Wolves dramatically stole their first win at St. James Park since 1959 against the 10 men of Newcastle in the dying moments, adding a seventh home defeat for Rafa’s men with Nuno’s side chalking up back to back wins.
Diogo Jota opened the scoring after some shoddy defending allowed the Wolves forward all kinds of time to chest down Costa’s cross and slam the ball past Newcastle’s goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and into the back of the net.
However, Newcastle were quick to respond after Rondon’s thunderous freekick struck the underside of the bar and bounced the wrong side of the line. Wolves failed to clear and a whipped in, swinging cross from the right met the head of a charging Ayoze Perez who ran across the front of his man and flicked the ball into the far corner giving Rui Patricio no chance.
Newcastle were reduced to 10 men early into the second half when Yedlin got carelessly dispossessed allowing Jota to break through to be one on one until the Newcastle defender pulled his man to the ground and received a straight red card from Mike Dean. Despite the defender’s dismissal, Wolves rarely threatened.
Ruben Neves struck the bar after a quick counter from a Newcastle corner and the ball found its way out left with Neves breaking down the line. As he strode into the box from the left, he released a powerful shot into the underside of the bar and the resulting bounce back into play was given offside against Jota. Doherty threatened on another counter but Dubravka pulled off a good diving save to his right from the curled 18-yard effort.
Matt Doherty got the final bite for Wolves three minutes into stoppage time after Dubravka saved Jota’s powerful shot but could only parry it onto the head of the oncoming Doherty at the back post. This was ultimately the last defining moment in the game resulting in a cruel 2-1 defeat for Newcastle.
Rafa’s reign at St. James Park
Rafa has struggled to invigorate his team at home as they have lost seven out of nine games in the Premier League this season. Home form is always key to a Premier League club’s survival as points on the road are hard to come by for those scrapping at the bottom. Despite keeping a threatening presence throughout the game, even with 10 men, they failed to hold onto the points yet again at home.
They have now lost to Wolves, West Ham, Brighton, Leicester, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham at home and have beaten Bournemouth and Watford. Their home wins came more recently and their performance today can give Rafa confidence his side are becoming more of a force at home. However, results overshadow performances and the Premier League is relentless, regularly not rewarding promising showings, and Newcastle are experiencing this in its entirety at the minute.
They are still anchored on 14 points and only four points above the relegation zone. Their next outing is away to Huddersfield which could be a blessing for a team struggling at home. Their next chance to redeem themselves in front of the Newcastle faithful is against Fulham. Regardless of where these games are played, Rafa can not afford to drop points.
Wolves against weaker opposition
Wolves proved they still have quality when beating Chelsea 2-1 at Molineux last week. However, they seem to struggle and look nothing like the team which impressed the Premier League earlier in the season. Even though they narrowly lost out to Tottenham, scoring two in the process, dree to Arsenal at the Emirates and beat Chelsea, around these results they have lost to Watford, Brighton, Huddersfield and Cardiff.
The team’s performance against teams outside the top six takes a nosedive in comparison to how they performed against those in the top six. Even though they beat Chelsea last week, you wouldn’t have been able to tell the way Wolves played against a 10 man Newcastle side. Before the sending off, Benitez’s controlled the possession and Wolves failed to create any real chances on goal since their goal. Even with the extra man, it wasn’t until the last 10 minutes when Wolves began to show their advantage and still did not create much.
Whether they don’t get as fired up for games against smaller clubs or if the more physical style of these matches doesn’t suit the team, Nuno Espirito Santo may need consider setting up his squad differently for these games to get the results, even if it means abandoning their current philosophy.
Is it time for VAR?
Rafa called for VAR twice in the game today. Once for the red card decision and the other for a penalty shout when Newcastle forward Perez was elbowed in the face by Boly inside the box. Mike Dean seemed to have got the sending off correct. Jota had the ball and was beyond Yedlin. Lascelles was coming across but it’s doubtful he could stop the shot from Jota which would have been a good opportunity for the Wolves man to grab a second. He was pulled back multiple times and was eventually bought down resulting in Yedlin’s dismissal.
The controversial penalty call came when a cross towards Perez and Boly saw the defender’s elbow strike Perez in the face resulting in the player staying down and requiring treatment. Wolves counter-attack saw Neves hit the bar which would have added to the controversy. This was when Newcastle had 10 men and the game was still 1-1. If a penalty, who would have known what the outcome could have been but Newcastle were not out of the game at all. They looked comfortable for the most part and still created the odd chance.
Either way, decisions from the officials are coming under more and more scrutiny as the option of VAR is available. Rather than constantly blaming referees in sometimes difficult situations on the pitch, VAR should be rolled out for all games for an agreed period to give it a fair trial run.
Nuno running out of attacking ideas
Espirito Santo started Traore in the middle upfront. The natural winger is pacey and is technically good. however being the middle man upfront will not match his playing style. Jimenez is the player who can hold up the ball for Wolves and their pacey wingers make the runs in behind and out wide to open up the teams. Considering their attacking performances have taken a hit and goals seem to be more scarce, Nuno has every reason to try something different but there are few other viable options left.
Wolves have been linked with Noya Shakajima of Portimonense who reached double figures in goals last season and already has five this campaign as well as Huddersfield attacker Alex Pritchard. In addition, they are chasing defenders but they will really need to focus on what kind of players they need to bring in to add more attacking options to their side, not just to replace players in the same formation but players who can be introduced to provide a back up plan regarding formation and tactics.
Defence the undoing of both teams
Both sides have seen goals in recent games but going in against them. Newcastle and Wolves have conceded in each of their last five and eight games, respectively. Considering they have begun to score more goals of late, it seems both managers are struggling to resolve the defensive issues that plague both teams.
Rafa seems concerned regarding individual performances amungst his backline where lapses in concentration give the opposition good chances on goal, like today for Wolves’ first goal where Jota peeled off his man and had acres of space from five yards out and the mistake from Yedlin got himself dispossessed leading to him pulling down Jota as the last man and seeing a straight red card.
Nuno has issues when it comes to the teams defensive performance as individual mistakes don’t seem to be their undoing. They aren’t as tight and energetic as seen early on in the season which could point to the reasons as to why teams are able to break them down easier.
January is only around the corner to bring an influx of fresh blood into the both teams but there are still many important fixtures throughout the busy December month. Both managers will want to tighten up their defences internally rather than relying on buying players in hope of solving their problems.