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Season 2017-18
Leicester City (h) Premier League
since 2012

Saturday 9th December 2017, 5.30pm
Live on BT Sports

Venue: St. James' Park

Conditions: Memorable - but not for the right reasons....


Leicester City

2 - 3




4 mins Jacob Murphy's fine ball down the left hand touchline to Dwight Gayle saw the number 9 reach the byline ahead of two pursuing defenders before cutting it back from the left for Joselu to fire into the Gallowgate goal from seven yards out. 1-0

20 mins Mikel Merino lost the ball cheaply on halfway and Onyinye Nididi moved it on quickly to Riyad Mahrez in space, who set off for goal and eluded Isaac Hayden's attempt at intervening.

The Algerian scored a belter against Spurs less than a fortnight ago and angled home another fine effort from outside the box with his left foot as Florian Lejeune approached. Karl Darlow - who seemed to come from a crouching position - got hands to the effort but couldn't keep it out.

Half time: Magpies 1 Foxes 1

60 mins Another goal out of nothing for City, with Mahrez in possession on halfway down their right flank and swapping passes with Vincent Iborra before pinging a diagonal pass out to Marc Albrighton, whose run to the left corner of the box echoed that of Kieran Gibbs for West Brom two games ago.

The outcome was much the same - with DeAndre Yedlin floundering - Albrighton laying the ball back first time to Demarai
Gray - who took a touch before half-volleying into the net from 16 yards via a big deflection off the derriere of the unfortunate Lejeune 1-2

73 mins The recently-arrived Ayoze Perez won a corner when his attempted ball across the City six yard box deflected off Danny Simpson, amid hopeful shouts for handball. Christian Atsu's left foot outswinger was headed down and goalwards by Merino and two half-clearances by visiting players took the ball no further than the edge of the area, when Hayden headed it back goalwards.

Nodded clear again by a Leicester player, Merino continued the head tennis and returned it to the right side of the box, where Ciaran Clark allowed the ball to run past him (perhaps after getting a shout from Gayle). 

A bounce took it into the path of Dwight Gayle, who twisted inside Ben Chilwell with his first touch and drove at goal with his second. That
struck Harry Maguire on the shin, wrong-footeding Kasper Schmeichel, who dived to his left as the ball ended up in the opposite bottom corner of the net. 2-2

 mins The decisive goal would have its roots in a forward burst by Javier Manquillo, who managed to get into the City box but was unable to either shoot or pass before losing possession.

Leicester cleared their lines with a pass upfield to
Shinji Okazaki, who despite a clumsy lunge from Hayden was able to get the ball away to Mahrez almost on the centre spot. He pushed the ball out to Albrighton on the City left and an astute first time ball found Vardy racing away with Lejeune. 

The Newcastle defender managed to hold up Vardy, but he played the ball across the box into space and picked out Okazaki arriving on the penalty spot, who cushioned the pass on his right instep and shaped to shoot with the other foot.

Tracking back, Perez nipped in ahead of the City substitute and got a toe to the ball, but succeeded only in poking it past the already committed Darlow. Happy birthday.

Full time: Magpies 2 Foxes 3

We Said


Rafa Benitez:

It was a great day with all the fans celebrating and the team was so good at the beginning.

"People were very disappointed (meaning the players in the home dressing room post-match). It’s not easy when you lose a game at home when the atmosphere was as good as that. The way that we lost the game, it’s hard.

"I have to keep going, because I see how hard the players work, how hard they train everyday, so it’s just a question of cutting out the mistakes. Sometimes you make mistakes and you’re not punished, but every mistake seems to be a goal we concede.

"We have to learn and have more experience and manage it better. We have seen two or three situations with the same kind of goals. It is sometimes a lack of experience.

"The way we concede, for confidence, it is difficult but we have to keep going. We have to improve the things we are not doing well at the moment.

"These kind of mistakes, you cannot make in the Premier League and we are doing it week in, week out.

"What I said before and I will say it again, the only way is for players, supporters, staff and everyone to stick together. It’s not the time to make excuses. It’s the time to analyse what’s going on and improve – quickly.

"I think the supporters appreciate it (the effort from the players), but it’s difficult, when you lose another game, to try and explain everything, but this team’s working so hard – it’s trying so hard to win games. We’re reacting in the right way when things are going wrong, but we have to learn to manage the situation."

PS: In his Friday press call, Rafa said the following:

"My main thing now is to focus on the games – and I'm doing that, but, at the same time, we had a meeting in May, and I'm expecting the money we weren't spending (in the last window) could be available (in January), so hopefully we can sit down and see where we are.

Asked if he’d received any assurances that transfer funds would be made available next month:

"Not yet, no. It is my conviction that we will stay up, but new players could help.

"For us 40 points is the salvation, then we see where we are after that. Every point is important. We have to stick together to maximise what we have.

"It’s important to compete in these next two home games. Then we can win.

“We cannot win if we do not compete. We have to maximise what we have, which is fantastic fans behind the team supporting the players we have.”


They Said

Claude Puel said:

"I think we deserved this win with a fantastic positive attitude. It was a difficult game - we had to play against Newcastle and against this atmosphere, and it's always difficult to play, to resist sometimes under pressure.

"The second goal gave us the lead, but it was difficult, but a draw would have been difficult to accept, so my team deserved the third goal with a fantastic and positive attitude.

"The first example is Shinji - he is a kamikaze and it's a good thing for the team. He's a fantastic player with fantastic spirit and all the squad like him because he gives everything and he also gives his body for the team."



This game came on the 125th anniversary of the club's renaming, but it would be over a month later that Newcastle United first took to the field under that name, for a 2-3 home defeat (by Middlesbrough in the FA Cup).

The Magpies lost at home for the third successive Premier League game, their worst run of form at SJP since being beaten by Manchester United, Arsenal, Spurs and Swansea City in March and April 2015 while John Carver was at the helm.

It's now just one point from a possible 21 for Rafa's side, who have won just four of the eight games this season that they've scored the first goal in.

Ayoze Perez became the second Newcastle player to register an OG, following on from DeAndre Yedlin against Watford in our previous home game. We don't recall that happening since the 1975/76 season, when Pat Howard put through his own goal against Manchester United at Gallowgate and "Titus" Oates then repeated the feat a fortnight later against Leeds at SJP.

Newcastle PL scorers 2017/18:

Dwight Gayle 3
Joselu 3
Ciaran Clark 2
Jamaal Lascelles 2
Christian Atsu 1
Isaac Hayden 1
Mikel Merino 1
Aleksandat Mitrovic 1
Ayoze Perez 1
OG 1

Karl Darlow
played his 50th senior game for Newcastle (46 league starts + four in the LC).

NUFC last eight PL seasons after sixteen games:

2017/18: 15 points, 16th (scored 16, conceded 25)
2015/16: 16 points, 15th (scored 18, conceded 31)
2014/15: 23 points, 7th (scored 18, conceded 22)
2013/14: 27 points, 6th (scored 23, conceded 22)
2012/13: 17 points, 14th (scored 18, conceded 23)
2011/12: 27 points, 6th (scored 21, conceded 19)
2010/11: 19 points, 11th (scored 24, conceded 25)
2008/09: 16 points, 16th (scored 19, conceded 24)

Foxes in Toon - last 20:

2017/18 lost 2-3 Joselu, Gayle
2015/16 lost 0-3
2014/15 Won 1-0 Obertan
2009/10 Won 1-0 Guthrie
2003/04 Won 3-1 Ameobi, OG, Jenas
2001/02 Won 1-0 Solano
2000/01 Won 1-0 Cort
1999/00 Lost 0-2
1998/99 Won 1-0 Glass
1997/98 Drew 3-3 Barnes, Tomasson, Beresford
1996/97 Won 4-3 Shearer 3, Elliott
1994/95 Won 3-1 Albert 2, Howey
1992/93 Won 7-1 Kelly 3, Cole 3, Lee
1991/92 Won 2-0 Hunt, Clark
1990/91 Won 2-1 McGhee, Sloan
1989/90 Won 5-4 McGhee 2, Quinn 2, Gallacher
1986/87 Won 2-0 Goddard, Wharton
1985/86 Won 2-1 Clarke, Beardsley
1984/85 Lost 1-4 Beardsley
1982/83 Drew 2-2 McDermott, Keegan




And the worst thing is that we predicted it. In the street, outside SJP, around 5pm. Asked what we thought the outcome would be, our instant an cynical answer was "an away win...with an OG." 

Gallows humour outside the Gallowgate End - if only we'd downloaded that mobile betting app....

Forty years of coming here doesn't diminish the sense of anticipation, or the eternally unrealistic hope that we'd upset the odds and defy logic to somehow come out on top against a City side who quite literally galloped past us 3-0 last time they were here, en route to winning the title. 

Sadly that attendance also gives ample evidence of the inevitable tragedy that lies around each corner - or set piece. Be it being badly beaten in Cup Finals, ending up as giant-killing fodder or even marking the receipt of Manager of the Month trinkets by routinely losing the next game. We've seen it all - and much of it hasn't been good.

Fleet Foxes was our headline back in November 2015 and any faint air of optimism that this would be any different two years later evaporated when the team was announced - an audible groan in the pub as it became clear Jamaal Lascelles wouldn't return to steady the defence. 

In truth though, it's beyond the capabilities of one player to alter what is becoming a unfair fight with with unpleasant echoes of the 2015/16 campaign quickly beginning to surface. 

That ended with a team boasting a clutch of talented players being found wanting in guts and application, but soon snapped up by top-flight sides to thieve a living elsewhere. This time, the desire and application seem to be there, but a less gifted squad lacking experience is struggling. 

That's not to say that some of the players cannot perform better than they did today: some poor decision-making, slack marking, inept tackling and rotten passing are as symptomatic of lapses in concentration as much as a lack of proficiency. As apprehension grows, confidence ebbs away.


After having failed to net here against either Bournemouth or Watford despite making reasonable starts to both games, scoring the first goal seemed absolutely vital for Newcastle and within the first five minutes the ball was in the back of the opposition net. 

Like the moments before kickoff, the goal celebrations brought back memories of happier times past here, including some against City. Most notable in that was the epic Al-inspired 4-3 win in February 1997, but the 7-1 Championship victory in May 1993 came to mind - a day that seems a trillion miles away from where we are now.

Those noise levels were akin to a "cup tie atmosphere", but sadly this game also came to resemble a Cup tie on the field - with the visitors from one division and the hosts from another, lower one. It's hard to pick one home player that would get in City's team - or even on their bench. 

Had Dwight Gayle followed up his assist for Joselu by tucking the ball inside Kasper Schmeichel's far post rather than just past it from our next attack then things may have been slightly different.

As it was though, the lead was held for barely quarter of an hour before Riyad Mahrez netted, although
Demarai Gray had come close to emulating Watford's Will Hughes in the previous home game (and of course Tottenham's Delle Ali) by scoring against the side who scouted him for an eternity but opted not to open the cheque book for.   

Schmeichel did keep out a Murphy effort before the break as United tried to respond, while Joselu headed a Ritchie corner wide before the Foxes went ahead via a deflected goal on the hour.

Christian Atsu and Ayoze Perez were introduced and within minutes United got back on terms when it was Gayle's turn to benefit from a deflection taking a shot in the box into the goal.

At that point, with the crowd back onside United looked slight favourites to find a winner and Gayle shot across Schmeichel only to evade the far post as the game entered the final stages.

Taking a point off a City side who recently saw off Spurs would have been a good result, but in classic Magpies style, the final act of this never-ending farce was still to play out. 

Another speedy break upfield by Leicester seemed to have been checked, only for Jamie Vardy to pick out Shinji Okazaki in front of goal, who shaped to shoot only to be denied by the arrival of Ayoze Perez - who promptly toe poked the ball beyond Darlow to shatter home hearts.

This is your life. 

Newcastle United, flattering to deceive and shooting themselves in the foot since 1892.

When the hearbreak subsides though, it's fair to say that w
e learned nothing new today, nothing that wasn't spoken about already by Rafa Benitez after the last transfer window closed, be it the lack of a commanding goalkeeper or the full back situation. 

If there is a positive, it's the return to fitness and scoring form of Dwight Gayle - along with some useful contributions from Joselu, still frustratingly out of touch at other times, but putting more of a shift, winning more in the air and being rather more disciplined than a certain muscle-bound Serb.

That a second tier side playing in a higher league will suffer due to collective incompetence when pressurised by superior opponents isn't unfortunate, it's inevitable. He told you so, but you knew better - the chancers who brought you Xisco, Ferreyra, Doumbia and Christ knows who else.

Victory here would have seen Newcastle propelled six places up into tenth, but our loss coupled with West Ham beating Chelsea means we stay put, just two points above the Hammers in 18th spot.

Defeat by Everton on Wednesday will leave us in an even more perilous position, ahead of visits to Arsenal and West Ham followed by the prospect of more torture at the hands of a Manchester City side that look to be an improvement on previous incarnations that haven't lost here in ten visits.

By the time Brighton come calling, we could be in a pretty pickle indeed - especially if the absentee landlord who preferred to go on holiday in the USA rather than show his face here is still in control.

So the anniversary party that began as a grand celebration ended in silence, flags at half mast. 

The grim history of what has unfolded here over the last decade meant that a posse of special guests remained absent - or uninvited, for fear their presence would be too strong a reminder of what has almost willfully tossed away, be it good will or experience.

Had there been a birthday cake, the collective wish when blowing out the candles wouldn't have in doubt - there needs to be rapid change at the top, and we don't mean the manager. 

New ideas, new enthusiasm, new hope and a new custodian are desperately needed to end this damaging impasse. Without that Rafa is wasting his time, and so are we.


Page last updated 31 December, 2017