London – Newcastle United derailed Leicester City’s bid to qualify for next season’s Champions League with a 4-2 win today that all but secured their place in the Premier League.
Defeat left Leicester third, two points in front of Chelsea and five ahead of West Ham, with both London clubs having a game in hand over the Foxes. Only the top four at the end of the Premier League season qualify for the Champions League.
Joe Willock, on loan from Arsenal, fired Newcastle in front in the 22nd minute at the King Power Stadium as he scored in his fourth successive top-flight game for the Magpies.
And the visitors doubled their lead before half-time with a rare goal from Paul Dummett.
Callum Wilson appeared to put the result beyond doubt with two second-half goals for Newcastle.
Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho however, both scored inside the final 10 minutes for Leicester before Newcastle saw out the game.
Leicester, who face Chelsea in the FA Cup final next weekend, are now in danger of fresh Champions League heartache after they missed out on the top four of the final day of last season.
Their three remaining league games are all against teams currently in the top six, with Brendan Rodgers’ men travelling to Manchester United on Tuesday before they face Chelsea and Tottenham after their Wembley clash with the Blues.
“We lacked concentration and if you do that against good teams and good players they punish you,” Rodgers told Sky Sports.
Leicester suffered a setback shortly before kick-off when experienced defender Jonny Evans pulled out after being injured in the warm-up, with Rodgers saying: “He is the brain in our defensive line…It was big blow for us.”
Rodgers, however, insisted: “We are still in a really good position and everything is still in our hands.”
Newcastle’s win, which took place a day after UK tax authorities dropped their criminal investigation into the club, saw them move 12 points clear of the relegation zone with three games left to play.
They will be assured of top-flight survival without kicking a ball if Fulham fail to beat Burnley on Monday.
“Some of the counter-attacking was excellent, delighted with the win,” said Newcastle manager Steve Bruce.
“We made it a bit hairy towards the end. We are not safe, for the Premier League you can’t take it for granted.”
Newcastle made the early running and got the goal they deserved when Willock capitalised on a mistake by Caglar Soyuncu to beat Kasper Schmeichel from 10 yards.
Dummett made it 2-0 in the 34th minute when he powered in a header from Matt Ritchie’s corner.
Midway through the second half, Newcastle were 3-0 in front when Ritchie’s pass down the left evaded Timothy Castagne and allowed Wilson to round Wilson to round Schmeichel before scoring.
Wilson had his second goal and Newcastle’s fourth in the 73rd minute firing in the rebound from a tight angle, after his initial shot hit the post, to crown a counter-attack.
Newcastle were cruising at 4-0 ahead only to suffer a nervous finish following late goals from Albrighton and Iheanacho.
Magpies goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had to make a brilliant stop to preserve his side’s two-goal lead when he denied Ayoze Perez from point-blank range. ― AFP