- By Emma Sanders
- BBC Sport at the City Ground
Newcastle thought they were signing “a top player” when they broke their transfer record to bring forward Alexander Isak from Real Sociedad, and now they are delivering in what could become a “special season” for the club.
The Swedish striker scored a superb equalizer on the stroke of halftime before coolly scoring the winner from the stoppage-time penalty spot to provoke scenes of celebration from the fans who traveled behind the goal in the City Ground.
Manager Eddie Howe said it was a “great moment” in Newcastle’s season and Isak’s form could help deliver the ultimate prize of a top-four finish.
Isak ‘cool’ in a significant moment
It was a standout performance from Isak, who now has six goals in 10 Premier League appearances having battled competition from teammate Callum Wilson for a starting role in recent weeks.
Isak, who signed for the Magpies in a deal that could be worth £60m, scored in a 2-1 win over Wolves last weekend before scoring both goals in Nottingham and now says his European hopes are on “in our own hands”.
“We’re always dangerous and we create chances. It’s just a matter of whether he goes in or not,” said the 23-year-old Isak.
“We believe and we know that we have it in our own hands and we have a good opportunity. We have to keep playing one game at a time and try to win.”
Toon boss Howe said Isak was “cold as ice” when he took the late penalty and the confidence gained from his recent performances will be “key” going forward.
“It’s a big moment for us in our season. It’s not easy to do that, but he scored it very well. The first goal was an unorthodox finish. It’s great to see,” Howe added.
“I thought he was a steady handful for Nottingham Forest. His pace and tricks were evident. He’s building very well to make a big impact for us.”
“We felt like we were signing a top-tier player who was capable of doing amazing things. I thought it showed that [at Forest].
“But I think with every player there is room for improvement and he has a very important role to play in our future.”
‘He’s there for them’: can Newcastle clinch top four?
Newcastle had gone five Premier League games without a win before picking up back-to-back wins over Wolves and Forest.
They had been frustrated in draws with Crystal Palace, West Ham and Bournemouth, but have they turned the corner after coming from behind to win for the first time in the league this season on Friday?
“Now it looks like Newcastle are in a real fight for the top four,” former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports.
“What impresses me is their running power. Every time I watch Newcastle, I feel like you’re watching a really intense team.
“Isak has his goals, but he’s not just a goalscorer. There’s much more to his game. The pace he gives to run behind, the freshness in his shots… He does everything you expect from a great striker.”
Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville believes Newcastle could have a “special season” if they continue to deliver.
“It’s there for them. Manchester United are still in two competitions. Newcastle are in a position where they will have a clear run and a real chance,” Neville said.
“This is the time to get in shape. Eddie Howe won’t get carried away, but he’ll have a lot more confidence. Isak seems to have the pace and he’s on a roll.”
‘Lots of whingebags in your team’
Nottingham Forest manager Steve Cooper was left deflated as defeat sees them just two points above the relegation zone heading into the international break.
“The prevailing feeling at the moment is disappointment at the result and how we haven’t covered ourselves in glory in the build-up to the goals. I’m upset with ourselves,” he added.
“It is the worst way to lose, to give away a penalty in the last moments and make it the decisive goal. But win, lose or tie, we were still going to be among a group of teams fighting.
“That hasn’t changed, but we would have liked a point or three points, but it wasn’t to be.”
Midfielder Jonjo Shelvey faced his former club Newcastle for the first time and felt that Forest “deserved something of the game” despite showing “naivety” in conceding the goals.
However, there was no friendship on the field between Shelvey and his former teammates.
“I didn’t think they [Newcastle] I would moan as much as they did in the field. But it’s a football game,” he told Sky Sports.
“I represent this football club now. I’ll give it my all. But yes, there are a lot of idiots in your team. I’ll tell you that, just joking.”
“I hope they reach Europe and I only have positive words about the club.”
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