A defensive showdown at Molineux saw the Magpies wings clipped when Willy Boly forced a share of the points beyond the allotted four minutes of extra time.
Newcastle led for most of the second half and looked set to go three points clear of the relegation zone. Wolves continued their incredible record of goals in the 90th minute and concluded the game with a 1-1 draw to continue their quest for Europa League qualification in 2019/2020.
Neither side really had much to get excited about initially in what was an even and open game with no real threats on goal. A penalty shout from the Molineux crowd came a third way into the half when Jimenez was brought down by Atsu. However, replays showed the Ghanaian got a vital touch on the ball; a good call from the officials to not cave into the home fans roaring appeals.
Wolves continued to get in good positions, but Newcastle were incredibly organised and defended well for the most part as Yedlin gave the ball away twice in dangerous positions. They were making good tackles, slowing the Wolves offence as well as getting in blocks and producing good clearances.
Nearing the end of the first half, the first real save came for Wolves. A deflected shot was delivered by Jota after he cut in from the left wing and forced Dubravka to parry the ball back into the box before Newcastle were able to smother the Wolves attack and clear their lines. Shortly after, Newcastle provided Rondon with a difficult cross which he had to step backwards to get his head on the ball and was only able to guide his header directly into the arms of Rui Patricio.
The first half reached its climax with minutes to go as Wolves got another opportunity from a cleared corner when a hard-low shot was drilled through the forest of bodies in the box but Dubravka was able to clutch to the ball well. Newcastle’s attack came to life as they had a short period where the dominated possession outside the Wolves box and led to a weak penalty appeal from Ritchie before Rondon sliced a well-worked opportunity from nine yards.
The second half started as it ended, fast paced and chances on goal. Doherty should have put the home side ahead from a corner to the near post which was flicked on but the full back was unable to head the ball down into the goal from four yards out, instead flopping it over the bar.
The Magpies first real threat on target resulted in a goal from defensive midfielder, Isaac Hayden. A pass from the highly pressed Schar set Hayden racing through, as he took the ball on the turn, continuing his momentum towards the right near post. Rui Patricio anticipated a shot across goal, resulting in the powerful strike to be pushed into his near post, giving Newcastle an arguably deserved lead.
Wolves didn’t let their heads drop and responded with two decent chances. First, a clean strike from Jota but didn’t trouble Dubravka and then a powered header with the same result. Another effort came from Doherty who struck e a thunderous goalbound shot into his own player but was unable to get the run of the ball from the scramble.
Newcastle managed to continue do a job on Wolves and the introduction of the highly anticipated Almiron was likely to try and provide an outlet for the Magpies and reduce the pressure. His introduction to the Premier League came in the form of being hacked down by Joao Moutinho who has seemingly adopted the spirit of the league well, even in his short time here.
Nuno’s introduction of Cavaleiro and Traore for Wolves saw them create more chances. A golden opportunity came for frontman Jimenez when Traore returned a cross back across the six-yard box to the head of the Portuguese striker but he nodded it wide from a couple of yards. Rafa introduced Diame to try and shut up shop with less than five minutes of normal time, inviting Wolves to try and add to their many last 10 minute goals.
Wolves pressed Newcastle’s defence which increasingly looked shakier from the Wolves barrage. The pack of Wolves were all attacking and Boly became an auxiliary forward. Boly’s persistence paid off when beating Dubravka in the air on the line to nod the ball into the back of net after the allotted four minutes of extra time.
Battle of the Back Line’s
Tonight’s game saw the Wolves and Newcastle defences take recognition. It was the leagues 5th best defence versus the 6th, and both set up with three at the back and were incredibly organised. Both sides were quick to get back into defensive positions when losing possession or trying to control periods of the game with the ball.
Newcastle had to show their nerve mostly in the first half but prevented Wolves from creating any real chances. However, when half chances came about, it was equally open for both teams as the game became more end to end and both were opening more to risk getting the first goal. Newcastle have a poor record defending corners this season but were not unsettled by some of Wolves towering players.
The Magpies goal was benefitted hugely from a poor goalkeeping error, even which Rui Patricio knew by venting his frustration with himself. As the game wore on, Newcastle’s defending from set pieces became more panicked compared to their composed style in open play which resulted in the Wolves equaliser, also coming from a defender. Two goalkeeping errors from both teams cancelled each other out, leading to a stalemate and a share of the points.
Newcastle’s New Lease of Life
The surprise victory against Manchester City two weeks ago has seen a shift in Newcastle’s performances of late. The loss against Spurs was an expected setback and their draw against an in-form Wolves was accompanied by a promising performance. Newcastle had to soak up pressure from the Wolves attack for most of the game and did so without Nuno’s side threatening the goal more than they could have.
Before tonight’s game, Newcastle would have been happy with a point knowing their next five games are against Huddersfield, Burnley, West Ham, Everton and Bournemouth; all sides who are struggling for consistency. Their defensive game hasn’t been the biggest issue this season but giving Rondon a consistent run of games has added a new dynamic and level of threat to Newcastle’s attack. This showed tonight as most of the forward plays either began with him holding the ball or ended with him having an attempt at goal.
Their new enthusiasm has come at a good time, but they need to repeat or improve these positive performances to get vital results in the next few games. A boost of excitement roared from the Toon Army with the late introduction of Almrion but he wasn’t given enough time or service to make a real impact.
Wolves’ Consistency Conundrum
Wolves seem to have phases where they seem nearly unbeatable, scoring multiple goals per game and being incredibly difficult to break down. Tonight’s match proved there is an issue as Wolves failed to defeat a struggling Newcastle at home. Their poor performance in front of goal is reminiscent of the chances they wasted during their difficult period in the season. Their goals in the 90th minute are the only consistency present in this Wolves side currently.
At the start of the season, they proved their Premier League calibre by getting surprising results against some of the top six teams as well as picking up points against other teams around the league; home and away. While everyone was singing their praises and Nuno was awarded manager of the month, Wolves stepped off the gas. They went through a dismal period before and during the Christmas period which got people questioning whether their positive start will be wiped and dragged into the relegation fray. More recently they’ve returned to great form, picking up numerous victories and scoring at will.
Wolves will enter the 5th round of the FA Cup this weekend which could see them add a quarter-final on top of their fantastic return to the Premier League. Wolves will travel to Bournemouth and Huddersfield in their next two games and have earned 19 points from a possible 36 on the road this season. Who’s to say whether they will add to their impressive away tally though, as they’ve already proved that form is temporary, and they are still yet to crack the code to consistency.
Newcastle had the three points in the bag but as the pressure built in the dying moments of the game, Dubravka’s decision making became more questionable. He will now be raising more doubts about his confidence considering he also cost Newcastle a point last week against Tottenham.
His first rash act was when he committed himself to go and collect an in-swinging corner, but a terrible misjudgement saw him six yards off his line; no-where near the ball and staring helplessly and luckily as there were no Wolves players at the back post to head into an open goal. His blunder occurred with a high ball put back towards his back post in which he tried to catch. He lost out to Boly who rose off the ground before the keeper to nod the ball into the net. If he went to punch the ball rather than catch it under his bar, he likely would’ve sacrificed another corner. This instance slightly resembled that of Jordan Pickford in the Merseyside Derby earlier in the season. Lessons to be learned for keepers everywhere.
Rui Patricio’s mistake was a goalkeeper trying to anticipate a shot rather than choosing to react. Players do tend to try and put a low shot across the keeper making it incredibly difficult to save or result in parrying the ball back into the box. However, his early commitment to this shot left a large gap at the near post which would not have been there if he stood to react to the incoming shot.
Despite these mistakes and Dubravka’s last week, both keepers have had a good season in their own circumstances and deserve recognition for their performances this season. Goalkeepers have off-days, luckily for Rui Patricio, his counterparts error gave Wolves an unlikely point.