Leicester City have momentarily shortened the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to 10 points after their 3-0 win over Newcastle United.
The Foxes experienced a tough Christmas period in which they gathered just four points from four games, including defeats to Liverpool and Manchester City but ended 2019 with a win over West Ham United.
They were made to work hard in the first half but took the lead just after the half-hour mark with Ayoze Perez capitalising on poor defending to score against his former club. Moments later, James Maddison doubled the advantage to put Leicester in control at half-time.
Newcastle had to play the final 40 minutes of the game with 10 men due to injury problems and Leicester completed the win late on through a Hamza Choudhury wonderstrike.
Perez returns to haunt St James’ Park: Key stats from Newcastle 0-3 Leicester…
- Ayoze Perez has been directly involved in nine Premier League goals this season, all of which have come away from home.
- James Maddison (8) has scored more Premier League goals from outside the box than any other player since the start of last season.
- Leicester have won six of their last seven league games on New Year’s Day (D1).
- Newcastle United have lost three Premier League games in a row for the first time since October 2018.
- Leicester have done the Premier League double over Newcastle for just the second time, also doing so in 2015/16 when they won the title.
- Florian Lejeune is the only player to have made two errors leading to goals in a single Premier League match this season.
- Hamza Choudhury scored his first goal in senior football.
Have Leicester secured their top four spot?
Many have already handed the Premier League title to Liverpool given their 10-point gap over Leicester with two games in hand at the time of writing. So can Leicester’s spot in the top four be spoken about with the same certainty.
The Foxes’ 3-0 win over Newcastle sees them move nine points clear of Chelsea in the final Champions League spot and 14 ahead of fifth-placed Manchester United, albeit having played a game more. Even with the poor recent form, under Brendan Rodgers Leicester have been excellent and are well deserving of their spot in the top four and it doesn’t really look like they will drop out.
Most Premier League goals scored from outside the box since the start of last season:
🏴 James Maddison (8)
🇩🇰 Christian Eriksen (7)
🇩🇿 Riyad Mahrez (6)
🏴 James Ward-Prowse (5)
Another top-class strike. pic.twitter.com/KwRhNHD7aZ
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 1, 2020
The likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, plus a few unlikely names in Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, are all situated close together in the table and don’t appear to be set on having a good run of results. Chelsea have been coupling big wins with either defeats or draws to lowly opposition, Tottenham’s mini-revival under Jose Mourinho is well and truly over while Man Utd still have questions to answer. And even if they do continue to grow and reach the Champions League spots, it won’t be at Leicester’s expense.
But, before Leicester can return to their top four charge, they must turn their focus to cup competitions with FA Cup and Carabao Cup action in the next week.
Next five fixtures
04 January 2020: Leicester vs Wigan (FA Cup)
08 January 2020: Leicester vs Aston Villa (Carabao Cup)
11 January 2020: Leicester vs Southampton (Premier League)
19 January 2020: Burnley vs Leicester (Premier League)
22 January 2020: Leicester vs West Ham (Premier League)
Newcastle’s injury woes continue after bizarre game
Some clubs are lucky with injuries over a season, keeping their absences to a minimum. But others are like Newcastle.
Steve Bruce went into the New Year with five players out injured and one more missing through illness. Jamaal Lascelles, Allan Saint-Maximin, Paul Dummett, Matt Ritchie, Ciaran Clark and Ki Sung-Yeung were all unavailable for selection, with the first two out indefinitely.
45': Newcastle use their 1st sub
45+2': Newcastle use their 2nd sub
46': Newcastle use their 3rd sub
51': Fabian Schär is forced off with an injury.
The hosts will play the rest of the game with 10 men. pic.twitter.com/76esdQ1wKV
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) January 1, 2020
But, whichever mystical being is in charge of injuries, they must be a Sunderland fan as four more Newcastle players had to come off early through injury. Three of those came in a short period of time in the first half with Jetro Willems, Javier Manquillo and Jonjo Shelvey all having to be replaced before the start of the second half.
With all three substitutes used, what’s the worst that could have happened? Less than a minute into the second half, Fabian Schar pulled up with a hamstring injury. The centre-back tried to come back on with his thigh strapped but only lasted a few more minutes before finally succumbing, probably for the best.
Newcastle will hope none of the injuries are too serious ahead of a busy period, but things don’t look too positive.
Next five fixtures Newcastle
04 January 2020: Rochdale vs Newcastle (FA Cup)
11 January 2020: Wolves vs Newcastle (Premier League)
18 January 2020: Newcastle vs Chelsea (Premier League)
21 January 2020: Everton vs Newcastle (Premier League)
01 February 2020: Newcastle vs Norwich (Premier League)
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Player in focus: Florian Lejeune
With Newcastle in a poor run of form, the last thing they needed to do was give away goals to a Leicester side looking to put a tricky Christmas period behind them. But apparently no one told Florian Lejeune that.
The Frenchman, only in the team due to Newcastle’s injury problems, was starting his fourth Premier League game of the season at centre-back alongside Federico Fernandez and Schar. The first half wasn’t going too badly for Newcastle and their centre-backs as they managed to keep a lid on a Jamie Vardy-less Leicester attack.
That was until Lejeune looked to continue the Christmas spirit of giving, with the 12 Days of Christmas still running until January 5. His first act of giving was an assist for former Magpie Perez, playing the ball across his own area in trying to find Fernandez. But the pass was too short, intercepted by Perez and finished under pressure.
Just minutes later, Lejeune found himself with the ball close to his own area once again. This time trying to move forward rather than sideways, Lejeune’s attempted clearance was intercepted by Ricardo. The ball fell to Perez who passed to Maddison who eventually sent a piledriving effort into the top right corner.
The rest of the Wednesday’s Premier League action
- Brighton 1-1 Chelsea: Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s second ever Brighton goal earned the Seagulls their first league point against Chelsea at the 10th attempt .
- Burnley 1-2 Aston Villa: Jack Grealish and Wesley helped Aston Villa move out of the relegation zone with their sixth win of the season.
- Southampton 1-0 Tottenham: Danny Ings scored for the 13th time this season to confirm the end of Tottenham’s honeymoon period.
- Watford 2-1 Wolves: The Nigel Pearson revolution rolls on as Watford are now just one point off safety having won three of their past four games.