Newcastle all but safe after Bruno Guimarães’ late header sinks Leicester

The game had entered the fifth minute of stoppage time when Joe Willock, recently introduced as a substitute, accelerated down the left and crossed in the direction of the on-rushing Bruno Guimarães.

Within seconds that deflected delivery had been headed beyond Kasper Schmeichel by Newcastle United’s £33m Brazil midfielder, simultaneously banishing any lingering relegation fears on Eddie Howe’s part.

As Howe and his staff celebrated and Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers stayed rooted to the spot, apparently shell-shocked, those coaches who believe possession to be overrated had once again been vindicated.

At times in the second half a slick, smart Leicester enjoyed 85% of the ball. With Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall impressing hugely in an attacking midfield role they out-passed and out-thought their hosts on a day when Howe received a reminder there is still much work to be done on Tyneside. No matter; with the excellent Guimarães on the pitch and Willock around to make an impact from the bench, Newcastle remain a real counter-attacking threat.

Only three of the Leicester starting XI which won at PSV Eindhoven in last week’s Europa League Conference quarter-final retained their places but such heavy rotation failed to prevent Rodgers’ side assuming a 19th minute lead.

Newcastle had started so slowly it seemed they might have over-dosed on Easter eggs and their defending was all over the place as Dewsbury-Hall directed a corner low to the near post. All that remained was for Ayoze Pérez to extend a leg and conjure a gorgeous flick which prefaced the unattended Ademola Lookman side footing beneath the diving Martin Dubravka’s body from around 10 yards.

As Rodgers and his staff celebrated a goal evidently well rehearsed on the training ground, Newcastle fans sought solace by booing Pérez, a St James’ Park old boy.

His former side were level before half-time. Although Schmeichel blocked an initial shot from Guimaraes after Dan Burn had flicked Jonjo Shelvey’s corner on, he let the ball slip from his grasp and, sensing opportunity, Howe’s Brazil midfielder slid in to squeeze it over the line at the second attempt.

At first Schmeichel seemed to have been fouled. Jarred Gillett, the referee, duly offered him the benefit of the doubt by disallowing it but a VAR review revealed a goalkeeping error and, having studied replays on his pitch side monitor, Gillett decreed that Guimarães had scored a legitimate goal after all.

With Guimarães sparkling in the hazy Easter Sunday sunshine Leicester could never quite relax. The former Lyon playmaker marries a surfeit of skill with sheer bloody minded determination and his equaliser proved emblematic of the manner in which he had dragged Newcastle back into the game.

Perhaps shamed by Guimarães’s endeavours, certain teammates began waking up, ensuring Howe’s side ended the opening half on a bit of a high.

Leicester’s capacity for not so much merely dominating as monopolising possession – even if they did not always do too much with it – ensured that the second half power balance swung back towards the visitors.

Kelechi Iheanacho almost scored from Dewsbury Hall’s cross but Newcastle clung on long enough for Willock and Guimaraes to enjoy the final words.

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