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

How high might Newcastle’s ceiling be? Victory at third-placed Tottenham lifted them into the Premier League’s top four. With winnable fixtures against Aston Villa and Southampton before a pre-World Cup showdown with Chelsea, Newcastle can be solidly in the Champions League shakeup when 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 transfer spending has already made. Deservedly beating opponents over whom they had prevailed once in 10 matches since 2016 registered as a statement win. It is 11 years since they were in such a high position at this stage of a season. Draws with the Manchester clubs, being unlucky losers at Liverpool and this result suggest a team here to stay.

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

Callum Wilson’s finish for the first goal after being baulked by a disoriented 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 Eddie Howe inherited scoring, and the continuing improvements of Steve Bruce/Mike Ashley legacies such as Joelinton and Sean Longstaff, speak to his coaching skills.

“The problem is, if you associate [success] with money, it takes away credit from the players,” Howe said. “A lot of them were here anyway.”

Among the faithful at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium doubts in Conte are beginning to crystallise. The full-time boos were predictable after a second half in which Harry Kane got them back into the game but could not inspire anything further. Bright beginnings in which Son Heung-min twice went close had ebbed away.

There had been fears that Bruno Guimarães might miss the match after becoming a father for the first time. Instead the new dad dominated midfield alongside Joelinton, Newcastle’s human dynamo.

“They’ve been amazing days for me,” Guimarães said. “I would stay home but I love to be here with these guys. They make me happy and proud, and I think we deserved it today.”

Against that pair Oliver Skipp, a player once tipped among Spurs cognoscenti for a plane ticket to Qatar, was making a first start since January and his was not a wholly convincing comeback. These are early days but Yves Bissouma’s best performance at the Tottenham stadium in 2022 remains as a Brighton player in his former team’s 1-0 April win.Newcastle may have the best goals‑against record in the division but they had not come to defend. The high press that caused Eric Dier to make a mess of an early back-pass to Lloris also looked a rich seam of chance creation. It would prove so for their first goal.

Fabian Schär’s forward punt ought to have caused few problems but, with his defence standing square, Lloris rushed out rashly, clattered into Wilson and presented the striker with an open net. A lengthy VAR delay and a skirmish in which Rodrigo Bentancur went close to losing his head did not rule out the goal. “I had every right to go for the ball,” Wilson said, with just cause.

Then came Almirón’s excellent finish, laid on by Longstaff while leaving the Paraguayan with plenty to do. “Miggy [Almirón] has always been a fantastic player,” Howe said. “He’s just adding goals to his game.”

After a biblical half-time downpour that delayed half the crowd’s return came the attempted Tottenham comeback. Kane, stooping at the far post, nodded in from Davinson Sánchez’s flick and Spurs looked back in business.

Kane dropped deep to become playmaker and set up Ivan Perisic, only for the substitute to smash his shot straight at the goalkeeper, Nick Pope.

Lucas Moura was also introduced, Conte looking to his ball-carrying as Newcastle began to take their time over breaks in play. Guimarães aiming for the corner flag to hold up the ball with all of 10 minutes on the clock showed a desperation to wind the clock down and his fatigue after what he admitted had been two sleepless nights. Pope was eventually booked for taking undue time over a goal kick.

Spurs’ frustration boiled over and Bentancur raged again, at himself for overhitting a pass. “We tried, we scored one goal, we didn’t do good enough,” said Conte, choosing to blame Tottenham’s heavy schedule for their lapse in form. “We have to finish this period of games and then in January we’ll see where we are.”

As injury time was seen out with more sharp game management, Newcastle could begin their celebrations. And while Howe cautioned “there is a long way to go”, the sky is beginning to look like their limit.