By Ryan Moran
- Rafa Benitez’s first defeat on debut in 15 years.
- Tottenham extend gap between third placed Arsenal after defeating Aston Villa.
- Manchester City unable to climb into third after goalless draw at Carrow Road.
Benitez tastes defeat on managerial debut
Leicester City 1-0 Newcastle United
Rafael Benitez’s Newcastle side couldn’t do the unthinkable at the King Power Stadium as Shinji Okazaki’s acrobatic finish secured three points for Leicester. The early signals showed the Magpies have a realistic chance of staying up under Benitez.
The away side started with pace and intensity forcing Wes Morgan into a poor back pass. Ayoze Perez spurned a shot just wide after Georginio Wijnaldum attacked into the box before being tackled.
For all the positives in their play, an overhead kick has to be applauded by anyone as Okazaki dealt a killer blow after Newcastle’s blistering start. In tight games like this, it’s moments like that from the Japanese attacker that are the difference between winning the league and coming a close second.
For all the positives from the first half, of seven shots for Newcastle only one tame Perez effort hit the target. Improved performances mean nothing without the result but all points in the right direction even with a defeat. With the Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday, Benitez can kick start the survival by winning back the bragging rights up north.
As for Leicester another victory means another step closer to winning the Premier League. When a new manager is at the helm the task can become more difficult but the Foxes overcame a spirited Newcastle side to stay five points clear at the top.
Spurs increase the points deficit over Arsenal
Aston Villa 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur
Harry Kane’s brace condemned Aston Villa to their 20th defeat of the season. While survival is numerically possible, it seems most around Villa Park have lost faith. On the pitch problems are being blamed for off the pitch mistakes, in no small part blamed on Randy Lerner.
A bed sheet held up by supporters notified the fans’ distaste of the current owner, who is looking to sell the club. While some fans blame the owners, a lack of fight on the pitch isn’t down to the owners given the wages the squad are being paid. With all the doom and gloom around Villa Park, the worst could be yet to come if Wigan and Wolves’ downfalls are anything to go by. The Championship can be a cruel mistress for any side especially a club surrounded by a negative atmosphere.
With Euro 2016 fast approaching, Roy Hodgson would have watched in awe as two of his hopefuls combined to give the away side the lead. A quickly taken Dele Alli free kick was latched on to by Kane. Minutes into the second half the same duo combined as Kane met Alli’s cross to double their side’s lead, opening up a six point gap on Arsenal having played a game more.
England fans have given up hope on international success but the English contingent Mauricio Pochettino possesses leaves great hope for future tournaments. The likes of Kane, Alli, Eric Dier, Ryan Mason and Danny Rose still have their best years ahead of them and, much to the delight of the English set up, are all being given the Premier League stage to showcase their talents under Pochettino.
Villa visit fellow strugglers Swansea in their next league game while Tottenham look to overturn a 3-0 score line against Borussia Dortmund in the Europa League at home.
City’s poor run of form continues
Norwich City 0-0 Manchester City
Manchester City extended their poor run of form with a draw. Manuel Pellegrini’s side have won only one of their last five games in the league, a 4-0 victory over relegation favourites Aston Villa. The draw also keep the away side in fourth place, unable to take the opportunity to leapfrog Arsenal into third.
For a side possessing world class talent in Sergio Aguero and David Silva, three shots on target was all City could muster against Norwich. All three of those efforts came in the first half as the Canaries looked the more likely to claim all three points.
On loan Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford, making his first Premier League start, struck the bar from distance. A seldom moment of panic for Joe Hart in a game of few clear cut chances. Graham Dorrans failed to hit the target late on also, adding another off target shot next to the round number next to ‘shots on target.’
Wilfried Bony’s limited impact will worry Pellegrini given his choice to play 4-4-2, adding an extra striker alongside Aguero. The Ivorian had no contact with the ball inside the box before his substitution before the hour mark. His replacement Raheem Sterling also failed to set the world alight following his introduction in place of the striker.
The home side deserved their point as they held a title contender with John Ruddy twice preventing Aguero from opening the scoring but remain in trouble. The point leaves the Canaries in the relegation zone on goal difference but the display left positives for Alex Neil.
Having won the Premier League already in his reign, Pellegrini is setting his sights on the Champions League. The Citizens have a two goal lead going into the home tie but Saturday’s exploits leave much to be desired at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Of the other fixtures:
Bournemouth 3-2 Swansea City
Stoke City 1-2 Southampton