Belfast Telegraph

Watch: Shinji Okazaki's Leicester stunner against Newcastle keeps title chase on course

Leicester City 1-0 Newcastle United

By Nick Mashiter

Shinji Okazaki's stunning goal restored Leicester's five-point lead in the title race as Rafael Benitez's Newcastle bow ended in defeat.

Striker Okazaki won a forgettable game with an unforgettable first-half overhead kick as the Foxes maintained their grip on the Premier League with a 1-0 victory.

Tottenham's 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Sunday had put Claudio Ranieri's men under pressure but they won with minimum fuss, despite not being at their best at the King Power Stadium.

They go to Crystal Palace on Saturday at the end of the five-game run which Ranieri had labelled as key to their chances, having won 10 points from 12. They are now five points clear of Spurs, 11 ahead of Arsenal and 12 above Manchester City.

The Foxes boss said: "I was sure it would be this kind of match. Their players showed Rafa their attitude and the Newcastle players are very good. I am sure that they will be safe.

"It wasn't the best performance from us but we showed fantastic spirit. We defended very well. We played, and we fought. It wasn't nervy in the second-half, the team were so close and compact.

"I feel now that I am just concentrating on the next game against Crystal Palace. We are so strong, we think only one game at a time. Step by step, that is our philosophy."

Defeat left Benitez knowing exactly what he needs to do to keep Newcastle up, with the Magpies a point below the safety line.

The Spaniard said: "We started really well and had two good chances. After 20 minutes they started pushing and they scored and played the game they like to play on the counter attack.

"I wasn't happy with the goal because there were too many balls bouncing in the box.

"I would like to think about the positives. We reacted well and were pushing well.

"I will take the positives - we did well, you could see the commitment and the passion.

"We know our next game against Sunderland is a derby and it will be important for everyone."

There was plenty of effort but the visitors were powderpuff when it mattered as their confidence waned as the game wore on.

There was enough to give Benitez heart but Leicester's sluggish start was smashed in stunning fashion after 25 minutes.

Newcastle failed to clear Riyad Mahrez's free-kick and when Marc Albrighton sent the ball back in, Jamie Vardy headed across for Okazaki to execute the perfect overhead kick from six yards.

It was only the striker's fifth league goal of the season but crucially settled the game.

Benitez retreated to the dugout and Albrighton nearly made it 2-0 two minutes later after a deep run ended with him curling inches wide.

Ayoze Perez shot straight at Kasper Schmeichel just before the break and Aleksandar Mitrovic struggled to justify Benitez's faith when his 55th-minute header failed to trouble the keeper.

Perez's deflected drive whistled wide after 62 minutes but with the hosts struggling to create themselves, the visitors never took advantage.

That will be a concern for Benitez and he was left frustrated when Mitrovic opted to pass to Siem De Jong rather than shoot with just six minutes left.

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