NEWCASTLE: With emotions high and Premier League survival, for some, at stake, Newcastle United’s game-changer Callum Wilson showed the coolest head at Turf Moor to consign Burnley to the Championship and continue the Magpies’ meteoric rise.
A double either side of half time took the United striker’s personal tally to eight goals for the season, and Newcastle’s points to 49, not bettered since 2011/12, when Alan Pardew’s side just missed out on Champions League qualification.
And it is up, rather than down, where Eddie Howe can look, as his team finished the campaign in 11th place, a remarkable feat given they were bottom when he was handed the reins by majority owners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.
A second half rally by the Clarets threatened a survival bid as Maxwell Cornet netted, but it was not to be for the hosts, and the second tier awaits.
With so much at stake for so many on the final day, albeit bar a few million in prize money for the Magpies, head coach Howe could not be criticized for his pre-match selection at Turf Moor.
Fabian Schar was only able to make the bench following his head knock against Arsenal, after just two days out on the training pitches at Benton. In came club captain Jamaal Lascelles to cover.
Elsewhere, Kieran Trippier was handed a start, his first since February, in place of Emil Krafth, who himself was unfortunate to miss out after a fine run of form.
The atmosphere was electric, but the home side looked nervy — and it showed in their play, as United took absolute control from very early on.
Dan Burn and Lascelles repelled any direct balls from Burnley, their Premier League trademark, while Sean Longstaff showed his dominance in the middle.
United were forced into a first-half rejig as Joelinton went off with what looked like quite a nasty leg injury — and that might well put an end to any immediate Brazil national team call ups for Newcastle’s player of the season.
Nineteen minutes was all it took for Wilson to come to the party, albeit as survival hope wreckers.
Trippier’s expert set-piece delivery had the Burnley backline all at sea and, as Longstaff looked set to nod back into the danger area, Nathan Collins inexplicably stuck out a fist — in an act only a day like this can inspire — to punch away.
After a look at the VAR monitor, the referee pointed to the spot and Wilson, who did everything but score against Arsenal, made no mistake from the spot, sending Nick Pope the wrong way.
That strike popped a balloon at Burnley, one they would struggle to refill.
The loss of Joelinton had seen a slight adjustment from the usual 4-3-3, to a more unusual 4-2-3-1, and while Miguel Almiron dropped into impressive pockets of space, the home side did begin to get a foothold.
However, on the hour, their task, if difficult before, became a whole lot harder as Wilson and United made it two-nil.
A break down the left from the unusually quiet Allan Saint-Maximin, normally red hot against the Clarets, saw him cross for Wilson at the back post.
In total control, it would not be unlike United to leave the door open a touch for the opposition.
And just nine minutes later Cornet cracked home to reduce the deficit, after Martin Dubravka had parried his original effort.
Cue an onslaught, as Lascelles and Matt Targett were forced into goal line clearances.
Injuries and goals at Leeds, however, took this match away from Burnley, and so too it lessened the bite in their own game as United ended up seeing it out with minimal fuss.
With the three points, United ended the season just outside the Premier League top half on goal difference.
No one could have predicted this. A battle to beat the drop looked certain, a destiny already mapped out. But in the end it was not even close.
As one chapter ends, a new one begins, ready to be crafted by Howe and his players, who will no doubt be stronger in depth of quality come August, when the 2022/23 campaign kicks off.
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