Newcastle are back to being the great entertainers of the league, their 24 Premier League matches taking in 90 goals, and they know how to write a thriller. There were plenty of plot twists in this victory, aided by a degree of calamity in defence as the hosts conceded two from set pieces and gifted Bruno Guimarães the winner, minutes after Nottingham Forest had a penalty appeal turned down.
Anthony Elanga sent an errant pass from the edge of the box to the Brazilian who got the ball out of his feet and picked out the bottom corner to seal Newcastle’s fourth straight away victory in all competitions. Forest were still seething from the injustice they felt after Anthony Taylor failed to adjudge that Martin Dubravka had fouled Taiwo Awoniyi in the box with the score at 2-2. The result leaves Forest two points above the relegation zone with a potential deduction looming after a Premier League charge to add to the pressure on the pitch.
Asked if he thought a penalty should have been awarded, Nuno Espírito Santo said: “Yes, clearly – definitely. I saw it over and over again. For me, it is a clear penalty. Maybe Anthony Taylor does not have a clear view of the incident because it is behind but when you have the chance to have VAR to check it and see the clear replays, I think it is obvious that is why I don’t understand not giving the penalty.”
It was a reasonable assessment from the Forest manager but he cannot do much to influence the decisions of officials. What he can help do is remove the basic errors from his team, who showed great potential going forward. Forest have conceded 15 times from set pieces, excluding penalties this season, a statistic that will make the coaching staff wince. When the ball goes into the box panic inevitably sets in among the defence. Guimarães, who operated in a more advanced role in midfield than usual, volleyed in a well-worked corner to instigate the chaos, while Fabian Schär regained the lead when he struck home a knock-down from Sven Botman after a straight free-kick was launched forward by Kieran Trippier.
Forest are built to play on the break and it was unsurprising their two equalisers came from the flanks. Elanga poked home the first and Callum Hudson-Odoi was the second to restore parity in first-half stoppage time when his shot from the edge of the box deflected in off Lewis Miley to make it level at the break. Amid the relatively scattergun approach adopted in the transfer market, the acquisition of Elanga and Hudson-Odoi look smart and will be key to Forest’s battle against relegation.
The referee was called into action when a long ball over the top from Matz Sels was chased down by Awoniyi. The striker struggled to get the ball under control and eventually went down after being caught first by Botman’s boot and then the outstretched hands of Dubravka. Taylor did not award a penalty and nor did VAR overturn his decision, much to the frustration and surprise of everyone in red, resulting in a member of the Forest coaching staff being booked as he waved his tablet with the replay on in the direction of the fourth official. It might not have been as cut and dried as Nuno stated but he has every right to feel aggrieved.
Forest were angry with officials for the non-penalty but they could only blame themselves for Guimarães’ second goal minutes later as the star man in Newcastle’s latest blockbuster win settled the result. “I think when we can get him the ball in those positions higher up the pitch, he has undoubted quality,” Eddie Howe said of Guimarães.
“Like all players he has had moments where he’s been the difference maker for us this season, he’s had moments that have been more difficult. He has definitely been targeted by teams to stop him and that is in part why today we moved him to try something different. He has got real quality and underneath it all he is a really humble, lovely person and I think the player and person go together to make him the special man that he is for us.”