Shinji Okazaki scored a superb overhead kick as Leicester beat Newcastle to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
The acrobatic strike in the first-half from Jamie Vardy’s headed knock-down secured the three points as Claudio Ranieri’s side moved ever closer to a remarkable league title and condemned Rafa Benitez to defeat in his first match in charge of Newcastle.
Ranieri wrote about targeting Europa League qualification in the match programme, but Okazaki’s winner has now opened up an 11-point gap over Arsenal in third with eight games to go for the Foxes.
Benitez is not used to losing in his first game in a new job. Since the beginning of his successful tenure at Valencia, he has never lost an opening game as manager, and the script was written for him to instigate the Foxes collapse we all assume is coming. How wrong we were, again.
After delving into a local phrasebook to issue a rallying cry upon taking over at St James’ Park, Benitez seemed to have gotten through to his players, as they started with greater impetus at the King Power.
However, despite being on the back foot for much of the half, Okazaki struck. His goal did come with its share of controversy though, as Vardy appeared to be in an offside position in the build-up.
The second half was very much a lesson in how to contain, with N’Golo Kanteabsolutely everywhere.
Newcastle had several chances, but they were not clinical enough in front of goal, and it was clear to see why they have scored just seven goals on the road all season.
All it took was one shot on target in the entire 90 minutes, but Ranieri won’t care, as his team edge closer to making history, plunging Newcastle further into the relegation mire in the process.
MAN OF THE MATCH
N’Golo Kante. The Leicester midfielder covered every blade of grass for the cause, clocking up a lung-busting 11.82 kilometres – the most of anyone of the pitch. The tireless Frenchman also made eight tackles, six more than any other Leicester player. Surely it is between him and Riyad Mahrez for player of the season?
LEICESTER: Schmeichel 7, Simpson 7, Huth 8, Morgan 7, Fuchs 7, Mahrez 6, Kante 9, Drinkwater 8, Albrighton 6, Okazaki 8, Vardy 6. Subs: Schlupp 7, Ulloa 6.
NEWCASTLE: Elliot 6, Colback 6, Lascelles 7, Taylor 6, Janmaat 7, Sissoko 7, Anita 5, Shelvey 6, Perez 6, Wijnaldum 5, Mitrovic 7. Subs: Townsend 7, De Jong 6, Doumbia 6.
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