Miles Starforth's match analysis: Leicester City 1 Newcastle United 2
It was meant to be a celebration for Leicester City's chairman.
Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha turned 60 on Saturday, and there were fireworks, clappers and chocolate coins at kick-off at the King Power Stadium.
Fast forward 90 minutes, and the celebrations were concentrated in one corner of the ground.
Celebrating were 3,200 Newcastle United fans. So too were Rafa Benitez and his players on the pitch.
They had just beaten Leicester 2-1. Deservedly.
Newcastle had attacked as a team, defended as a team and won as a team.
The club has come a long, long way since its previous visit to the King Power Stadium, which was the scene for Benitez’s first game in charge just over two years ago.
Benitez had inherited a talented squad from Steve McClaren, but not a team.
But United’s manager – who sold the club’s big names in the wake of relegation in 2016 – has one now that fans are proud of, and that’s taken some doing.
Benitez has taken a Championship team to 10th in the Premier League with a few low-cost additions and loans.
After the game, Benitez maintained that the club still wasn’t safe from the threat of relegation.
He was right. It’s not yet mathematically safe. But he and his players knew the significance of the result as they headed towards the away end.
Goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Ayoze Perez had given the club its first win at the King Power Stadium.
Newcastle were dominant in the first half.
Perez tested Kasper Schmeichel with an early header from a Kenedy corner, and the forward broke down the left in the 18th minute. Perez checked back and rolled the ball to Shelvey in space.
Shelvey shaped to shoot, but instead took a touch and stroked the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.
United were compact and organised without the ball, and denied Leicester the space they craved. They pressed, tackled and blocked.
In possession, they moved the ball around well.
They would have had even more space had referee Stuart Attwell sent off Harry Maguire for lashing out at Dwight Gayle. He had to go, yet he stayed on the pitch.
Attwell didn’t penalise Paul Dummett for a challenge on Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez in the box later in the half.
It was a tough call, as Dummett got some of the ball and some of the man.
Leicester were more competitive after the break, and United had to defend deep and in numbers.
They dealt with ball after ball into the box, and the game was won in the 75th minute.
Florian Lejeune delivered a long ball forward which bounced awkwardly for Leicester captain Wes Morgan.
Perez anticipated the error and flicked the ball over the stranded Schmeichel.
Jamie Vardy gave the home side hope with a late strike, but Newcastle saw the game out and deservedly claimed three more points.
United’s third successive victory has taken the club to the brink of Premier League safety with six games left to play. A top-half finish is now a realistic target. Only three teams – Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur – have taken more points from their last six games.
Benitez has given a glimpse of what he could achieve at St James’s Park.
Off the pitch, he’s brought stability. And on the field, he’s moulded and shaped a competitive and committed team from limited resources.
Imagine what he could do with time – and money.