On Thursday, Newcastle United defeated Brighton 4-1 at home to take a decisive step toward securing a top-four finish in the Premier League.
Deniz Undav’s own goal and a Dan Burn header just before halftime gave third-placed Newcastle the upper hand.
Undav, a sixth-placed Brighton player who is also trying to make Europe for the first time, restored parity.
Nerves abounded as Newcastle missed opportunities and Brighton loomed as an equalizer, but late goals from Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes ignited a celebratory atmosphere inside St James’ Park.
While a top-four finish is still not guaranteed, Newcastle’s players made the most of the cheers after the final whistle. They only need one victory from their remaining two games to be certain.
With three games remaining, Eddie Howe’s team leads fourth-placed Manchester United with 69 points. Liverpool has 65, and there are only two more games for them.
For the first time in 20 years, Newcastle will play in the Champions League if they defeat relegation-threatened Leicester City at home on Monday.
Howe told Sky Sports, “We were brilliant tonight. We were at our best during the opening frame. I believed we were unrelenting. Maintaining that over the entire game is extremely challenging.
“The fans assisted us in crossing the finish line. A third goal was really important. If we could (qualified for the Champions League), that would be amazing. We don’t take anything for granted because this is the Premier League.
We are aware of Leicester’s strength because they are competing at the other end of the table.
The match appeared to be difficult for the hosts since Newcastle had only earned one point from their previous two games and Brighton had just defeated Arsenal 3-0.
They did, though, control the early proceedings and took the lead after 22 minutes when Kieran Trippier’s inswinging corner grazed Undav’s head and into his own net.
When Burn, a former Brighton defender, leapt to head in another Trippier delivery in first-half stoppage time, Newcastle’s second goal came from a more plausible source.
After the break, Brighton’s Jason Steel kept his team in the game with a quick stop to deny Miguel Almiron. However, the visitors cut the lead in half when Billy Gilmour broke Newcastle’s defense and Undav slid a shot past Nick Pope.
After being sent sprinting clear by Almiron in the final minute, Wilson increased his league tally for the season to 18 goals, and in stoppage time, Guimaraes scored from close range.
Even though one of their final three games is against defending champion Manchester City, Brighton needs two victories to guarantee that they will compete in Europe next season.
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