Newcastle close in on Champions League spot with resounding win over Brighton

Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes served up a grandstand finish to take Newcastle to the brink of Champions League football with a resounding victory over Brighton.

Having seen Deniz Undav drag the Seagulls back into the game after his own goal and Dan Burn’s towering header had given the Magpies a 2-0 half-time lead, Wilson scored his 18th of the season and then set up Guimaraes to wrap up a 4-1 win at the death in front of a delirious crowd of 52,122 at St James’ Park.

Eddie Howe’s men will be assured of a top-four finish if Liverpool lose to Aston Villa on Saturday – even a draw might ultimately prove enough as a result of their superior goal difference – but can complete the job themselves in any case if they beat struggling Leicester on Tyneside on Monday evening.

For much of the game, this was not the Brighton which effectively ended Arsenal’s title challenge on Sunday, partly because of the absence of Levi Colwill, Alexis Mac Allister, Julio Enciso and Evan Ferguson from the starting line-up, but largely as a result of the relentless pressure exerted by their opponents.

Joe Willock saw an early cross hacked away to Miguel Almiron, whose shot was blocked at source as the Magpies found their rhythm, and Fabian Schar drilled a ninth-minute free-kick straight at the grateful Jason Steele.

Willock fired just wide from Almiron’s pull-back seconds later, and the Paraguay international cleared the target by some distance from a tight angle after the former Arsenal midfielder had returned the favour.

Such was the Magpies’ early intensity that the Seagulls were struggling to play their way out of their own half, much to manager Roberto De Zerbi’s agitation, although keeper Nick Pope was tested for the first time by Danny Welbeck’s 16th-minute attempt after Kaoru Mitoma had picked him out.

Newcastle United v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – St. James’ Park
Dan Burn (right) helped give Newcastle a 2-0 half-time lead (Owen Humphreys/PA)

But the pressure finally told with 23 minutes gone when Trippier drilled the latest of a series of corners to the near post and in his attempt to clear it, Undav could only glance the ball into his own net.

Burn saw a sharply-executed 34th-minute shot on the turn deflected wide after the visitors failed to deal with another Trippier corner and although Mitoma chanced his arm with an ambitious 37th-minute strike which failed to engage Pope, Newcastle extended their lead deep into added time.

With Joelinton still seething at a Moises Caicedo challenge which went unpunished by referee Robert Jones, Tripper took full advantage of a decision which did go his side’s way seconds later, curling a free-kick on to the head of Burn, who powered it past the helpless Steele.

Newcastle United v Brighton and Hove Albion – Premier League – St. James’ Park
Callum Wilson (second right) was on the scoresheet late on (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Almiron passed up a chance to put the game beyond the visitors within five minutes of the restart when he shot straight at Steele from Willock’s knock-down, and the miss proved costly within seconds when Undav ran on to Billy Gilmour’s through-ball and beat Pope to make amends for his earlier contribution.

Mac Allister, Enciso and Ferguson were swiftly thrown into the mix and just as quickly, Willock departed clutching his hamstring and Elliot Anderson joined the fray.

But there was no let-up as the home side saw penalty appeals waved away after Burn appeared to have his shirt tugged and Steele made a superb save to keep out Alexander Isak’s header.

Enciso glanced Caicedo’s cross wide of Pope’s far post as the game became increasingly open, but the Magpies launched a devastating late assault to wrap up the win.

Wilson added a third when he rounded off an 89th-minute counter-attack sparked by Almiron before setting up Guimaraes to make it 4-1 in injury-time.