NEWCASTLE: They call him a magician on Tyneside — and now the world knows why.
Bruno Guimaraes produced a match-winning, two-goal performance to take Newcastle United 12 points clear of the Premier League relegation zone and put a dent in Leicester City’s European hopes.
Ademola Lookman opened the scoring for the visitors with a low drive through a crowded area after a well-worked corner routine. United soon bit back, though, as VAR approved Guimaraes’ first on home soil after a goalkeeping error by Kasper Schmeichel.
And with the game looking destined for a draw, the $52million January signing lit up Tyneside with a stretching, sprawling, diving header to claim an unlikely three points against Brendan Rodgers’ Europa League-chasing Foxes.
Eddie Howe made just the one enforced change at St James’ Park as Miguel Almiron started with Ryan Fraser injured.
The Paraguayan had a positive impact early on as United, under the rare Tyneside sun, pressed high and caused headaches for the Leicester backline.
Joelinton, whose impressive form has dipped of late, fired over from a tight angle, while Jonjo Shelvey tested Schmeichel from distance.
However, it was the visitors who drew first blood.
Their sharpness at the breakdown and transition served them well through the middle and the main catalyst of their breaks, Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall, turned provider for the opener. His low corner, straight from the training ground playbook, was flicked on at the front post by former United man Ayoze Perez and Lookman burst on to it at the edge of the area to crash home through a crowded area. Watching it back, Martin Dubravka will be disappointed he was unable to keep it out.
A Leicester goal at the King Power Stadium in December sparked a United collapse, but this one did the opposite. Roared on by the United faithful, the Magpies continued to push — and they got their just reward after the half hour mark.
A Jonjo Shelvey corner was won by Dan Burn and when Schmeichel faltered, allowing the ball to squirm back under his legs, Bruno reacted quickest to turn it into the net.
Jarred Gillett’s whistle created an elongated wait as VAR checked the decision, but no foul was deemed to have taken place and the goal stood — and rightly so, as Guimaraes wheeled away to the Leazes End in joy at his first goal at United’s home.
Finely poised after half-time, United looked to get Allan Saint-Maximin more involved on the left — and he had a few flashes at goal, the closest of which fizzed over the top after a jinking run inside.
At the other end, however, the Foxes began to look stronger, seeking to exploit the right, where Lookman was prowling. Emil Krafth did hold up to the scrutiny well, though.
As the second half wore on, Howe tried to inject legs into the United midfield, throwing on Jacob Murphy and Joe Willock. It had little initial impact, though, as Leicester, not showing the miles on the clock from their Conference League win in Eindhoven on Thursday evening, kept on probing for a winner.
It was hard to see how United could win this one, largely pinned back into their own area. Cue, the magic man from Rio de Janeiro.
In a rare second-half break from Willock — just what he was brought on to do — the former Arsenal man stretched away from three Foxes players and dug out a cross that deflected up for Guimaraes, who nodded home to send the Gallowgate End wild.
This win, coupled with Burnley’s draw at West Ham — a good result in its own right — surely sees United home and hosed in the top flight for another year.
Although Howe still refuses to say the Magpies are safe, I think even he knows, the hard work for another year is now done.