In keeping with their week and their current mood Newcastle roared plenty, but the bite never came. They and Crystal Palace might have shared a sense that their positive starts to the season hadn’t quite garnered the tangible reward that they should have but their Saturday night sentiments will be acutely contrasting, with Tyneside frustration juxtaposed with south London satisfaction.
Just as a goalless scoreline is a poor description of an absorbing contest, the pre-match billing undersold it; this was a meeting between sides kicking off 12th and 13th respectively in the (albeit infant) Premier League table, an unjust reflection of the teams’ current vibrant fettle. It was clear from club captain Jamaal Lascelles’ programme notes that Newcastle’s first defeat of the season on Wednesday night, at the death at Liverpool, still stung– “I thought we were the better side,” he wrote, somewhat contentiously – and that soreness was evident in the aggressive start of Eddie Howe’s team.
Alexander Isak, making his home debut, had the clearest of chances to underline that dominance in bursting clear shortly after the quarter-hour but having taken his chance at Anfield so coolly to net his first goal for the club on Wednesday, his attempted chip was tame and straight at Vicente Guaita.
Palace have looked almost as enterprising in the season’s opening weeks but here they were showing an almost Hodgsonesque reserve, defending effectively with a back seven when out of possession, and doing it mostly effectively until Newcastle really hit their stride as the first half matured.
Sven Botman, an imposing target from set pieces, was denied by a last-ditch block and a sharp Guaita save and by the time a Miguel Almirón shot was deflected onto the post, Palace’s defending had gone from composed to desperate, and must have been delighted to hear the half-time whistle, with an exasperated Wilfried Zaha passing on urgent instructions from Patrick Vieira as the seconds dragged until the interval.
Botman was at the heart of it when it seemed as if Newcastle had finally taken the lead six minutes into the second period, rising unchallenged to nod Kieran Trippier’s free-kick across goal with the ball hitting Tyrick Mitchell and going in. The preceding collision between Guaita and Joe Willock was adjudged to have been a foul by the midfielder and after closer inspection on the VAR screen, referee Michael Salisbury chalked it off to considerable local ire.
The gaps in the visitors’ defence were popping up left and right and when the effervescent Almirón was played in by Sean Longstaff on the hour, he could only drag his shot across the goal face.
At this point it still felt as if it was a matter of time until Vieira’s team were rolled over but his triple substitution, introducing Michael Olise, Nathaniel Clyne and Odsonne Édouard shortly after the hour, gave his team the extra legs to turn a rearguard action into sustainable resolve. Édouard almost completed a smash-and-grab in the last 20 minutes, bludgeoning an opening and drawing a fine low save from Nick Pope, who had already brilliantly denied Jean-Philippe Mateta in a rare first-half attack for Palace.
Still Newcastle could have snatched deserved reward with Isak’s slick build-up sending in Willock, who was denied by a diving Guaita, before poking wide on the stretch after a corner dropped to him in the closing minutes. Palace held out to the acclaim of their loud following up on level seven and if the Geordies can feel it coming, they will have to be patient for a little longer yet.