- By Shamoon Hafez
- BBC Sport at St James’ Park
Leicester City’s Premier League fate is now out of their own hands
Leicester manager Dean Smith said: “We’re going to need help. I think there’s going to be a lot of anxiety everywhere between the three teams that are in it.
“First and foremost we have a really tough job against West Ham, to try and win that game. But I’m sure with our supporters behind us [we can do that], they saw how hard the players worked today.
“And then it is out of our hands. If Everton win… we obviously will give it our best shot and as long as we can say that we have fought tooth and nail, all we can do is put pressure on them.”
An Everton win at home to Bournemouth on Sunday will condemn the 2016 Premier League champions to the Championship for the first time since 2014.
However, a Leicester victory and anything else from the Toffees will send Sean Dyche’s side down and keep the Foxes up – with them possibly surviving on goal difference.
Leicester are on -18 and Everton on -24, so the point and clean sheet on Tyneside may yet prove crucial at full-time on the weekend. Leeds are the other team fighting for survival, level on points with Leicester but with a significantly worse goal difference.
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville said: “They are looking for a mad final day and hoping that something crazy happens at Goodison Park, it is all on Everton.”
Smith makes ‘no apologies’ for line-up
Smith’s team selection saw him leave England internationals James Maddison and Harvey Barnes on the bench and they could not make an impact when introduced in the second half.
Asked if he had gambled on Leicester’s future, Smith told BBC Sport: “No. I am a bit of a risk-taker but that was not a gamble today. If I came here and went at Newcastle, we could have been beaten by four or five, such has been the goals we have been giving away.
“It was never a gamble, we kept a clean sheet which is what we needed to do. We needed to score which we normally don’t have problems with.
“We have just played against Newcastle who have qualified for the Champions League. It wasn’t going to be an easy game. Not many people expected us to get a result today.”
Smith raised eyebrows by keeping two of his key players on the bench and deploying a 5-3-2 formation at St James’ Park but the side kept their first shutout since November and survived Newcastle hitting the post three times.
They almost won it at the end with their only shot on target, but Timothy Castagne’s effort was kept out by Nick Pope.
“A real battling performance and I make no apologies for the way we set up today, we haven’t kept a clean sheet for too long,” said Smith.
“My mind was made up when I watched Newcastle play Brighton on Thursday, one of the best footballing teams in the Premier League this year, and in the first 25 minutes they steamrolled them.
“We had to make sacrifices with the team sheet. It almost worked exactly to plan and their goalkeeper made a good save with our only shot.
“Coming back from three goals down is not sustainable. We came here where it was going to be a party atmosphere but we had to think about ourselves and the best way to get a result.
“If it’s too little, too late, who knows? We have taken it to Sunday.”
All the pressure on Everton?
With Manchester City having already paraded the trophy as champions, all eyes will be at the bottom end of the table on Sunday.
Southampton are already down and two from Leeds, Leicester and Everton will join them in the Championship next season.
Leicester’s plight is the most shocking, having been champions seven years ago and winning the FA Cup just two years ago.
“I didn’t see the fall as quickly as it has been and I’m still scratching my head about it,” former Leicester goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer told BBC World Service Radio.
“I still look at that squad of players and I still find it difficult to believe that they are where they are.
“What has gone so terribly wrong? Why are they there? I think they were possibly a little bit too slow to react in changing things sooner.
“There’s been a lot of decisions I think that have been made that have really backfired.”
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on Sky Sports: “If Leicester won tonight they were out of the drop zone, but are they in a better position now? They were never going to win two games were they?
“We are talking about a team 20 games without a clean sheet and has now gone to Newcastle and got a point. It is a decent point, it gives them a fighting chance.
“If you were Everton watching that, that puts a lot of pressure on them now.”
Neville added: “They have given themselves a better chance. I thought Leicester were finished last week.
“The pressure is on them and they are going to have to do something on Sunday. Imagine the pressure, imagine. It is going to be nail-biting at Goodison.”