For Newcastle, it was a story of three of their strikers and if it’s a simplification to name them previous, current and future, victory got here courtesy of the person who could possibly be main the road for them lengthy into the 2020s. The cult of the centre-forward could also be stronger at St James’ Park than most different locations, and the most costly in Newcastle’s historical past scored a doubtlessly invaluable purpose.
Alexander Isak is the membership’s report signing and simply his second purpose at St James’ Park, 4 months and a critical hamstring damage after the primary, meant he succeeded the place Aleksandar Mitrovic and Callum Wilson failed, and scored a authentic purpose, ending Fulham’s resistance, sparing Newcastle a 3rd successive stalemate and taking them above Manchester United within the desk.
Wilson was his supplier, latching on to Sean Longstaff’s cross, centring to provide the substitute a tap-in, contriving to contribute at the same time as his private drought prolonged to a seventh successive sport. In an immediate, his profligacy didn’t matter.
For Mitrovic, nonetheless, it accomplished an ill-fated return to Tyneside. The Serbian’s Newcastle profession was sufficiently explosive that he introduced the promise of the unpredictable again to St James’ Park. When it appeared he would finish United’s undefeated run, he as an alternative discovered an unorthodox means of preserving parity.
When his penalty flew previous Nick Pope, Eddie Howe’s facet appeared set for a primary Premier League loss since August. Yet Newcastle didn’t slip up: Mitrovic had misplaced his footing, made contact with the ball twice and his celebrations have been halted as Newcastle have been awarded a free kick.
Initially, it appeared Newcastle have been reprieved, with Dan Burn going unpunished for grabbing Andreas Pereira’s arm earlier than Kieran Trippier’s journey on Bobby Decordova-Reid went unnoticed. Not by VAR, nonetheless, and referee Robert Jones reviewed the incident and pointed to the spot. Up stepped Mitrovic however Fulham’s 100 per cent report for the reason that World Cup as an alternative ended.
Seasons and destinies can hinge on such freakish incidents. Newcastle posted a fifth consecutive Premier League clear sheet and Pope was in any other case untroubled on a record-equalling day. A 14th consecutive top-flight sport unbeaten matched Newcastle’s longest such run, set in 1950 and emulated by Alan Pardew’s facet in 2011.
That workforce completed fifth, however the class of 2023 stay on the right track for a greater place, regardless of Wilson’s misses. He had the probabilities and a ahead of his calibre must have transformed one. Bernd Leno saved twice, every after the striker had created the opening for himself with a deft flip away from a central defender. He subsequently headed huge from two Trippier corners. A centre-back got here nearer than him: after an hour, Fabian Schar curled a free kick in opposition to the foot of the publish. Allan Saint-Maximin, who had come off the bench, whistled a shot huge. Howe’s facet confirmed extra urgency and ambition and ultimately obtained their reward.
Perhaps their uneventful begin was unsurprising. Newcastle haven’t conceded within the first half of a league sport since August and, impressively as Fulham started, Pope was not examined. The teamsheet might have proved extra notable than the early exchanges. Joelinton performed, three days after being charged with drink-driving; there’s a steely pragmatism to Howe, and the Brazilian ranks as one of many talismen of his reign and so he was chosen. Joelinton spent the primary half on the left wing, the second in midfield, and exerted a larger affect within the deeper position.
His versatility proved particularly helpful after the lack of Bruno Guimaraes, who ended the primary half in tears. The unusual factor that he performed on for nearly half an hour after seemingly hurting his ankle whereas treading on Joao Palhinha’s foot. Hobbling across the centre circle might not have aided his restoration.
Meanwhile, Fulham sought to supply one other form of ache. Their diligence and organisation virtually yielded a fourth clear sheet since Christmas. A willingness to gather cautions of their makes an attempt to cease Newcastle confirmed that is no mushy contact. They virtually prospered, courtesy of their supervisor. Marco Silva obtained his wingers to swap flanks with Willian, recent from his starring flip in opposition to his previous membership Chelsea, reverting to the proper, and Decordova-Reid successful a penalty from his new berth on the left. It appeared to allow them to hitch Liverpool and Sheffield Wednesday in a choose group who had overwhelmed Newcastle this season. Instead, Mitrovic erred, Isak struck and the Champions League appears ever likelier for Newcastle.