Leicester City scrape past improved Newcastle


Leicester City extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to five points with a narrow 1-0 victory over relegation candidates Newcastle United.
These two sides are eighteen places apart in the league table, but it was only Shinji Okazaki’s stunning acrobatic effort midway through the first half that separated them on the pitch.
It gave Claudio Ranieri’s men a ninth home league win of the season and keeps their incredible title challenge alive.
Newcastle were much improved under new manager Rafa Benitez and had the better of the early exchanges – Ayoze Perez and then Jack Colback both squandering half chances in the opening five minutes.
It didn’t take long for the Foxes to build up a head of steam and it was they who struck the first blow inside the 25th minute.
After Newcastle failed to clear a Riyad Mahrez freekick, Marc Albrighton managed to find Jamie Vardy at the back post. It was his header that found Okazaki in all sorts of space. The Japanese forward’s quick thinking saw him produce an audacious bicycle kick from ten yards out, which flew past Rob Elliot and into the bottom left-hand corner of the goal.
Things could have gone from bad to worse for the Magpies only two minutes later. After some sloppy defensive play, Steven Taylor backed off Albrighton, who curled a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards.
Newcastle bounced back well and showed some defensive discipline which has been lacking in recent times under Steve McClaren.
Ayoze Perez had their first shot on target on the stroke of half-time, but his speculative effort was no problem for Kasper Schemeichel in the Leicester City goal.
It was Perez who again troubled the Leicester defence ten minutes into the second half with his deflected strike rippling the side netting 55 minutes in.
The league leaders struggled to create any meaningful chances as the visitors continued to have the better of the game.
Despite their pressure, Newcastle struggled to test the opposition keeper. Substitute Siem De Jong wasted their best chance, mishitting a half volley after good work from Wijnaldum.
The fact the home side had to waste time to squeak past Newcastle will be little consolation to Benitez, who will have seen enough from his new team tonight to suggest they can end a run of six derby defeats against bitter rivals Sunderland at the weekend.

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