BEVERLY HILLS, May 08, (THEWILL) – There was another disappointing outing for Kelechi Iheanacho’s English Premier League side Leicester City on Friday night at home against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle, who upped the ante of a first half double lead with a Callum Wilson brace in the second half to end the match with an emphatic 4-2 victory and take a giant stride towards Premier League safety.
The defeat comes with an eerie feeling of déjà vu for the Foxes as it dents their aim of finishing in the top four and automatically qualifying for elite European football next season, after all the hard work they had put into getting where they are now. They were on a good run last season as well before performances like this brought it all down like a pack of cards.
On Friday, goals from Arsenal loanee Joe Willock, Paul Dummett and that impressive Wilson brace were all the Magpies needed to move to within a point of confirming their top-flight status, with three matches left in the season.
It did not soothe Leicester manager, Brendan Rodgers’ nerves that Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho grabbed late consolations for the hosts given the chances that were there to be seized.
Leicester will rue the withdrawal of Johnny Evans from the starting lineup, who picked up a problem in the warm-up for the match as it hampered the Foxes’ game-plan from the get go. But, it is no excuse for the nervy disposition of the Leicester defense, which was clearly unsettled and exploited by Bruce’s charges.
To their credit, Newcastle deserved their victory and the reward of staying in the top flight that the three points guarantee, which has them sitting comfortably in 13th position on the EPL standings after 35 matches. The possibility remains that they might slip lower when teams immediately below them on the table play the games they have at hand, but the vital three points picked on Friday will remain crucial.
The Newcastle side, which had looked in a mess in the first few months of the 2021, has undergone a mini revival of recent that has surely ensured they will once again be in the Premier League next season. Bruce’s share of critics are plenty but even they will see that the manager has improved on their game and that they could still finish the campaign firmly in mid-table, if they keep such displays going.
For the Foxes, the niggling worries of a repeat of the collapse from last season must be creeping in. They were definitely certain to finish in the top four last term but blew it in the second half of the season and failed to make it. The early success story has played itself out again this time and, once again, suddenly there are a few alarm bells ringing with three games left of the season.
Iheanacho’s side can still keep their top four chances alive but the three games left are some of the most massive ones they will have all season. They are first away to second-placed Manchester United and travel to Stamford Bridge for the next tie against fellow top-four hopefuls Chelsea, before a home fixture against another hopeful in Tottenham Hotspur.
Apparently, there will be no easy one of the three and Rodgers will know that it will be over for them if their performances in every minute of these three matches are not a vast improvement from their display against Newcastle. This is also important for their FA Cup fortunes as well because they also have that final fixture against Chelsea, again, to consider looking forward.