Newcastle United all but confirmed their Premier League status for next season with a 2-1 comeback win over Leicester City thanks to an injury-time header from Bruno Guimaraes.

Newcastle United’s blockbuster winter arrival Bruno Guimaraes grabbed a vital brace to inspire the hosts to overcome Leicester City from one goal down at St James’ Park on Sunday afternoon, taking another vital step towards guaranteeing their Premier League status.

An even first half came to life when the Foxes opened the scoring through Ademola Lookman in the 19th minute. It was a well-worked set-piece routine, emulated directly from the training ground. Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall hammered a corner to the front post and a deft flick from former Newcastle man Ayoze Perez deflected the ball into the feet of unmarked Lookman, who squeezed in a close-range drive under Martin Dubravka.

The Magpies were not behind for too long, however, with Guimaraes equalising for Newcastle at the half-hour mark, striking the ball into the back of the net through the legs of goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel. Both sides had decent spells of possession from that point on but struggled to mount any cohesive attacks and clear-cut chances came at a premium.

With the game heading towards a draw, substitute Joe Willock broke down the left flank before cutting back a deflected cross for Guimaraes, who threw himself at the ball to head home from close range, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.

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The victory helped Newcastle open up a 12-point advantage over the Premier League relegation zone. As far as Leicester are concerned, they languish in ninth on 40 points, 14 points behind a top-six place. As a result, the UEFA Conference League will be their only viable route back into Europe next season. The Hard Tackle will now rate both sets of players.

Newcastle United

Martin Dubravka: 6/10

Despite the fact that the shot went through a swarm of bodies, Dubravka should have done better for Leicester’s goal after getting a strong hand to the shot. Otherwise, he made a couple of comfortable saves as the visitors never really threatened the Slovakian’s goal the whole afternoon, posting only two shots on target.

Emil Krafth: 7/10

Krafth is a really underrated player and was Newcastle’s unsung hero on the afternoon, exemplified by his last-ditch recovery toe-poke to prevent Leicester from firing an open shot. The Swede had a couple of shaky moments up against the speed of Lookman. But he more than made up for them with seven crisp tackles and a host of interceptions to keep the visitors at bay.

Fabian Schar: 6.5/10

Schar appeared a bit unsteady at times and nearly had his pocket picked by Patson Daka. Still, there were no major wobbly moments as such. He tried to get the ball forward and play out from the back, completing seven accurate long balls, most by an outfield player. He almost set Joelinton up with a fine pass.

Dan Burn: 7.5/10

Burn was always a threat from set-pieces due to his gigantic frame and should have buried a free header from Jonjo Shelvey’s corner. He picked up a knock early on but never did not shy away from putting his body on the line. As expected, he was dominant in the air, winning five aerial duels. It was a steady display from the centre-half as he steered the defence through against a dangerous Leicester side.

Matt Targett: 8/10

It was another impressive performance from Targett, who dealt well with the threat of Perez and James Justin. Playing behind Allan Saint-Maximin could be a really thankless task, but the Aston Villa loanee was defensively spot on each time Leicester got down his flank and snuffed out the danger.

The Englishman made four tackles, four interceptions and two clearances, while he calmly controlled the game with his ball-playing strengths. Targett also got forward well and had a back-post header saved, as well as playing the vital long ball in the build-up to the winner.

Bruno Guimaraes: 9/10

Guimaraes was not as prominent as he was against Wolves and had a quiet opening half-hour but still had classy moments. He drew the Magpies level with his first St James’s Park goal. He burst into life to continue his late run before winning it at the death with a stoppage-time headed goal.

Aside from the goals, he got stuck in with some solid tackles and engineered some decent chances with his progressive passes. His performance again demonstrated that he is far from a luxury signing, but rather a genuine hardworking team player.

Jonjo Shelvey: 7/10

Shelvey played the anchor role in the middle of the park with determination and maturity. It was a battling performance from the stand-in skipper, who was winning the ball back and recycling possession effectively. He won a few crunch tackles in the first half and distributed the ball well enough. Could have done with more control in the second half, but he dug deep and plugged the gaps to shield the backline.

Joelinton: 8/10

Joelinton operates as a box-to-box midfielder who makes excellent late runs into the box but lacks conviction in his finishing from range. Apart from his ball-carrying, tenacity, and tireless pressing, the Brazilian midfield workhorse also provided good defensive cover for his teammates. He brings that energy and hunger to midfield and he is a real embodiment of Newcastle’s resurgence this term.

Miguel Almiron: 6.5/10

Almiron was lively in the first half and pressed the Leicester backline with intensity and purpose. He had several nice touches, and dribbles and executed a nutmeg once. But the Paraguayan lacked quality end product and sharpness to really stretch the visitors. His energy levels dropped following the break as he became clearly fatigued and was thus hooked off midway through the second half.

Chris Wood: 4/10

Wood worked hard and pressed tirelessly from the front, but had a rather quiet afternoon. The New Zealander offers very little if not provided with aerial service, as reflected by only 16 touches in almost 70 minutes on the pitch.

Allan Saint-Maximin: 7/10

The French maverick was a livewire throughout and was a constant menace in the final third with his pace, power, mazy dribbles and acceleration. But he made frustratingly poor decisions in the decisive moments. Saint-Maximin showcased many glimpses of quality but just lacked end product, while he also gave the ball away a fair few times, resulting in Leicester turnovers.

Substitutes

Joe Willock: 7/10

Coming on the back of a knee injury, Willock was introduced to add fresh legs into midfield with 20 minutes or so remaining on the clock and he made the desired impact. He first turned away from his marker with a brilliant piece of skill and went on a lung-busting run before crossing a deflected cut-back that found the on-rushing Guimaraes for the winner.

Jacob Murphy: 5/10

Murphy struggled to get involved after coming on as a substitute and gave away cheap possession a couple of times.

Dwight Gayle: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

Leicester City

Kasper Schmeichel: 5/10

Schmeichel had a bit of a nightmare for the first Guimaraes goal as he failed to secure the ball. He had little else to do aside from that, but he positioned himself properly to make several comfortable saves. The Dane was helpless to prevent Newcastle’s winner as he was left stranded.

James Justin: 5/10

Justin’s one-vs-one defending against Saint-Maximin was good at times, while he roamed forward to provide the Foxes with a decent outlet. The Leicester full-back defended tenaciously and ended the game with two tackles, four interceptions and four clearances. That said, he was spun easily by Newcastle attackers on decent crosses, especially by Saint-Maximin. He also gave the ball away a bit too much.

Daniel Amartey: 5/10

Amartey’s presence did not inspire any confidence in Leicester’s backline, as he was easily beaten by a leaping Burn from a corner in the lead-up to Newcastle’s equaliser. There were moments of miscommunication between him and Caglar Soyuncu that Newcastle could have exploited better.

On the positive side, he did a good job of passing between the lines to initiate attacks and defended stoutly despite being on the edge after picking up an early yellow card.

Caglar Soyuncu: 5/10

Soyuncu’s form has been pretty decent of late, but he had those wobbly defensive moments in this game. He was perhaps lucky not to concede a penalty for a lunge on Wood after a heavy touch in the first half. He was alright in the second period but was guilty of ball-watching for Newcastle’s late winner.

Luke Thomas: 4/10

It was a difficult afternoon for the young full-back, who appears to be going through a slump in form. He lost possession a few times under pressure, gave up the ball when there were simple passes to make, and was overrun on the wing.

Youri Tielemans: 6/10

Despite being leggy after the hard-fought win against PSV last time out, Tielemans put in a decent shift here and, at times, looked classy on the ball. But he was not effective enough going forward and certainly did not control the game’s tempo in the way he is renowned for. Moreover, he carelessly let Willock breeze past him in the final seconds for Guimaraes’ last-minute winner.

Nampalys Mendy: 4/10

The midfielder had a wildly terrible game on the ball. Mendy is typically a cool customer in possession and almost never gives the ball away cheaply. But there were several clumsy passes, especially early on, that hindered Leicester from gaining any sustained possession in the first half. He improved as the game progressed, but this was his poorest performance since returning to the starting XI.

Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall: 7/10

Another classy box-to-box display from Dewsbury-Hall, highlighted by a superb last-ditch tackle on Saint-Maximin in what was a busy outing for the Foxes academy product. He pushed the team to search for a winner until the final whistle, making nice runs, elegant touches and always wanting to get on the ball. But to be a bit harsh, he could have done better by tracking Guimaraes’ run late on.

Ayoze Perez: 6.5/10

Awarded with his first Premier League start since Boxing Day after his game-turning cameo in Holland, Perez grabbed another assist with a clever flick to deflect the corner into Lookman’s path. Overall, the Spaniard showed good touches and carved a few half-chances for his teammates. But he could not penetrate Newcastle’s backline well enough.

Ademola Lookman: 8/10

Lookman was undoubtedly Leicester’s most dangerous forward on the afternoon. He finished neatly for his eighth goal of the season and the game’s opener, while he caused Newcastle some pressing defensive issues on the edge of the box with his dribbling and close control. The RB Leipzig loanee just needs to be more clinical and make the right decisions in the final third instead of overdoing it on the ball.

Patson Daka: 5/10

It is just not clicking right now for Daka, as his goal drought continues. The Zambian speedster found himself isolated more often than not in the lone striker role. But he never stopped making those threatening runs in behind. Also, he struggled in the physical battle with Dan Burn and Fabian Schar.

Substitutes

James Maddison: 5/10

Maddison had a few nice touches and made passes with the outside of his right foot. But that was about it from his half-hour on the field as he could not carve out any real openings, which is uncharacteristic of him, given his recent form.

Harvey Barnes: 5/10

Barnes’ only noteworthy moment was a nice ball to Dewsbury-Hall leading up to Kelechi Iheanacho’s late opportunity. Otherwise, he did not get the chance to stretch Newcastle’s defence with runs in behind.

Kelechi Iheanacho: N/A

Did not play enough to warrant a rating.

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