Isak fires Newcastle to within sight of Premier League top four
Alexander Isak said Newcastle believe they will seal a place in next season’s Champions League after the Swede scored twice, including a stoppage time penalty, to beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 on Friday.
Victory lifts the Magpies to within one point of fourth-placed Tottenham and with a game in hand to come on Spurs.
“We believe and we know that we have it in our own hands and have a good chance,” said Isak after Newcastle signed off for the international break with back-to-back wins.
“It is important we have gone into this break with a good feeling with two wins from two games.”
Defeat was Forest’s first at home in the league since September and leaves Steve Cooper’s men still two points above the relegation zone.
“It’s always the worst way to lose, in the last couple of minutes, having fought in the game,” said Cooper. “We made some poor football decisions around the build-up to the goals and that’s something we can only blame ourselves for.”
Newcastle ended a near two-month wait for a Premier League win last weekend in beating Wolves and came flying out the blocks at the City Ground.
But the closest the visitors came to turning their early dominance into a lead was when Renan Lodi turned Isak’s cross onto his own crossbar.
Instead it was Forest who went in front completely against the run of play thanks to a howler from Sven Botman.
The Dutch centre-back has been a major factor in Newcastle’s success this season but his attempted pass back to goalkeeper Nick Pope was intercepted by Emmanuel Dennis, who produced a stunning chipped finish for just his second Forest goal.
The crossbar came to the home side’s rescue again when Sean Longstaff’s deflected strike from the edge of the box came back off the woodwork.
Newcastle finally got their reward in first half stoppage time when the club’s record signing Isak acrobatically flicked in Joe Willock’s cross off the post.
The pattern of play continued after the break as the Magpies laid siege to the Forest goal.
Former Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas had to be at his best to turn over powerful drives from Elliot Anderson and Bruno Guimaraes.
Anderson then thought he had his first senior goal when he headed in Isak’s cross at the back post.
However, the goal was controversially disallowed after a VAR check for offside against Longstaff in the build-up despite the ball breaking to the midfielder off a Forest player.
Just when Forest looked set to hold out for a precious point in their battle to beat the drop, Moussa Niakhate needlessly put his hand up to block Isak’s tame header.
The Swedish international’s debut season in England has been blighted by injury, but he showed his class by keeping his head to slot past Navas and spark wild scenes of celebration among the away support.
“It’s a massive win and I thought we deserved it,” said Howe.
“To come back is always a great way to win and the character shown in the group is very pleasing.”