Newcastle United secured Champions League football for the 2023/24 season with a draw at home to Leicester City, who also kept their survival hopes alive.
Eddie Howe’s side reached a landmark 70 points, their best tally since the 1995/96 season, in a season where Newcastle have progressed from regular relegation fighters to a club that can now look forward to season among Europe’s elite.
The 90 minutes had few clear-cut chances with Newcastle dominating the possession for large swathes of the game, but only managing to smash their chances off the woodwork to the relief of the travelling Leicester fans.
Daniel Iversen was forced into making just three saves against a Newcastle side that lacked their usual intensity with both Joelinton and Joe Willock out of action.
Newcastle will now look to Sunday’s game against Chelsea before a summer of investment to ensure they can remain competitive next season. In the opposite camp, everything is still to play for with a vital match still to play for Leicester on Sunday against West Ham.
Story of the Match
Going into Monday night’s game, Eddie Howe chose to make just the one voluntary change from last Thursday’s 4-1 in over Brighton, with Sean Longstaff coming into replace Joe Willock in the midfield three after the latter was ruled out for the rest of the season due to a hamstring injury.
In the warm up, Joelinton, who has had a superb season for Newcastle, was ruled out after being assessed before kick-off, with the 20-year-old Scottish youth international Elliot Anderson coming in to replace him to make his 21st appearance of the season.
For the travelling side, Dean Smith chose to make three changes with Harvey Barnes and James Maddison both dropping to the bench in favour of Kelechi Ihneacho partnering with Jamie Vardy up top, while Harry Souttar and Luke Thomas were brought in to make a back five, in a game which promised to test Leicester’s backline.
As expected Newcastle started Monday’s game with the majority of the ball, with Anderson showing his creative ability early on to thread through Alexander Isak before swinging a ball into the box seconds later.
The game’s first contentious moment came in the ninth minute, when Newcastle’s combative midfielder Bruno Guimarâes went in late on Boubakary Soumaré, brushing his studs above the Foxes midfielder’s knee, with Guimarâes lucky to pick up just a yellow card.
The game continued to flow in Newcastle’s favour, with Leicester largely confined to rare venture into the Newcastle half which was usually swiftly stopped.
Callum Wilson and Miguel Almiron hit the woodwork before the break
As the first half wore on, Leicester’s back five continued to hold firm, however, in the 40th minute it was the Foxes’ goalkeeper who presented Newcastle with their best chance.
Daniel Iversen failed to collect the ball in a challenge with Dan Burn, before Callum Wilson slammed the ball off the post as it dropped before seeing his subsequent header cleared off the line.
This seemingly woke up a sleepy Newcastle with Almiron smashing a left-footed volley off the post from a Fabian Schär knockdown before Alexander Isak ballooned over the rebound.
As the first half went into three minutes of added time, Wilson was presented with another fantastic opportunity. Kieran Trippier’s in-swinging corner flew over everyone in the box, falling to Wilson at the backrest who could only head over the bar.
At half time, Dean Smith chose to replace Ihneacho with James Maddison coming on after what had been a toothless display from the Foxes in the first half.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first, with Newcastle continuing to dominate the possession but lacking in intensity while Leicester stood resolute in their solid back five formation.
In the 58th minute, Newcastle forced Iversen into his first troublesome save of the match when Almiron danced through the left side of Newcastle's defence to tee up Isak on the edge of the box, who fired it towards the top right hand corner of Iversen’s goal only for the Leicester goalkeeper to make a fine stop to keep the game on level terms.
On the hour mark, Newcastle had their tenth corner of the game, however, it came to no avail with a shorter corner routine easily dissected by Leicester.
With Dean Smith seemingly growing in confidence, he chose to sub off the extra defender in the form of Jonny Evans, with Harvey Barnes adding to the attack, as well as Patson Daka, replacing the tired Jamie Vardy, who had ran himself ragged up top.
On the 67th minute, Wilson who was forced to feed off scraps all game long was replaced by Allan-Saint Maxim as Howe looked to inject some flair and energy into Newcastle’s front three.
The arrival of Maddison and Barnes turned the game into more of a contest with both Barnes and Daka looking lively down the left hand side. However, it was Newcastle who again went the closest to going 1-0 up, when Leicester defender Wout Faes clumsily directed the ball to the back post from a corner where Guimarâes thudded the post from point blank range.
Sean Longstaff was the next to have an effort denied by Iversen with the Newcastle midfielder played through by Trippier, only be denied by Iversen’s outstretched leg.
Leicester come the closest in injury time
As the game went into injury time, Leicester looked the most likely to score, dominating the possession for the first time in the game and pushing to create an opportunity.
In the 92nd minute, Leicester had the best chance of the game when Maddison curled in an expert cross to full back Timothy Castagne who connected with his right boot to force Pope into a fine reaction save.
Castagnes’ volleyed effort turned out to be the last chance of the game, with the referee blowing his whistle to the sound of jubilant cheers from the Geordie faithful. They can now look forward to their tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Super Sunday, safe in the knowledge that they are into Europe’s elite competition next season.
For Leicester City and Dean Smith, the focus is now on their West Ham game at the King Power Stadium on Sunday which they will have to win and hope other results go their way if they are to stay in the Premier League.
Player of the Match - Harry Souttar
The Australian central defender was given just his second start under Dean Smith, and worked hard to reward his manager with a gutsy display at the heart of Leicester’s backline to keep a clean sheet.
He helped ensure Leicester claimed a vital point in their dwindling survival hopes.