Miguel Almirón puts Newcastle into top four after hard-fought win at Tottenham | Premier League

How high might Newcastle’s ceiling be? Victory at third-placed Tottenham meant they ended the weekend in the Premier League’s top four. With winnable fixtures against Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace to follow before a pre-World Cup showdown with Chelsea, Newcastle can be solidly in the Champions League shakeup as they head off for that Saudi winter training camp taken for “football reasons”. What a difference a change of ownership, a year and £200m-odd of spending transfer already makes. Beating an opponent they had prevailed over once in 10 matches since 2016 registered as a statement win.

Tottenham’s place in the Champions League positions, as best of the rest behind Manchester City and Arsenal, is meanwhile becoming precarious. Antonio Conte’s attempt to freshen up his team after a midweek no-show at Manchester United fell flat, against an aggressive, organised opponent. And one with quality.

Callum Wilson’s finish for the first after being baulked by a disorientated Hugo Lloris was cool while Miguel Almirón’s lash from the right of the penalty box was that of a player in the form of his life. Two players Howe inherited as goalscorers and the continuing improvements of Steve Bruce/Mike Ashley legacies like Joelinton and Sean Longstaff speak to his coaching skills.

Among the faithful at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, doubts about Conte are beginning to crystallise. Tottenham at least began brightly, Son Heung-min skating through to fire in a shot in the very first minute. Emerson Royal’s effort glanced off the bar moments later. Here was zest unseen at Old Trafford. And, after Newcastle had a penalty shout when Joelinton was blocked, an incident that had Howe and assistant Jason Tindall in the fourth official’s face, Son missed an even better chance through a combination of hesitancy and Nick Pope reading his chipped attempt.

There had been fears that Bruno Guimarães might miss out after becoming a father for the first time. The new dad starred in dominating midfield alongside Joelinton. For Spurs, injuries to Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Cristian Romero and that Wednesday performance had led Conte to ring changes.

Oliver Skipp, a player once tipped among the Spurs cognoscenti for a plane ticket to Qatar next month, was making a first start since January. It was not a wholly convincing comeback, Skipp subbed off after collecting a yellow card as Tottenham continued to struggle in midfield even after Harry Kane had pulled them back into the game. Yves Bissouma is another player whose Spurs career has stalled and while these are early days, his best performance at the Tottenham Stadium in 2022 remains as a Brighton player in the Seagulls’ 1-0 win in April.

Harry Kane, in white and smothered by Kieran Trippier, scores Spurs’ only goal of the game but they lost 2-1
Harry Kane, in white and smothered by Kieran Trippier, stoops to conquer and score Spurs’ only goal of the game but they lost 2-1 Photograph: Frank Augstein/AP

They may have the best goals-against record in the division, but Newcastle had not come to defend. Almirón and Joe Willock, with Longstaff and Guimarães behind them, always looked to provide Wilson with service. A high press that caused Eric Dier to make a mess of an early backpass to Lloris also looked a worthy path to chance creation.

So it would prove for the first goal. Fabian Schär’s forward punt ought to have caused few problems but with his defence stood square, Lloris rushed out rashly, clattered into Wilson and presented the striker with an open net. A lengthy VAR delay and a skirmish that saw Rodrigo Bentancur go close to losing his head did not rule out the goal. Then came Almirón’s excellent finish, laid on by Longstaff but leaving the Paraguayan with plenty to do.

After a biblical half-time downpour that delayed half the crowd from leaving the concourse, and a handball claim after Guimarães had headed the ball into Davinson Sánchez came the attempted Tottenham comeback. Kane, stooping at the far post, nodded in from Sánchez’s flick, and after another lengthy VAR check, Spurs were back in business.

Kane stayed at the heart of it, dropping deeper as playmaker, and setting up Ivan Perisic, on as a substitute, to smash straight at Pope. Lucas Moura was also introduced, Conte looking to his ball carrying as Newcastle began to sit on their lead and take their time over breaks in play. Guimarães aiming for the corner flag to hold up the ball with fully 10 minutes on the clock showed a desperation to wind the clock down. Pope would eventually be booked for taking undue time over a goalkick.

Dan Burn’s hulking frame got in the way of a Son shot that brought yet another claim for handball as Spurs pushed on. The arrival of Matt Doherty and Ben Davies was Conte’s final throw of the dice, but frustration was growing, and Bentancur raged once more, though at himself this time, when overhitting a pass meant for Moura.

Injury time seen out with more game management and adept defence, Newcastle could celebrate. The sky is beginning to look like their limit.

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