Two years ago Sean Longstaff looked to be on his way out at Newcastle and seemed destined for a lower-division future, while Dan Burn could not be certain of a first-team place at Brighton.
Few crystal-ball gazers would have predicted that particularly unlikely pair not merely joining Miguel Almirón and Fabian Schär in scoring against Paris Saint-Germain here but utterly eclipsing Kylian Mbappé and friends as Newcastle’s first home Champions League game for 20 years concluded amid unbridled geordie joy.
When PSG trained at St James’ Park on Tuesday night, Mbappé quickly demanded an emergency pair of gloves. They were discarded here but a forward widely regarded as the world’s best player barely laid a finger on Eddie Howe’s team.
With Kieran Trippier repeatedly second-guessing Mbappé’s manoeuvres, Ousmane Dembélé becoming thoroughly disheartened by Burn’s assiduous attention at left-back and Longstaff impressing enormously in central midfield, Howe choreographed a major disruption of the established European order.
It is easy to forget that when Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund bought Newcastle almost exactly two years ago, Howe was unemployed. Right now he looks nailed on for manager of the year.
At the final whistle Mbappé shrugged and blew his cheeks out but he and his disappointing teammates had failed to heed their manager’s warning. Luis Enrique told them Newcastle was “a hostile but spectacular” place to play and they needed to rise to the attendant challenge.
The PSG coach finished on the losing side here back in 1997 when Faustino Asprilla’s hat-trick earned Newcastle a 3-2 Champions League win against Barcelona and he must swiftly have feared that history was repeating itself.
Even so, PSG should have scored after five minutes when Dembélé miscued his volley after meeting Mbappé’s sublime cross.
Howe was anxious for his team to make “a fast start” yet their initial attempts to summon up that hallmark ferocious press were stymied by PSG’s early knack of slowing the play down. Marquinhos particularly enjoyed teasing his hosts by lingering in possession but, when he turned slapdash, Newcastle scored.
The first goal began with Bruno Guimarães’s head intercepting Marquinhos’s badly weighted pass and Alexander Isak forcing Gianluigi Donnarumma to save with his legs. The ball out was met by the rapidly reacting Almirón who delighted in sweeping the crispest of left-foot shots beyond the goalkeeper’s reach before leaping into the crowd. It was Newcastle’s first Champions League goal since Alan Shearer scored against Internazionale at San Siro 20 years ago.
By now it was raining steadily and PSG looked as if they did not quite know what had hit them. When Burn memorably dispossessed Dembélé courtesy of a thumping tackle, the decibel level suggested the Blyth-born defender might have sealed victory in the final.
Burn scored Newcastle’s second goal, heading Guimarães’s chip home at high velocity. No matter that Donnarumma’s fingertips eventually scrambled the ball clear it had already clearly crossed the line.
Yet doubts remained as to whether Guimarães had been offside when he moved to meet Sandro Tonali’s pass and if Jamaal Lascelles had handled. Accordingly a lengthy VAR review ensued before it was determined Marquinhos had played his fellow Brazilian onside and Burn could finally celebrate.
Despite PSG enjoying the bulk of possession Newcastle were not flattered by their lead. Indeed Howe’s biggest worry must have been that, despite much outstanding work, Guimarães seemed to be powered by a surfeit of not always entirely healthy emotion.
At the end of the first half the Brazil midfielder unnecessarily, recklessly, shoved over Manuel Ugarte off the ball after catching the Uruguayan on the back of the head with an outstretched arm. Guimarães could hardly have complained had he seen red.
The good news for Howe was that, alongside him, Tonali played with creditable maturity and intelligence. The midfielder helped ensure Newcastle fans found themselves walking in the sort of wonderland rarely experienced since Sir Bobby Robson’s tenure here two decades ago.
The second half had barely begun before the unmarked, North Shields-born Longstaff, scored. After connecting with Trippier’s fine diagonal pass he unleashed an angled toe poke which Donnarumma seemed set to parry. Instead the keeper badly misjudged the ball’s flight and watched in horror as it flew into the top corner.
Despite Lucas Hernández heading Zaïre-Emery’s beautifully dinked delivery past Nick Pope and Mbappé’s ultimate relocation from the left wing to centre-forward, Luis Enrique was reduced to waving his arms around in bewildered despair.
Such misery was only compounded when Schär, excellent defensively throughout, curled in a superlative stoppage-time fourth to seal Newcastle’s finest Champions League night.