Wilfred Ndidi

A Point For The Foxes In Newcastle

Leicester City withstood waves of pressure before nearly snatching all three Premier League points in a tense 0-0 draw with Newcastle United at St. James’ Park on Monday evening.

The Magpies hit the woodwork three times on a mild evening on the Tyne, before Timothy Castagne forced a brilliant save from Nick Pope in added time for the Foxes. A point was enough for the home side to qualify for the UEFA Champions League after two decades away. Although one point puts Leicester closer to Everton in the battle for survival, a win next weekend at home to West Ham United will need to be complimented by favourable results elsewhere to prevent relegation. 

Manager Dean Smith made three changes from last week’s Liverpool reverse, with Kelechi Iheanacho, Harry Souttar and Luke Thomas coming in. The absences of James Maddison and Harvey Barnes meant the XI which was selected enabled Smith to line the Foxes up in a 5-3-2 formation. The aim was clear – to contain the flying Magpies and hit them on the break. Leicester have already played at St. James’ Park this term – in the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup – and the locals achieved a remarkable feat, generating an even louder atmosphere this time around. 

Eddie Howe’s men, with targets set on Europe, started on the front foot as expected, although they found a rigid five-man line in their way. Early clearances from Jonny Evans and Thomas got it away in the opening 10 minutes. When Bruno Guimarães’ studs grazed Boubakary Soumaré’s knee, Smith’s visitors thought a yellow card for the Brazilian was lenient. A steady flow of opportunities continued for Newcastle, with Miguel Almirón sending it over Daniel Iversen’s bar. Elliot Anderson – a late addition to the home line-up after Joelinton’s pre-match removal – also curled into Iversen’s gloves from the edge of the penalty area. Alexander Isak scuffed high and wide too. Leicester couldn’t break out, but it wasn’t quite clicking for Newcastle either.

The pressure stepped up before the break. City’s woodwork was about the tremble, twice, but the net would not bulge. When the ball looped up inside the six-yard box, Callum Wilson capitalised, getting there before Iversen could punch it clear. The England forward’s first-time shot came back off the inside of the post, with Evans sticking a leg out at it to clear. Wilson was there to hit the rebound at goal again too, although Wilfred Ndidi this time was in his way, heading off the line. Seconds later, Almirón’s volley cannoned off Iversen’s left post, before Isak blazed over on the follow-up. Wilson nodded Kieran Trippier’s corner over the bar in first-half added time also. The storm Leicester had expected came later than anticipated but they rode it out nonetheless. The stats were stark. Newcastle had generated 83 per cent possession and launched 14 shots at goal without reply before the interval. The most important statistic, however, remained 0-0. 

Maddison’s introduction from the bench, replacing Iheanacho, offered something different for the Foxes. The formation remained the same, though. It was like-for-like, with Leicester’s No.10 in an unfamiliar striker role alongside Jamie Vardy. The Toon were still being frustrated by the time the hour-mark arrived, with Iversen tipping Isak’s long-ranger over the top. Souttar deflected another of the Swede’s attempts over too. With half an hour to go, the Foxes rolled the dice. On came Patson Daka and Barnes, replacing Vardy and Evans, who appeared to have sustained an injury of some sort. They were in a 4-5-1 shape, with could in theory turn into 4-3-3, with Maddison and Barnes operating as outside forwards either side of Daka.

Newcastle had options on the bench too. Allan Saint-Maximin was deployed with just over 20 still to play. It was becoming somewhat unbelievable how the ball wasn’t going in for Newcastle at times. They hit the woodwork again from Tripper’s corner. Wout Faes got a glancing head on it but, somehow, Guimarães nodded it into the post from less than a yard out. If anything, he was too close to goal. That was the home side’s 20th attempt at goal. City still hadn’t had a single shot. Sean Longstaff was then played in by Tripper, but Iversen got down well to make a decent stop with his legs at the near post. 

While Newcastle could achieve their objective with a draw, City knew even an unlikely win would be just one step – albeit a large one – towards the fulfilment of their own ambitions. In added time, Leicester had a golden opportunity. Their first and only shot on goal came from Castagne’s right boot. Maddison’s cross was quick and accurate and Castagne volleyed it at Pope, who made an excellent point-blank save for the Magpies. It was an enormous moment, but the Three Lions stopper stepped up. His side could toast Champions League celebration because of it. The full-time whistle provoked emotional celebrations for the Newcastle supporters, who will see their side return to Europe’s top table next season.

Major moment – Pope’s save from Castagne

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Timothy Castagne

Timothy Castagne watches on as Nick Pope deprives him of a late winner in Newcastle.

It seemed like the stars were aligning for City to score with their only shot at goal deep into added time in the North East. A superb stop from Nick Pope, though, was enough to make Newcastle’s dreams come true and keep City’s aspirations hanging in the balance.

Where does it leave us? – Up to 18th

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Dean Smith

Dean Smith applauds the thousands of Foxes fans who made the long trop north.

City are up to 18th in the Premier League table, on 31 points. They’re two points adrift of Everton, who are sat above the bottom three on 33 points. 

Coming up – West Ham (H)

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Jamie Vardy

Jamie Vardy looks to get City moving in the first half at St. James' Park.

A final-day showdown with West Ham United at King Power Stadium is next up. The UEFA Europa Conference League finalists will be in Leicester for a 4:30pm BST kick-off next Sunday. Elsewhere, Everton host AFC Bournemouth, while 19th placed Leeds United – on 31 points – entertain Tottenham Hotspur. One of three will survive. Leicester must win and hope Everton do not win themselves. In the event of a City victory, if Leeds win, they would have to overturn a significant goal difference deficit to finish above the Foxes.

The details 

Leicester City Crest