Perez header gives Magpies 10-point cushion
Newcastle United’s Premier League status is virtually secured after Ayoze Perez’s first-half header earned a 1-0 win away at in-form Leicester City.
Leicester had won four in a row, with Brendan Rodgers among the nominees for March’s Premier League manager of the month award after succeeding Claude Puel in February.
But despite dominating possession at the King Power Stadium on Friday they fell to a loss due to a clever Perez header, his seventh Premier League goal of the season moving Newcastle up to 13th, 10 points clear of the relegation zone.
Newcastle started well and Salomon Rondon cracked a free-kick against the crossbar with Kasper Schmeichel beaten by the 25-yard curling effort.
But Leicester gradually gained control and Martin Dubravka had to make saves from Ben Chilwell and Harvey Barnes, both players exploiting gaps down Newcastle’s right.
Newcastle took the lead in the 32nd minute, though. Matt Ritchie burst away from Ricardo Pereira on the left wing and whipped in a fine cross that Perez met in front of Wes Morgan.
Wilfred Ndidi and Youri Tielemans had long-range efforts after the break but the Foxes were struggling to create clear chances against a Newcastle defence sitting increasingly deep.
Set-piece specialist James Maddison wasted a free-kick from a good position in the 75th minute and Jamie Vardy fluffed his lines later still with a miss that summed up Leicester’s lack of clinical edge.
But Newcastle had a nervy finale and Javier Manquillo was fortunate not to concede a penalty when he appeared to tug Tielemans’ arm in the box in the closing stages.
What does it mean? Magpies surely safe
With 38 points on the board, Rafael Benitez has steered Newcastle to near-certain safety, although his future remains in doubt. Benitez’s contract expires at the end of the season.
For all Leicester’s pretty passes they did not cause Dubravka many problems, but Rodgers may not be too concerned about the prospect of missing out on Europa League qualification.
Leicester are seventh – which will seal a place in Europe if Manchester City beat Watford in the FA Cup final – yet Wolves, Everton and the Hornets are within a point and have games in hand.
Hayden shines in Magpies midfield
Newcastle’s defenders all excelled but they were brilliantly protected by Isaac Hayden in a defensive-midfield role. His seven tackles were more than anyone else on the pitch recorded.
No impact from Vardy
Former England striker Vardy had scored six goals in Leicester’s five Premier League games under Rodgers so far, but he was barely involved as his side slipped to defeat.
Vardy recorded a single shot on target during the game, failing to test Dubravka when teed up by Tielemans in the closing stages, and was brilliantly marshalled by a Newcastle back line that denied him space to show off his pace.
Perez showed him how to make the most of minimal opportunities, the Newcastle forward scoring his first Premier League goal away from home this term.
Both teams play again a week on Saturday. Newcastle host Southampton and Leicester are away to West Ham.