Newcastle 2-1 Wolves: Player ratings as Magpies move above Liverpool into fifth
Newcastle United returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday afternoon, climbing into the Premier League top five with the club's first top-flight triumph in eight weeks.
The Magpies came into the contest with the fewest goals in 2023 across Europe’s top five leagues while Wolves were the lowest scorers across the entire campaign in English professional football. Perhaps understandably, both managers fielded entirely new-look forward lines.
The replacement striker Julen Lopetegui deployed was controversially denied a chance to break the deadlock by a combination of the officials and Nick Pope midway through the first half. Raul Jimenez pounced upon a heavy touch from Newcastle's goalkeeper and tumbled under a shoulder barge as Pope hurriedly tried to rectify his error. Both the on-pitch referee and VAR overlooked the strident protestations.
Alexander Isak was one of the alterations Eddie Howe turned to and justified his selection within half an hour of kick-off. The Sweden international eased Jonny Castro Otto out of his way to meet Kieran Trippier's set piece unchallenged, flicking a header into the far corner to end Newcastle's five-and-a-half-hour wait for a goal just six minutes after Pope's controversy.
Newcastle didn't capitalise when in the ascendancy and were shifted onto the back foot after the break by their reinvigorated visitors.
Wolves equalised in the 70th minute through a fog of confusion. Hwang Hee-chan was one of five substitutions made during a break in play seconds before Trippier and Pope got their wires crossed, with both Newcastle players trying to clear the same ball. Trippier beat his goalkeeper in the race but slipped as he cleared, presenting Hwang with an open goal.
Lopetegui's first raft of changes swiftly led to the equaliser but his switch to a back five to protect Wolves' lead had the exact opposite effect. Miguel Almiron, himself a substitute, played a crisp one-two with Joe Willock around a staggered mess that was once the visiting defence, rifling Newcastle back in front in the 79th minute.
For the first time since Boxing Day, Newcastle scored more than one goal in the same Premier League game which proved to be enough to send Howe's side above Liverpool and into fifth.
Newcastle player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Nick Pope - 3/10 - Desperately shaky with his feet but alert as ever when forced to dirty his gloves.
RB: Kieran Trippier - 6/10 - A potent threat in open play but particularly from set pieces, unnerving Wolves' rearguard with every dead ball. Slightly tarnished his display with the error for the equaliser.
CB: Fabian Schar - 7/10 - Back from a head injury and returned his confidence in possession to Newcastle's defence.
CB: Sven Botman - 5/10 - Didn't help out his goalkeeper by repeatedly rolling the ball back to him after his earlier blunder.
LB: Dan Burn - 6/10 - Struggled to stick with Traore when defending one-on-one but caused his opposite winger problems by lumbering forward himself.
CM: Sean Longstaff - 6/10 - Combined well with the flexible triangle down Newcastle's right flank.
CM: Bruno Guimaraes - 7/10 - Even up against the silk-lined Wolves midfield, Guimaraes' guile still stood out.
CM: Joe Willock - 6/10 - Constantly crashing into Wolves' box to add an extra man to Newcastle's attacks.
RW: Jacob Murphy - 5/10 - A willing runner with and without the ball.
ST: Alexander Isak - 8/10 - An absolute handful, stretching and straining Wolves' backline to breaking point as he relentlessly hared around the final third.
LW: Allan Saint-Maximin - 5/10 - The stuttering run which preceded his raft of take-ons reflected his punctuated involvement in proceedings.
Miguel Almiron (68' for Saint-Maximin) - 7/10 - Took full advantage of the widening gaps down the right flank.
Callum Wilson (69' for Isak) - 5/10
Matt Ritchie (85' for Murphy) - N/A
Eddie Howe - 6/10 - Putting aside Pope's good fortune, Newcastle gifted Wolves their clearest chance in a contest which would have been much more routine had Howe's side been clinical in the first half.
Wolves player ratings (4-3-3)
GK: Jose Sa - 6/10 - Couldn't do anything about Isak's header but kept Wolves in the contest for large spells.
RB: Nelson Semedo - 4/10 - Managed to cope and contain Saint-Maximin's wiggling but waned as the match wore on.
CB: Craig Dawson - 4/10 - Left in a daze by all of Isak's hustle and bustle.
CB: Max KIlman - 4/10 - Clearly instructed to play through Newcastle's high press, Kilman tried to stick to the team orders but often left his teammate's with unhelpful hospital passes.
LB: Jonny Castro Otto - 5/10 - Shouted for a shove in the back from Isak for the opening goal but - not for the first time - Wolves' howls of protest went unheard.
CM: Ruben Neves - 5/10 - Afforded freedom to saunter forward by Mario Lemina's deep positioning.
CM: Mario Lemina - 5/10 - The ballast in the visiting midfield crunched into a few well-timed tackles but struggled to deal with all of Newcastle's surges forward.
CM: Joao Moutinho - 5/10 - Spent most of his time scampering after the ball rather than showing off his class in possession.
RW: Adama Traore - 3/10 - A typical Traore performance; regularly beat his man but scarcely picked out a teammate at the end of a hurdling run. Hooked at half-time.
ST: Raul Jimenez - 4/10 - Two days after the year-long anniversary of any Wolves striker scoring a Premier League, Jimenez did not come all that close to breaking the drought.
LW: Daniel Podence - 5/10 - Hit the base of the post with a low skidding first-half effort.
Pedro Neto (46' for Traore) - 5/10 - Added a bit more purpose but not much more end-product than Traore.
Hwang Hee-chan (69' for Neves) - 7/10 - Could not have dreamed of a better - or quicker - impact.
Rayan Ait Nouri (69' for Jonny) - 5/10
Matheus Nunes (70' for Podence) - 5/10
Nathan Collins (75' for Moutinho) - N/A
Julen Lopetegui - 4/10 - Took all of the wind out of his own side's sails with an overly defensive change which very much backfired.