Newcastle went on a road trip to Nottingham and returned home on Friday night with three more points in their collective bag after a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Forest at the City Ground stadium.
It took the Magpies more than a while to finally get that game-winning goal by (who else?) Alexander Isak, but after he already brought things to a 1-1 draw earlier in the game, the Sweden international bagged the deciding 2-1 from the penalty spot already into stoppage time.
Emmanuel Dennis put Nott Forest slightly past the 25th minute after Sven Botman deemed it proper to attempt an ill-advised backpass that turned out to sink Newcastle in the scoreboard early.
That goal and the score, though, didn’t really tell the story of a game that was wire-to-wire dominated by the Magpies at the City Ground. Nott Forest just did the minimum they could to stay afloat, found a way to score, and spent nearly a full 45 minutes leading the match, but ultimately surrendered to a stronger and much better Newcastle side.
Isak’s wonderful volley at the verge of halftime drew the game and reignited Newcastle ahead of the second half and getting into the locker room, where Howe could work his magic by way of plotting substitutions and devising a game plan good enough to earn three more points, making it two wins in as many games of late by the Magpies in the Premier League.
With Miguel Almiron out for the next five-plus weeks having suffered an injury midweek, it was the pairing of Jacob Murphy (in replacement for Miggy) and Allan Saint-Maximin who started on the wings flanking Isak on the forward line.
ASM felt some pain at the break and was replaced by Academy product Elliot Anderson in the 46th minute in what could have ended up being a game-determining substitution by Howe. It didn’t quite turn into that, but it was close enough. VAR denied Anderson of a goal that some still believe shouldn’t have been ruled off. I disagree.
Anyway, the Geordie Maradona was fantastic through the second half but the man of the match, obviously, was this tall fella named Alexander.
Kieran Trippier put on the best “whingebag” performance of his short Newcastle career, entered a heated argument with Nott Forest’s goalie Keylor Navas right before the penalty kick was taken, and ended up handing the ball to Isak instead of shooting the penalty himself in a clever move to absolutely put Navas off his mind.
“Kieran had the ball, so I was a little bit confused, but it was great to see Alex take it so well,” Howe said after the game.
Casual fans had started to doubt Newcastle’s purchase of Isak from Real Sociedad last summer for what amounted to a club-record fee. They just don’t know Howe is the Master Chef of slow-cooking stuff, and Bruno—and now Isak, too—is living proof of that.
Isak scored two on Friday. Isak helped Newcastle get three more points, win their second match in a row, and sit fifth in the table with two games in hand. The Magpies have 47 points in 26 games to Tottenham’s (4th) 49 in 28. Also, the Spurs are imploding, which doesn’t hurt either.
Isak, also, has the second-best xG/90 mark of the season only trailing Erling Haaland. He has scored 6 goals in 623 minutes for an 0.87-goals-per-90 average, also the second-best figure in the Premier League behind you-know-who.
For the doubters of Isak, calm down. For the doubters of Anthony Gordon, calm down. It has worked with Bruno. It is working with Isak. And it will work with Gordon.
Live in the moment, enjoy the international break, and we’ll meet again in April when Man Red will be visiting Newcastle for the first clash between Devils and Magpies after that very dark day.