Newcastle are just one more win away from mathematically guaranteeing themselves a top four Premier League finish and therefore place in next season’s Champions League group stage thanks to a comfortable win over Brighton on Thursday night.
An own goal from Deniz Undav and a Dan Burn header had given Newcastle a deserved 2-0 lead by half-time. But Undav pulled one back for an improved Brighton in the second half, until late goals from Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes made sure of a Newcastle win at the death.
The Magpies dominated the game from the early stages as Brighton surprisingly struggled to gain a foothold only four days after demolishing Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Alexander Isak had the first sight of goal inside five minutes, before Fabian Schar tested Jason Steele from distance and both Joe Willock and Miguel Almiron fired wide in relatively quick succession.
Danny Welbeck shot straight at Nick Pope from outside the box in a reasonable chance for Brighton, but Newcastle’s goal midway through the half had been coming.
Following a Brighton mistake in possession, Lewis Dunk made a sensational last-ditch block to deny Joelinton a certain goal. But the resultant corner saw Undav rise at the near post to try and clear, only to inadvertently flick the ball into his own net instead.
Newcastle continued to push for another goal and it was as though Brighton were playing into their hands by persisting with playing out from the back and inviting pressure unnecessarily. But in the closing stages of the first half, the Seagulls finally built up a head of steam to test the hosts – only a superbly timed covering tackle from Sven Botman stopped Kaoru Mitoma getting in.
However, as it had done earlier, Kieran Trippier’s set-piece delivery proved deadly. This time it was a deep free-kick rather than a corner, but landed right on Burn’s head for a simple finish.
Almiron thought he had made it 3-0 early in the first half with a back post volley that was parried by Steele. Within 45 seconds, that save became even more important when slack Newcastle defending allowed Undav to latch onto a Billy Gilmour through ball and make up for his earlier gaffe.
Steele was again Brighton’s hero shortly after the hour mark with a low save from an Isak header. Newcastle tried to turn in the rebound, but the Seagulls stood their ground and cleared.
Roberto De Zerbi made changes relatively early in the second half, bringing on Alexis Mac Allister. The Italian later also reshuffled to get Moises Caicedo back into his more natural midfield position, with both moves having an impact on the game. Suddenly, the Seagulls were having the lion’s share of the ball, albeit still failing to use it particularly well – Newcastle deserved credit for that too.
Wilson and Guimaraes had both worked hard all game and got their rewards at the death. A swift Newcastle counter saw Almiron make the team’s third goal for Wilson, putting the number nine through on goal, matched by a composed finish in front of the Gallowgate End.
Wilson was involved in the fourth Newcastle goal as the game ticked into stoppage time. He was through on goal again, but this time was able to pull it back for Guimaraes to smash home. Wilson could even have made it 5-1 after that, but Steele was on hand to save.
Three points from Newcastle’s final two games against Leicester and CHelsea will take them back into the Champions League for the first time since 2003. Brighton still need six points from the final nine available to them to be sure of Europa League qualification.
GK: Nick Pope – 6/10 – For all that Brighton improved, he didn’t have that much to do.
RB: Kieran Trippier (c) – 8/10 – His in-swinging corners caused Brighton all kinds of trouble.
CB: Fabian Schar – 5/10 – Sloppy marking was directly responsible for Brighton scoring.
CB: Sven Botman – 7/10 – Made an important covering tackle at 1-0.
LB: Dan Burn – 6/10 – Scored an inch-perfect header but ended up playing Undav onside when Brighton reducd the deficit for 2-1.
CM: Joelinton – 7/10 – Put in his usual hard shift and was always ready to fly forward from midfield.
CM: Bruno Guimaraes – 8/10 – Won his tackles and broke up play particularly well, especially to help see it through after Brighton got back into the game. Got the fourth in stoppage time.
CM: Joe Willock – 6/10 – Had done okay before his evening prematurely through injury.
RW: Miguel Almiron – 8/10 – Made several purposefuls bursts down the right, characterised by the way he roasted Estupinan to set up Newcastle’s third goal.
ST: Callum Wilson – 7/10 – Pressed and harried from the front. Rewarded late with his 18th Premier League goal goal of the season.
LW: Alexander Isak – 6/10 – Had good moments in isolation but was too much on the periphery.
SUB: Elliot Anderson (60′ for Willock) – 6/10
SUB: Allan Saint-Maximin (90+2′ for Isak) – N/A
SUB: Anthony Gordon (90+2′ forAlmiron) – N/A
SUB: Matt Targett (90+4′ for Joelinton) – N/A
SUB: Javier Manquillo (90+4′ for Trippier) – N/A
Subs not used: Dubravka, Dummett, Lewis, Miley
Eddie Howe – 8/10 – His side were pretty much always on top and patience was a virtue in the end.
GK: Jason Steele – 8/10 – Had a lot of the ball at his feet and wasn’t always comfortable. Made a huge save to stop Newcastle going 3-0 ahead, right before Brighton pulled one back. And another one.
RB: Moises Caicedo – 6/10 – Endured a challenging evening at right-back again, but was freed up to move into midfield with 20 minutes to go.
CB: Jan Paul van Hecke – 5/10 – Lost the ball in a bad area that led to the corner from Newcastle broke the deadlock. Weak for the second goal as well. The hosts seemed to target him.
CB: Lewis Dunk (c) – 7/10 – Shut the door in Newcastle’s face so many times when the Magpies were dominant and could have got out of sight.
LB: Pervis Estupinan – 5/10 – Sloppy as it was, but also had a bit of a nightmare against Almiron for long periods. Definitely improved considerably as the game progressed.
CM: Pascal Gross – 5/10 – Minimal impact in creating opportunities.
CM: Billy Gilmour – 6/10 – Found his rhythm more in the second half with some key passes, including an assist for Undav. Surprisingly taken off in the triple change.
RM: Facundo Buonanotte – 5/10 – Not enough of the ball to make a real impact.
AM: Deniz Undav – 7/10 – Unwittingly put the ball into his own net and later converted a clinical finish at the right end to get his team back into it.
LM: Kaoru Mitoma – 7/10 – Looked the Brighton player most likley to make something happen when they were under the cosh in the first half. Actually quieter in the second half.
ST: Danny Welbeck – 5/10 – Tested Pope from distance in the first half but didn’t get a lot of service.
SUB: Alexis Mac Allister (56′ for Gilmour) – 7/10
SUB: Evan Ferguson (56′ for Welbeck) – 6/10
SUB: Julio Enciso (56′ for Buonanotte) – 7/10
SUB: Odel Offiah (69′ for Gross) – 6/10
SUB: Cameron Peupion (85′ for Undav) – N/A
Subs not used: Ayari, McGill, Moran, Samuels
Roberto De Zerbi – 7/10 – It wasn’t working in the first half, with too much dedication on passing out from the back. That changed after half-time, while the boss also didn’t waste time making subs.