Newcastle United capped off a remarkable campaign with confirmation of a Champions League return following a goalless draw with Leicester City in the Premier League on Monday night.
Eddie Howe's men dominated proceedings from start to finish, claiming that all-important point to secure a top four-place. It has been a remarkable turnaround for the club, which was under real threat of relegation when Howe assumed control in November 2021.
Speaking after the game, the Magpies boss said: "This wasn't in our sights at that moment. We had escaped relegation impressively from the position we were in.
"We were hopeful of improving and staying away from danger and growing the team to a position where maybe we could compete for Europe in a couple of seasons, so we've shot ahead of schedule."
WE ARE NEWCASTLE UNITED.
WE ARE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE! 🙌🙌 pic.twitter.com/NaMKa6CJGJ
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) May 22, 2023
By contrast, Leicester, who are still two points adrift of safety, will head into their final-day clash with West Ham knowing their fate is not in their own hands.
Newcastle were lauded by a crowd of 52,152 on the final whistle, having secured elite European football for just the third time in the club’s history.
Howe was forced to make a last-minute change when, after he had taken part in the warm-up, midfielder Joelinton was unable to start and was replaced by Elliot Anderson.
Any fears the reshuffle might unsettle his team proved unfounded as they took the game by the scruff of the neck amid a party atmosphere at St James’ Park, although Guimaraes was perhaps fortunate to escape with only a booking for his studs-up ninth-minute clash with Soumare.
The Magpies dominated possession but in the early stages were unable to find a telling final ball.
Almiron, who had made another high-octane start, fired over after cutting inside from the right and Anderson tested goalkeeper Daniel Iversen for the first time with a curling attempt.
Alexander Isak was seeing plenty of the ball down the left but sliced a long-range effort well wide as the Magpies piled forward repeatedly without ever really being able to summon up the required precision to make the pressure tell.
For their part, City attempted to hit Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho long and early and, although they achieved a measure of success, they met with stubborn resistance from Fabian Schar and Sven Botman.
Wilson twice went close to his 19th goal of the season four minutes before the break when he stabbed a shot against a post and then saw Wilfred Ndidi clear his follow-up header off the line, while Almiron was similarly denied by the woodwork before Isak steered the rebound wide seconds later.
Thank you for your support tonight, Blue Army 👏 pic.twitter.com/j4sPqsCSW3
— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 22, 2023
Wilson headed over from a Kieran Trippier corner in stoppage time after Iversen had misjudged the flight and the half ended goalless.
James Maddison entered the fray at the break as a replacement for Iheanacho, but the traffic continued to head very much in the direction of his team’s goal, with Isak and Almiron menacing out wide, although the massed ranks of blue held impressively firm.
Iversen had to turn a 59th-minute Isak snapshot over his crossbar and block Sean Longstaff’s 76th-minute drive with a foot, but it was the Foxes who almost snatched victory at the death when Pope was forced into his first save of the game to keep out Castagne’s stoppage-time volley.
Written by Damian Spellman, PA & Shaun Connolly, Beat.
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