Football: Twin Towers obscure view

BY CONRAD LEACH Leicester City 2 Izzet 20, Cottee 41 Newcastle United 0 Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 21,125
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The Independent Online
THIS WAS the last day when a red card could deprive a Newcastle player of his coveted FA Cup final place. That one fact is really all that is needed to comprehend Leicester's comfortable home win, and the louche Newcastle performance that permitted it.

Newcastle may have gone through hell and back to get to the final, but if they were going through anything here yesterday, then it was the motions. Leicester, meanwhile, who will be on vacation when Newcastle face their big test, displayed the passion and skill that Ruud Gullit's side will need at the Twin Towers. Well-taken goals from Muzzy Izzet and Tony Cottee reinforced that feeling.

Gullit was not making any attempt to hide the causes for his side's lack of fervour: "The players pulled back from every challenge because they didn't want a red card. I didn't see a really good tackle by my players all day. " Especially, one presumes, with the chilling example of what happened to Manchester United's Denis Irwin fresh in their minds. Red cards in Newcastle's next game will not have the same effect.

That was the nub as Leicester took full advantage of token resistance to dominate. Their manager, Martin O'Neill, was as unstinting in his praise of his players as Gullit was uncritical of his. O'Neill almost listed his entire team as he said: "I'm very proud of them, we were very, very strong. We pulled together and were fantastic."

Izzet, playing up front in the absence of Emile Heskey, put Leicester in front after an opening 17 minutes in which Alan Shearer was booed thanks to his boot connecting with Neil Lennon's face last year.

Cottee won a corner, Newcastle failed to clear and Izzet scored from 10 yards out. A 20-yard Shearer effort was well saved by goalkeeper Pegguy Arphexad six minutes later but then Newcastle dropped out of the game and Cottee scored his 16th, and probably best, goal of the season. Steve Guppy fed him and from 25 yards he curled his shot around the goalkeeper Steve Harper.

Gullit brought on Temuri Ketsbaia for Duncan Ferguson, whose current form and fitness must make him a doubt for Wembley. And Ketsbaia caught the eye as he inspired Newcastle's best moves, forcing two low saves from Arphexad in the last 10 minutes. But, as Gullit rightly pointed out: "We did not deserve a goal, let alone deserve to force a draw."