Bruno Guimarães excels against Brentford to highlight Newcastle’s rise | Premier League

What a difference a year makes. Newcastle celebrated the first anniversary of their transformative Saudi Arabian-led takeover by not merely breaking into the top six but suggesting that European qualification is eminently feasible.

With Bruno Guimarães and Miguel Almirón excelling, Brentford were left looking relieved not to have lost by a greater margin in a fixture light years removed from its equivalent last November.

That 3-3 draw marked Eddie Howe’s first as manager of a side apparently relegation-bound but he tested positive for Covid-19 on the game’s eve and was forced to watch the action while isolating in a Tyneside hotel room. This proved a happier occasion. “It was a brilliant anniversary,” he said. “The atmosphere was incredible.”

At times the fans might have been watching Kevin Keegan’s Entertainers of 1990s title-challenging vintage or perhaps Sir Bobby Robson’s Champions League class of the early 2000s. “We’ve got a lot to prove,” said Howe. “But, yes, the intention, the challenge, is to be as entertaining as them.”

Eleven months on from Brentford’s previous visit, Newcastle have spent £210m on transfers while several longer-standing players look reborn under Howe’s tutelage. Almirón ranks foremost among them and it did not take him long to cut in from the right and test David Raya’s reflexes with a rising shot.

Although a VAR review ensured Bryan Mbeumo had a goal disallowed for an offside against the former Newcastle striker Ivan Toney, it simply seemed to jolt the initially slightly dozy hosts into the ascendant.

Guimarães is a midfielder rarely eclipsed for long and, sure enough, the Brazilian – who most definitely does not need his new bleach-blond hair in order to catch supporters’ eyes – placed himself firmly centre stage by heading his team into a 22nd-minute lead after connecting with Kieran Trippier’s stellar cross after Almirón’s short corner.

Seven minutes later, Jacob Murphy doubled the advantage thanks to a little help from Raya. When Brentford’s goalkeeper attempted to play the ball out from the back his high-risk pass was ruthlessly intercepted by Callum Wilson. All that remained was for a striker still hoping to make a late dash into England’s World Cup squad to accelerate towards goal before unselfishly teeing Murphy up for a side-foot finish. Wilson is injury prone but is anyone better equipped to serve as Harry Kane’s international understudy?

Brentford’s Ivan Toney scores a penalty past Nick Pope
Brentford’s Ivan Toney scores a penalty past Nick Pope and his former club Newcastle. Photograph: Stu Forster/Getty Images

Murphy’s goal left Thomas Frank cutting an increasingly agitated figure as he attempted to fathom how to disrupt the midfield dominance of Guimarães, Joe Willock and Sean Longstaff.

With Willock back to his best this season there is no starting place for Joelinton – Howe’s reinvented answer to Patrick Vieira – and such healthy competition for places is something replicated in defence, where Dan Burn has recently shifted from centre-half to left-back.

Burn’s second-half handball precipitated Toney’s assured penalty but if Brentford’s centre-forward had hoped to proceed to demonstrate why Newcastle were wrong to release him in 2018, he was destined for disappointment.

Instead, Guimarães’s visionary excellence was rewarded with another goal. Capitalising on the concession of possession near the centre circle, a player who had earlier left a persistently wrong-footed Shandon Baptiste thoroughly disorientated ran at Brentford’s backline before evading Raya courtesy of a fabulously incisive low shot from the edge of the area. “Bruno’s an energiser,” said Howe.

Frank sacrificed Ben Mee’s defensive input in order to introduce Mikkel Damsgaard’s attacking talents but once Almirón intercepted David Pinnock’s slapdash backpass before rounding Raya and scoring Newcastle’s fourth it was clear that no tactical tweak was going to salvage a point.

With Damsgaard’s touch proving purely academic, Pinnock duly turned a cross from Joelinton, on as a substitute, into the goal.

“I’m convinced we’ll bounce back,” said Frank. “But that was very painful. I never thought we’d concede five goals but I’m very impressed by Newcastle; they have a lot of power and dynamism.”

Manchester United have reason to be wary when Guimarães and friends visit Old Trafford next Sunday.

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