Following Newcastle’s meandering Carabao Cup victory over Bournemouth (1-0) last week in which the Toon dominated the stat sheet but narrowly capitalized on an own goal to proceed, there was an air of nervousness among the Toon Army.
In fact, many of the match-day pundits predicted that this match would be a reality check for a team that had seemingly overachieved earlier in the season. The start of a reckoning from Premier League squads who would no longer underestimate the Toon. Right? Wrong.
In Leicester, a woefully underperforming side looking to resurrect their campaign by playing at home with respected players and an experienced manager would provide the perfect roadblock until, well, it did not.
Foxes defender Daniel Amartey fouled Joelinton inside the box within 90 seconds, and Leicester completely imploded. It was the perfect sequence to encapsulate a season where fate has smiled on the Magpies, and frankly tossed Brendan Rodgers and company in the trash heap.
Chris Wood, starting at striker with Callum Wilson out due to illness and Alexander Isak still recovering from a thigh injury, calmly nailed the PK right down the middle and Newcastle were off to the races.
Incidentally, where logic indicates that Wood finds himself third on the depth chart of a healthy Toon squad, give the guy some recognition. He says all the right things, has a fantastic work rate, and always seems to be fit and match-ready.
Wood’s PK record is dependable too, coming in at 90% across all competitions according to Transfermarkt.us. Contrast that to Fox talisman Jamie Vardy at 79%, with both having the same number of attempted PKs across all competitions.
From that first goal, everything rolled downhill.
The home supporters were silent, Newcastle’s wide players constantly ran into open space on the sidelines, and finally, Miguel Almiron and Bruno Guimaraes capitalized with a beautiful give-and-go on the corner of the box to make it 2-0 off Miggy’s left foot in the 7th minute.
Rodger’s formation looked to be a modified 4-3-3, but captain Youri Tielemans was somehow sitting behind all their attacking players and doesn’t have a history of tracking back for Leicester or the Belgium squad. It was a strange sight to see 6-foot-7 albatross Dan Burn bounding up the left sideline unguarded all game with no tactical changes to stop it.
At the 32nd minute of play, Joelinton punctuated the first half with a fantastic header off a Kieran Trippier corner delivery to make the victory an eventuality.
Lineup-wise, Howe started a midfield that found Willock on the left with Longstaff again getting the start on the right. Allan Saint-Maximin would again enter as a sub, this time in the 84th minute joining Jacob Murphy, Matt Ritchie, and Elliot Anderson on cleanup duty.
Across the pitch, Vardy sat the first half in favor of Patson Daka leading the Fox frontline. Daka had some great runs and though he could never find a clear shot on target, seemed to be finding himself in space behind a Magpie defense making some sloppy passes building out of the back. I was relieved but puzzled when he was removed at the half.
Down 3-0, you would assume Leicester would find a way to lead a line with Vardy, and Daka while, perhaps, bumping an underperforming Tielemans into an attacking position, but apparently that was not the plan.
Next stop, Leeds on New Year's Eve. Can NUFC maintain their position in the top 4? Can this amazing ride possibly get any better? Whatever the case, our Magpies march on.
Howay the lads!