Alexander Isak’s injury-time penalty saw Newcastle come from behind to win 2-1 at struggling Nottingham Forest and boost their Champions League hopes.
Forest made the breakthrough against the run of play after 26 minutes when Emmanuel Dennis took advantage of a Sven Botman error to brilliantly chip his side ahead, only for Newcastle to level matters in first-half stoppage time through Isak’s outrageous finish.
After substitute Elliot Anderson had seen a first-ever competitive goal for his side ruled out by the Video Assistant Referee for offside, Newcastle did deservedly take all three points when Moussa Niakhate handled in the box in stoppage time with Isak doing the rest from the spot.
As a result, Newcastle have moved to within a point of Tottenham Hotspur in the fourth and final Champions League spot, while Steve Cooper’s team stay 14th in the table, two points above the drop zone, but having now played a game more than four of the six clubs below them.
Nottingham Forest: Navas (7), Aurier (6), Niakhate (5), Felipe (5), Lodi (5), Shelvey (5), Yates (6), Gibbs-White (6), Johnson (6), Ayew (6), Dennis (7)
Subs: Williams (6), Surridge (6), Freuler (6), Scarpa (6)
Newcastle Utd: Pope (7), Trippier (7), Schar (6), Botman (6), Burn (7), Longstaff (7), Guimaraes (7), Willock (7), Murphy (7), Isak (9), Saint-Maximin (5)
Subs: Ritchie (6), Anderson (8)
Man of the match: Alexander Isak
How Newcastle came from behind to maintain top-four push
It had been 24 years since Forest last hosted Newcastle in the Premier League, a season that ended with them being demoted, and Cooper’s side began this contest like a team fighting relegation as the visitors dominated the early exchanges.
Newcastle were unlucky not to take a 12th-minute lead after a cleverly worked free-kick caught the Forest defence napping, only for Isak’s shot across the six-yard box to be deflected onto his own bar by the stretching Renan Lodi.
However, just as it seemed the Magpies would turn their early pressure into the opening goal of the night, Forest took the lead after a mistake by Botman, who failed to see Dennis lurking in the box when passing back to Nick Pope.
The Nigeria international still had work to do to find the net, and he produce a stunning chip that floated over both Pope and Kieran Trippier on the line.
Newcastle continued to push for an equaliser, hitting the woodwork again 10 minutes before half-time when Sean Longstaff’s shot from the edge of the box was deflected onto the bar, this time by Felipe’s sliding tackle.
But Eddie Howe’s team did deservedly draw level with virtually the last kick of the first half thanks to a sensational goal from Isak, who somehow managed to volley home Joe Willock’s floated cross from the right byline when it seemed the centre was behind the Sweden international.
The big news from Nottingham Forest’s line-up was that Brennan Johnson was fit enough to start.
There were concerns that he would miss out with injury, but Forest’s top scorer was playing alongside Emmanuel Dennis and Andre Ayew up front, with Morgan Gibbs-White operating in behind them.
Jesse Lingard and Orel Mangala were hooked at half-time in last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Spurs and are now both out of the squad.
Ryan Yates started in midfielder in place of Mangala, while Moussa Niakhate replaced Joe Worrall at centre-back.
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe named the same side which beat Wolves 2-1 last Saturday.
Match-winner Miguel Almiron, though, dropped out of the squad after the Paraguay national team coach reportedly said he would be sidelined for three weeks after suffering an injury in training.
Howe brought on Anderson for the ineffective Allan Saint-Maximin at the break, a change that gave the visitors even more impetus as they went in search of a winner.
And it was the midfielder who thought he had given his side the lead midway through the second half after outjumping Serge Aurier at the far post to powerfully head in Isak’s inviting centre, only for the VAR to ask referee Paul Tierney to go over to the pitch-side monitor.
The on-field official decided Forest defender Felipe had not deliberately attempted played the ball when the cross came over, meaning Longstaff was offside in the buildup.
By this point, though, it was one-way traffic, and Newcastle made their second-half pressure tell after a moment of madness from Niakhate, who inexplicably handled a cross from the left as the game entered its first of six minutes of injury time.
The ice-cool Isak stepped up to convert the resulting spot kick, his third in two games, as his goals right at the end of each half sent Newcastle into the international break in good heart.
A worrying Forest trend – Opta stats
- Nottingham Forest have opened the scoring in 10 home Premier League matches this season, the joint most of any side along with Manchester City. However, they have failed to win in five of those (W5 D2 L3), the most of any team when scoring first in home games.
- Newcastle United won a Premier League away match with a 90th minute goal for the first time since December 2015 against Tottenham Hotspur, when Ayoze Pérez scored the winner at White Hart Lane.
- Nottingham Forest have lost consecutive Premier League matches for the first time since losing five in a row between August and October.
- Newcastle United haven’t kept a clean sheet in any of their last six Premier League games, their longest run under Eddie Howe and longest since going the first 14 games of last season without a shutout.
- Newcastle United’s winning Premier League goal was a 90th minute penalty for only the second time, also doing so in December 2007 against Fulham via a Joey Barton penalty.
FPL stats: Nottingham Forest vs Newcastle
|Goals||Isak (2), Dennis|
|Bonus points||Isak (3pts) | Willock (2pts) | Dennis (1pt)|
Can Isak fire Newcastle to the Champions League?
Analysis by Sky Sports’ Richard Morgan:
One wonders how much higher up the table Newcastle United would be right now had Alexander Isak been fit for the whole season?
The Sweden striker, bought for £63m from Real Sociedad last summer, scored on his debut at Liverpool in August, only to then suffer a serious hamstring tear just as he was settling in at St James’ Park.
That injury sidelined Isak for the rest of 2022, with the forward missing 16 games in total, before he finally returned in January.
However, since regaining full fitness, the 23-year-old has begun to show the type of form we were seeing from him before his layoff, and after Friday night’s brace at the City Ground, he has four goals in his last two matches for the club.
And his manager Eddie Howe now seems to have decided to go with Isak ahead of trusted frontman Callum Wilson for the run-in, and you can see why given his impressive scoring rate for the Magpies.
In fact, Isaak now has now scored six Premier League goals in just 10 appearances for the club this season at an impressive rate of a goal every 115 minutes.
What the managers said..
Forest boss Steve Cooper:
“It is always the worst way to lose in the last couple of minutes having fought in the game. We came up against a really good team and we knew it was going to be like that. I am just disappointed with our decision around the goals and the timing of the goals. It is injury time in the first half and injury time at the end of the game. We need to look at ourselves because we made some poor football decisions.
“I think it is a foul on Andre Ayew for the first goal. But I am not going to moan too much about that. It was a strange performance from the ref but we have to look at ourselves first. We made some poor football decisions. The penalty decision is something that we can only blame ourselves for. We have given three penalties away in the last three games and all of them have been self-inflicted.
“I’m as disappointed with the first goal in terms of the timing of it and the football decisions that we made, just see the half out and get in. We needed to sort a few things out but things change. It is a tough one to take but we blame no one but ourselves. We haven’t covered ourselves in glory over the goals.”
Newcastle boss Eddie Howe:
“I had a feeling after we had so many chances in the first half that it would be one of those nights but the lads kept going and I thought we deserved to win the game.
“For the majority of the game apart from a 10 or 15 minute spell after they scored where we lost our way a bit I thought we were really good.”
On putting Isak on the left before his equaliser: “Alex can play there so that is a role that we see him playing in. He versatile and has the tools to play in different positions.
“Saint-Maximin was struggling with a hamstring but still being effective so decided to let him do less running and put Alex wide for a spell.”
On Newcastle’s first half: ” We had a number of really good chances. I think back to Willock’s early on in the game and I think Alex has hit the post and Longstaff hit the bar.
“It’s been a similar story in recent weeks when we haven’t really taken our chances but that’s where I credit the players because going 1-0 down is very difficult to come back and the players deserve huge credit for that.”
On the VAR: I haven’t had a chance to watch it back. I couldn’t believe it at the time that the referee was going to the monitor for an offside. I’d need to be sat down and explained the rules on that one. Disappointed for Elliot because that was a massive moment in his career.”
On Elliot impact: “Really like him, he is a technical player, can play in different positions, wide left and inside. He can handle the ball and he is a player for big moment as well.”
Forest host fellow strugglers Wolves on April 1 (3pm), while Newcastle entertain Man Utd on April 2 in a game you can see live on Sky Sports Premier League.