the last things Arsenal want to is to have to come to SJP and fight for a result.
It was an interesting train ride to the game as I was sat on a table with Vincent Iborra’s agent who had many fascinating insights into Rafa, the Spanish players at Newcastle, and some of the motivations as to what leads Spanish players to come to the UK. Another article is needed for that one…
Newcastle were the team on top from the very beginning and we could have gone 1-0 up very early, if Schmeichel had not made a great save from an Ayoze Perez flick. Incidentally, from the corner previous, Kenedy failed to even look like he could beat the first man from the corner, so perhaps he got what he was trying for with the second attempt.
Newcastle kept the pressure on and deservedly took the lead. It was great work from Perez down the left hand side after a smart run in behind Gayle. When the ball fell to Shelvey he looked like he was going to hammer the ball towards goal but he fooled everyone in the stadium, especially the Leicester defenders who fell to the floor, to check back and place one into the bottom corner. Pandemonium followed in the away end.
Leicester didn’t really offer much of a response to the goal, and in truth, they didn’t threaten the Newcastle goal all day. Aside from their goal, I don’t actually remember them having a shot.
Harry Maguire then should have been off for Leicester for throwing an arm/hand/fist towards Dwight Gayle. I have to say, I hear he has done alright this season but Maguire just looks like a big lump to me. I have never seen a defender move so slow… and that means something coming from a Newcastle fan! Anyway, I haven’t seen it back yet but I have heard from a few people that it probably should have been a red.
I think Leicester were hard-done-by not to have been awarded a penalty. At the time it looked like a good tackle from Dummett and the Leicester players didn’t seem to make a big deal of it which is usually quite telling. However, from the two replays I have seen, it looked like a penalty and maybe we got away with one. But who cares?
We started the second half as you’d expect, tight and compact, not easy to break down. Again, Leicester never really looked like scoring. If anything, it looked like Newcastle would catch them on the counter attack with the pace of Kenedy and then Atsu.
We finally did get that second goal on the counter attack thanks to some fine persistence from Perez, a wonderful finish and some comical defending. Perez ran through both Morgan and Maguire, as the Newcastle player lobbed the ball over Schmeichel’s head… now where have we heard that before.
At this point we appear to be cruising.
When it got back to 2-1 there was always going to be an element of dejavu after the recent trip to Bournemouth but Newcastle stood firm and Martin Dubravka oozed confidence in goal to quell any late nerves in the back line.
A fine win.
The gradual improvement in this side from the start of the campaign to this point has been nothing short of fantastic. Lets not forget either, that this isn’t a side that has suddenly improved overnight (with the exception of Mo Diame). From the full-backs, to the centre halves, midfielders, wingers, Perez and Gayle, this is a side with players who look like they have all individually improved this season.
That can only be down to the coaching and management.
Spoke to a few people on the way home who said that was the best away end they had experienced in a while. An early goal always helps but I have felt a gradual shift in the mood of the support this season (not just during this recent good form). There is a lot more positivity around the place and long may it continue.
It was only a couple of seasons ago that two trips to Leicester in the space of a few months had the fans telling the players to f… off back to the change rooms at the end of the game. Something has clearly changed since then, and don’t let anyone fool you, it is all because of Rafa Benitez.
There was a brief moment in the second half which I think encapsulates well this Newcastle team. A last ditch block from Yedlin led to a poor ball from Perez which in turn led to a series of tackles from Ritchie, Dummett, Shelvey, Perez and finally Atsu, in which every player stormed into the tackle and didn’t shy away from putting their bodies on their line. It certainly wasn’t sexy but it was something that Newcastle have missed for a good while.
Not only does today’s victory suggest that we are pretty much safe, but it suggests that given the backing in the summer (or a new owner), then there is the potential there for this club to challenge for Europe again.
The fact that I can even say the word Europe, without getting too ahead of myself, is indicative of the fantastic job Rafa has done in such a short space of time.
Now I think we can enjoy the rest of the season, we can begin to look up the table rather than look down, and well given the fact that due to their comfortable season so far the likes of Watford, Everton and Leicester have already gone on their holidays… this is a side with their tails up and momentum, so who knows where we could finish?
Stats from BBC Sport:
Leicester 1 Newcastle 2
Newcastle: Shelvey 18, Perez 75
Leicester: Vardy 83
Possession was Leicester 66% Newcastle 34%
Total shots were Leicester 8 Newcastle 8
Shots on target were Leicester 1 Newcastle 4
Corners were Leicester 7 Newcastle 5
Referee: Stuart Attwell
Dubravka, Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett, Ritchie, Shelvey, Diame (Hayden 81), Shelvey, Kenedy (Atsu 64), Gayle (Joselu 70)
Darlow, Manquillo, Clark, Merino
Crowd: 32,066 (3,200 Newcastle)
(Read Alan Shearer’s reaction to the result HERE)
(Instant NUFC fan/writer reaction to the 2-1 victory HERE)
(Leicester boss Claude Puel reacts to the defeat HERE)
(Rafa Benitez verdict after picking up yet another three points – Read HERE)
(3 positives and 3 negatives from Leicester 1 Newcastle 2 – Read HERE)
(Match ratings of all Newcastle players after the match HERE)
You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn