Newcastle United have beaten Brighton and Hove Albion 4-1 to move one win away from securing Champions League football for next season.
An own goal by Deniz Undav put Newcastle ahead before Dan Burn doubled the lead against his former club on the stroke of half time. Undav then pulled one back at the right end, before late goals by Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes made sure of Newcastle’s win.
Now, they just need one more win to confirm a top-four finish, which will put them into next season’s Champions League.
Manager Eddie Howe told BBC Sport: “I think we were excellent in the first half. A really strong performance. Probably kicking ourselves we didn’t take some of the chances. It was always going to make it a bit nervy at 2-1.
“That’s how we want to play. Fast action, high intensity work. To maintain that rhythm throughout is not easy and takes a risk and sometimes they benefit from that risk. Credit to the players.”
Despite Champions League football being within touching distance, Howe isn’t getting carried away just yet.
He said: “Yeah [we are close], but it is still so far away. We will enjoy tonight, but then turn our focus towards Leicester.
“I think we were just pleased with the performance tonight. To beat a side of their quality. We are not looking too far ahead.”
Asked when he will talk about it, Howe quipped: “When it’s done, I’ll talk about it for fun if you want.”
Howe looks ahead to critical Leicester challenge
As he alluded to, Newcastle’s next match is against Leicester on Monday. The opponents are battling against relegation, so a lot is at stake.
In a separate interview to Sky Sports, Howe opened up a bit about the chances of qualifying for the Champions League.
He said: “It would be incredible if we could. This is the Premier League and we take nothing for granted.
“We know how good Leicester are, they are fighting at the other end of the table and our intention is to be the best we can be in this game.”
The last time Newcastle qualified for the Champions League was back in 2003. They have been absent from any kind of European football since 2013.
It is already a guarantee that they will be back in a UEFA competition next season, and it now looks increasingly likely to be the biggest one of them all.