Leicester 1-0 Newcastle: Shinji Okazaki condemns Rafael Benitez to first defeat
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 15/03/16 11:07am
Shinji Okazaki's overhead kick sent Leicester City five points clear at the top of the Premier League table as Rafa Benitez suffered a 1-0 defeat in his first game as Newcastle manager on Monday.
The Premier League leaders went in front through Okazaki's acrobatic finish on 25 minutes after Jamie Vardy, who appeared to be standing in an offside position when the cross came in, nodded across goal for his strike partner.
Newcastle had missed the chance to go ahead when Ayoze Perez dragged his shot wide early on, while Moussa Sissoko and Siem de Jong both spurned promising opportunities to equalise after the break.
The visitors had 13 shots to Leicester's 10 in an improved performance under new boss Benitez, and had a penalty claim turned down when Sissoko's shot struck Wes Morgan's arm, but the defeat leaves them second bottom with Sunderland to come in the Tyne-Wear derby next Sunday, live on Sky Sports.
As for Leicester, who scored with their only shot on target at the King Power Stadium, the win means they will definitely stay top through to April with a visit to Crystal Palace up next.
Benitez made two changes for his first game in charge as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Vurnon Anita replaced Paul Dummett and Emmanuel Riviere, and the visitors started the stronger.
They went close through Perez after just four minutes as the Spaniard flashed his shot just wide, before his teasing cross almost found Sissoko at the back post.
But Leicester edged in front when Okazaki found the bottom corner with a stunning piece of improvisation for his fifth league goal of the season.
Steven Taylor could only help on Marc Albrighton's cross to the back post, and when Vardy headed back across goal, Okazaki was on hand to fire an overhead kick past Elliot. Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher told Sky Sports after the game Vardy was correctly ruled onside because Taylor's header was unchallenged, deeming it a "football action", and leaving the Leicester man free in phase two to legitimately play the ball.
Albrighton had the chance to double the hosts' lead immediately, but the winger flashed his shot wide of the far post.
Newcastle responded well to going behind and quickly settled back into their rhythm, but Sissoko and Mitrovic collided as the latter looked to pull the trigger in the box.
And, with a sell-out King Power in full voice, Benitez's side struggled to carve out another opportunity before the break.
The Newcastle boss responded with his first change 10 minutes after half-time, and Andros Townsend's introduction made a difference.
Sissoko wasted their clearest opportunity to level when he failed to pick out a team-mate after breaking past the Leicester defence on the hour mark, but Newcastle midfielder then set up Perez, whose low drive deflected narrowly wide of Kasper Schmeichel's near post.
Mitrovic and Danny Simpson clashed as the visitors' frustration threatened to boil over, but referee Craig Pawson did well to defuse the situation.
The Magpies continued to grow into the game as the final 10 minutes approached, and they had a penalty appeal ignored when Sissoko's powerful shot came back off Morgan with eight minutes to play.
Their final chance to salvage a point fell to substitute De Jong, but the Dutchman could only skew his shot tamely to Schmeichel as Leicester saw out the final stages to secure their second consecutive 1-0 win.
The victory puts them five points ahead of Tottenham with eight games remaining, while Newcastle have now lost their last seven league matches on the road.
Leicester: Schmeichel (6), Simpson (6), Huth (7), Morgan (7), Fuchs (6), Mahrez (6), Kante (8), Drinkwater (8), Albrighton (6), Okazaki (7), Vardy (6).
Used subs: Schlupp (6), Ulloa (6)
Newcastle: Elliot (6), Colback (7), Lascelles (6), Taylor (6), Janmaat (6), Sissoko (6), Anita (6), Shelvey (6), Perez (6), Wijnaldum (6), Mitrovic (6)
Used subs: Townsend (6), De Jong (5), Doumbia (6)
Man of the Match: Danny Drinkwater