The top four may well be ready for the season. Certainly Newcastle United look like a team eminently worthy of a Champions League berth on the back of this assertive 4-1 over Brighton and Hove Albion.
Four points ahead Liverpool with two games left, the promised land is in sight, a season that had seen roughly steady progress under Eddie Howe and was driven by an energetic, savvy and expensively composed young squad and a St. James’ Park crowd that will ensure for unforgettable European nights in the Toon.
Their visitors must hold off Tottenham and now Aston Villa in the battle for Europa League or Conference League football their fate is in their hands but this was an unpleasant experience for Brighton learning what it was like to have done to them what they have done Arsenal on Sunday. The Seagulls hadn’t fallen much beyond the level they reached during the first half of their demolition work at the Emirates Stadium. The absence of Alexis MacAllister in the engine room saw them miss their most natural strike, but Roberto De Zerbi’s side continued their almost pathological refusal to play out from the back until their opponent pressed them. This time, however, loose passes that had flashed just wide of their weekend opponents were now picked up by a relentless Newcastle side.
Alexander Isaac asked too much bow on a shot Joe Willock flashed just wide of the nearest post from a Miguel Almiron cross as St James’ Park roared its approval. Where there was a sense in North London that an deflated crowd had given up hope that this could be the season of dreams, Newcastle supporters felt there was still something to fight for with Liverpool’s breath hanging from their necks . The intensity in the stands was matched on the pitch, forcing mistakes from Brighton Deniz Undav glancing at the corner of Kieran Trippier behind Jason Steele at the nearest station.
Brighton have proven their style of play to yield lavish reward in total for all the inherent risks. However, Newcastle supported themselves to have the intensity to move faster than their visitors could pass the ball. It almost paid off Joelinton stole the ball from Pascal Gross in the penalty area, Steele did enough to refuse the Brazilian. Such fumbles continued until the stroke of half time, where Undav completed a half to forget with a striker challenge, dropping Willock in just the right spot for Trippier to deliver once again. It’s no wonder the right-back is nominated for the Premier League Player of the Season when he delivers crosses with such flawless accuracy and drops one straight onto the path. Dan Burnwho bounced the ball into the turf before shrieking off to celebrate his first Premier League goal.
Brighton hadn’t lost every top-flight game this season as they went into the break trailing. For instance, seconds after Miguel Almiron hit straight at Steele from close range, that seemed to change. Billy Gilmour slipped a fine pass between Burn and Fabian Schar, as Undav raced on to make up for his first half performance.
However, Newcastle’s response was excellent, besieging the Brighton goal with increasing numbers. Steele made a low save from Isak before Burn saw his shot blocked on the rebound. Even as time went on the Magpies looked more dangerous and won the day in the 89th minute as Almiron beat his man and slipped Callum Wilson in behind for his 18th of the season. Wilson became provider before the end and again broke Brighton’s offside trap, but this time got ahead Bruno Guimaras return home.