Newcastle United have effectively secured their Premier League status following an impressive 4-2 win against Leicester City.
The Magpies went into half-time 2-0 up at the King Power Stadium following goals from Joe Willock and Paul Dummett and Callum Wilson added a double after the break before Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho set up a nervy finish.
Here are five things we learned from the game.
Newcastle set the standard as Wilson shines
After such a limp, passive display against much-changed Arsenal just five days previously, Newcastle produced arguably their best performance of the season.
Steve Bruce acknowledged that if Newcastle were at their best then they were ‘capable’ while Callum Wilson called on his side to believe that they were ‘going to get something’ rather than just ‘turning up and getting turned over’ – and they delivered.
With some tough fixtures to come, this was a huge opportunity for Leicester to tighten their grip on a place in next season’s Champions League but the Foxes could not cope with Newcastle in the opening 80 minutes.
Leicester were clearly shaken by Jonny Evans’ late withdrawal in the warm-up and Newcastle caused the hosts so many problems on the counter-attack and Timothy Castagne, playing out of position at centre-back, could not deal with Callum Wilson.
Wilson was a menace throughout with his movement in the channels and the striker’s two goals in the second half ultimately proved decisive.
Newcastle have tended to rely on Allan Saint-Maximin at times but this was very much a team display as Leicester struggled with the visitors’ energy and intent.
Only Newcastle could have a nervy finish after racing into a 4-0 lead, as Marc Albrighton and Kelechi Iheanacho scored two late goals, but the Magpies hung on.
Newcastle’s summer priority is clear
Joe Willock did not like the ‘super sub’ tag and you can’t see the midfielder dropping to the bench again anytime soon after an impressive return to the starting line-up.
Ahead of handing Willock his first start since March, Steve Bruce said the 21-year-old had been ‘knocking on the door’ and that was the ‘polite way to put it’.
Sean Longstaff was perhaps a little unfortunate to drop out of the starting line-up but Willock more than justified his inclusion with another energetic display – and yet another big goal.
When the slack Caglar Soyuncu dawdled on the ball in the 22nd minute, Willock smelt blood and robbed the Leicester defender before racing clear, holding the defender off and coolly slotting the ball past Kasper Schmeichel.
Willock is the first Newcastle player to score in four successive Premier League games since Papiss Cisse and the Magpies really must do all they can to somehow hold onto him next season. The Arsenal loanee would be a dream signing.
Martin Dubravka is Newcastle’s No 1 for a reason
Newcastle have been prone to switching off after scoring at times in recent weeks and Leicester created two of their best openings in the first half after both of the visitors’ goals. Crucially, however, Martin Dubravka was there to bail his side out.
Dubravka kept out Wesley Fofana’s header from point-blank range just three minutes after Willock’s opener and, then, just a couple of minutes after Paul Dummett’s second, the Newcastle goalkeeper denied Kelechi Iheanacho.
Then, on the stroke of half time, Dubravka managed to frustrate Jamie Vardy when the Leicester talisman attempted to lift the ball over the shot-stopper.
Dubravka proved just as influential after the break. After Wilson scored Newcastle’s third, Dubravka denied Ayoze Perez and, right at the death, the Slovakia international again kept out his former team-mate.
Dubravka had to be patient to get his place back in the side, in February, but the Newcastle No 1 has made a priceless contribution ever since.
Safety is virtually secured
On paper, there may have been more riding on this game for Leicester but Newcastle have now effectively secured their Premier League status – just as they did at this very stadium in 2018 and 2019.
This season has been far from a success but, given how precarious Newcastle’s situation looked just a few weeks ago, the Magpies’ response has to be commended and the hierarchy’s decision to stick with Bruce has paid off – even if few envisaged such a turnaround.
Bruce has set his side the target of getting as close to last season’s 13th-placed finish and haul of 44 points as possible and Newcastle cannot let their standards slip in the final three games.
Class of 2017 play their part
For all the signings Newcastle have made since Steve Bruce took charge, tellingly, the Magpies’ head coach is still relying on the influential group of players who helped the club win the Championship four years ago.
Since that humiliating defeat at Brighton back in March, at various points, Paul Dummett, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, Ciaran Clark and Dwight Gayle have all played their part in the Magpies claiming 11 points from a possible 18. Had they been fit, Jamaal Lascelles and Isaac Hayden would have been among the first names on the team sheet.
It felt rather fitting that Newcastle’s second goal at the King Power Stadium came courtesy of Dummett, whose experience and know-how has been so important, after the defender headed home Ritchie’s corner in the 34th minute.