Well, well, well… nerves? What nerves? Newcastle United certainly didn’t feel any as they coasted past Brighton to put one foot in next season’s Champions League.
Nerves were building on Tyneside, but those those nerves were eased by a fierce and determined Newcastle side on Thursday night.
Fast out of the blocks, chasing every ball, and applying a high press meant it was Brighton who were the nervy ones. Although the opening goal didn’t come as early as Eddie Howe’s side would’ve liked, there were signs that it was coming.
Brighton’s willingness to play out from the back played into Newcastle’s hands. Miguel Almiron, Alexander Isak, and Callum Wilson all led the press, which forced Brighton’s defense into some rash decisions. Jason Steele may come across as cool and relaxed, but he was all but that when pressed by Newcastle’s front three.
The brilliant Kieran Trippier helped Newcastle take a deserved lead with a fantastic delivery from a corner. Dennis Undav was occupied by Wilson and not concentrating on the ball, which resulted in him heading the ball into his own net.
Dan Burn found the net in first-half stoppage time, rising highest to guide a header into the bottom corner for his first Newcastle goal in the Premier League against his former club.
Don’t celebrate against a former club you say? Burn’s knee slide could’ve taken him to the Quayside, with his smile as wide as the Tyne.
Almiron should have put Newcastle 3-0 ahead but the Paraguay international saw his volley saved by Steele, only for Billy Gilmour to pick out Undav moments later, with Newcastle leaving a gaping hole in their defense. The Seagulls striker gratefully took advantage of it to cut the deficit in half.
Brighton’s goal caused tension in the stands and you could feel the nerves growing, and things escalated when Julio Enciso went close to drawing Brighton level with a header.
In times gone by a Newcastle side would’ve crumbled—not this one.
Wilson hit Brighton with a sucker punch as the second half headed towards added time, beating the offside trap to burst clear and score past Steele at his near post.
The striker then set up Bruno Guimaraes for another goal just moment later and the England international could have made it five as Brighton’s defense fell apart, only for Steele to come out on top.
Newcastle’s midfield took a further battering, with Joe Willock coming off with a hamstring injury. He is likely to see his season end two games early. Joelinton and Elliot Anderson were both seen limping as they left St James’ Park, too, and Guimaraes’ ankle looked to have given the midfielder some issues again.
Sean Longstaff has been out of action since going off against Everton, and whether he will make a timely return against Leicester on Monday remains to be seen.
The middle of the pitch might have to be patched up and sent out for one last battle to secure Champions League football, but the goods news is that a win against Leicester will do just that with one game to spare and under St James’ Park’s athmosphere.