Leicester’s impressive season continued with a dominant win at Newcastle that keeps them second and inflicts a third straight defeat on Steve Bruce’s side, who played almost the whole second half with 10 men following a string of injuries.
The Foxes, without the division’s leading goalscorer Jamie Vardy for the second successive game, took the lead through Ayoze Perez, who kept his cool to finish well against his former side after being gifted possession by a horror pass from Florian Lejeune.
The Newcastle defender was culpable again just a few minutes later as his weak clearance was claimed by the away side and fed to James Maddison, who rifled in a thunderbolt of a second from the edge of the box.
The home side, whose best effort fell to a woefully ill-equipped and confidence-shorn Joelinton to waste, were unable to respond and would have lost by much more but for an inspired display from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.
But the keeper was powerless to prevent substitute Hamza Choudhury scoring a superb third, curling in his first goal in senior football from the edge of the box.
It was the final blow for the home side, whose afternoon started badly and only got worse. Both Jetro Willems and Javier Manquillo were forced off through injury at the end of the first half, before Fabian Schar followed them at the start of the second, leaving them with 10 men following the half-time substitution of captain Jonjo Shelvey.
Newcastle remains in mid-table but their points cushion above the relegation zone is down to six.
There are no such concerns for Leicester, though, with this win giving them a four-point advantage over third-placed Manchester City, who host Everton later on Wednesday.
It was also Leicester’s seventh away Premier League win of the season – only unbeaten leaders Liverpool have managed more.
Back-to-back defeats by reigning champions Manchester City and runaway leaders Liverpool either side of Christmas dealt an almost certainly fatal blow to Leicester’s title aspirations. The Foxes are actually two points better off now than at this stage of their remarkable 2015-16 title win, but the imperious form of Jurgen Klopp’s side makes a repeat triumph even more improbable.
However, this victory, four days after the win at West Ham, keeps the Foxes at least notionally in the hunt, restores the sense of supreme confidence that existed prior to the trip to the Etihad and sets them up for what is a crucial seven days in their season.
On Saturday they face Wigan in the FA Cup third round, followed four days later by the home first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final with Aston Villa.
Brendan Rodgers took the opportunity to rest a host of players for the game at London Stadium, correctly trusting in a talented second string to get the job done against a woefully poor Hammers side in the death rattle of Manuel Pellegrini’s managerial reign.
He was further rewarded for this decision at St James’ Park with a display full of energy and, once they had a cast-iron grip on the encounter, sensible game management.
Such was the efficiency of their display they did not miss Vardy, who recently welcomed the birth of a daughter. Perez was full of clever running and ruthless against his former side, while Maddison and his replacement Choudhury brought their shooting boots and then some.
Choudhury’s strike, in particular, added insult to injury as it was his tackle in a meeting between the sides in August that resulted in the serious injury that keeps Matt Ritchie out to this day.
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Source – BBC