Alexander Isak’s St James’s Park showing overshadowed by another Newcastle United home debut
It was an eventful home debut for Alexander Isak at St James’s Park on Saturday, despite a frustrating lack of goals.
And Isak – who impressed during his debut against Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday with a goal and a second ruled out by VAR – was given a warm welcome courtesy of a Wor Flags tribute in the Gallowgate Stand ahead of the match.
The £60million club record signing has big expectations on his shoulders at just 22. But after an eye-catching debut, his first outing on Tyneside would prove to be a frustrating one.
Just 16 minutes into the game with Newcastle on the front foot, Isak had a golden opportunity to give the hosts the lead after doing well to intercept a loose ball and charge through on goal.
The energy of the crowd was palpable as the Swede broke away from the Palace defenders and went one on one with Vicente Guaita in the goal. But instead of going for the corner as he did against Liverpool, Isak opted for a delicate chip which he couldn’t quite connect with properly as the Palace goalkeeper blocked the effort.
Two weeks prior, Isak netted what would prove to be his final goal for Real Sociedad as he was played through on goal against Barcelona before executing an delicate chip over Marc-Andre ter Stegen with the angle against him. That goal may well have still been fresh in the player’s mind though he didn’t have the execution this time around.
Isak’s two shots on target in the match were the most of any Newcastle player, but neither tested Guaita. His second effort, set-up by Miguel Almiron, was a tame one from the edge of the box which was comfortably claimed.
The young forward’s 22 touches during 90 minutes were the fewest of any starting player in the match and two fewer than Newcastle’s 70th minute substitute Elliot Anderson – who was also making his home Premier League debut. The teenager is now pushing for a start after a number of impressive cameos from the bench.
But Isak isn’t necessarily in the team to get on the ball, he’s there to score goals and make things happen. And make things happen he almost did in the 76th minute as he controlled the ball, lifted his head up and brilliantly slid Joe Willock through only for the midfielder to be denied by the impressive Guaita.
With Callum Wilson pushing for a return to action this month, Eddie Howe will have a decision to make as to who he wants to lead Newcastle’s attack.
Wilson is the tried and tested option when fit but Newcastle haven’t just spent £60million on a striker for him to sit on the bench.
After a brilliant debut, Isak’s first outing at St James’s Park was as underwhelming as the 0-0 scoreline.
But the Swede has shown his ability already and has a big opportunity over the upcoming matches against West Ham United and Bournemouth to get amongst the goals and give Howe no option other than to keep starting him once Wilson is back to full fitness.
It’s up to him to take it.