If Leicester suffer another late-season dip that costs them Champions League football, it will be easy to pinpoint the root of the problem as Newcastle took advantage of their opponents’ woeful home form to claim the win that should secure Premier League safety.
This was the eighth defeat of the season on their own patch for Brendan Rodgers’ team – as many as relegation-threatened West Bromwich Albion – and may prove the most damaging.
Friday’s implosion cannot be attributed solely to the heel injury suffered by defensive ‘brain’ Jonny Evans in the warm-up, which paved the way for Newcastle to seize what should be a decisive victory. Marc Albrighton admitted Leicester had been nervous early on.
Leicester’s woeful home form was on show once again as they lost 4-2 to Newcastle United
Callum Wilson scores the first of his two goals in a stunning away win for Steve Bruce’s side
The impressive result effectively secured Newcastle’s place in next season’s Premier League
Schmeichel 6; Castagne 4.5, Fofana 5, Soyuncu 4.5; Pereira 5 (Thomas 69, 6), Tielemans 6, Ndidi 5.5 (Perez 63, 6.5), Albrighton 5.5; Maddison 5 (Mendy 77, 6); Iheanacho 6.5, Vardy 6. Subs not used: Ward, Fuchs, Amartey, Under, Choudhury, Praet.
Scorers: Albrighton 80, Iheanacho 87
Manager: Brendan Rodgers 5
Dubravka 8.5; Murphy 7.5, Krafth 7, Fernandez 8, Dummett 7.5, Ritchie 7.5; Almiron 7 (Hendrick 88), Shelvey 7, Willock 8.5 (Longstaff 75, 6); Saint-Maximin 7 (Joelinton 84), WILSON 9. Subs not used: Gillespie, Clark, Carroll, Gayle, Lewis, Manquillo.
Scorers: Willock 22, Dummett 34, Wilson 64, 74
Manager: Steve Bruce 8
Referee: Darren England 6
Leicester must now show their mettle as they approach a fearsome run-in featuring games against Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham in the league, as well as a second meeting with Chelsea in the FA Cup Final a week on May 15. Evans is now a doubt for those matches.
First-half goals from Joe Willock and Paul Dummett – his first goal since January 2016 – put Newcastle in control before Callum Wilson sealed it a second-half double. Albrighton – Evans’ late replacement – and Kelechi Iheanacho replied for Leicester in the final 10 minutes but it was a bleak night for them, in what should be the final game played without supporters at King Power Stadium.
‘Jonny is the brain in our defensive line,’ said Rodgers. ‘It was a big blow for us. We made so many mistakes and you can’t afford to do that. We lacked concentration and we have made it a lot harder for ourselves but it is still in our hands.’
Leicester’s fate remains in their own hands yet this will give heart to the chasing pack. As impressive as Newcastle were, Rodgers knows his defence should not be carved open by one of the division’s weaker teams. Leicester dropped out of the top four on the final day of last season and some supporters will be fearing a repeat.
Newcastle fans detest owner Mike Ashley and most have scant sympathy for boss Steve Bruce, yet he deserves huge credit for outwitting Leicester here. His brief is to keep Newcastle in the top flight and he has all but fulfilled it.
‘We are not safe, you can’t take it for granted,’ said Bruce. ‘We are almost there. The first half is probably the best we’ve played in my time here.’
With owner Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha in the stands for the first time for more than 12 months, Leicester suffered an early blow when Evans was injured before kick-off. The defender has been playing through a heel problem and had to be replaced by Albrighton, with Timothy Castagne dropping into the back three.
The switch unsettled Leicester and Kasper Schmeichel made an outstanding save to keep them level in the 17th minute, sticking out his left boot to divert Alain Saint-Maximin’s point-blank effort wide.
Leicester fans will fear a repeat of last season’s collapse to miss out on the Champions League
Jonny Evans was injured in the warm-up and the late switch appeared to unsettle the Foxes
Allan Saint-Maximin should have put the hosts ahead but Kasper Schmeichel had other ideas
Leicester did not learn their lesson though and Joe Willock made it 1-0 just five minutes later
Paul Dummett rose well above Wesley Fofana to double Newcastle’s lead inside the first half
Yet five minutes later, Caglar Soyuncu’s poor touch let in Willock. The on-loan Arsenal man raced into the box and when his shot clipped the recovering Soyuncu, Schmeichel was helpless.
It was Willock’s fourth goal in as many games, the first Newcastle player in nine years to achieve such a prolific run. ‘We were so obsessed with trying to get that first goal and settle early nerves,’ reflected Albrighton. ‘But we need to keep it tight and we let them in.’
Leicester might have equalised immediately only to be denied by Martin Dubravka’s save from Wesley Fofana’s header – and Newcastle soon doubled their advantage. Dummett climbed above Fofana to produce a header from Matt Ritchie’s corner that was too hot to handle. Dubravka continued to impress as he made important saves from Iheanacho and Jamie Vardy.
Wilson rubbed salt in the wound when he tapped home after his first shot had hit the post
Martin Dubravka made a stunning save to prevent Ayoze Perez from making it 4-3 late on
Despite two late goals, Leicester’s trip to Old Trafford is a game that now looks very daunting
Leicester quickened the tempo after the break yet looked so vulnerable in defence and were exposed again just after an hour.
Ritchie played the ball into the space behind Leicester’s defence and Castagne could only help it into the path of the excellent Wilson, who rounded Schmeichel and slotted home.
Wilson then tapped in at the second attempt after his first shot had hit the post following more chaotic defending. Late goals from Albrighton and Iheanacho – both clean strikes – could not alter the picture, though there was still time for Dubravka to make another stunning save from substitute Ayoze Perez. Leicester’s trip to Old Trafford on Tuesday suddenly looks incredibly daunting.