Newcastle United 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0
- Peter Bankes
A second-half penalty from Chris Wood fired Newcastle United to a crucial win over Wolverhampton Wanderers and halted the Magpies’ three-game losing run.
The New Zealand international – who became his country’s record goalscorer during the recent break – put the disappointment of seeing a 23rd-minute strike ruled out for offside to thump home the spot kick he’d won for himself midway through the second half.
It was enough to settle another closely-fought encounter at St. James’ Park, where United have now won four times in a row – the last three by a single goal.
While the game got off to something of a cagey start, the Magpies looked comfortable on the ball, piecing together the sort of patient passages of build-up play which would have looked alien to home supporters not too long ago. Bruno Guimarães, Dan Burn and Fabian Schär all played key roles in looking to start attacks, though it was a killer pass from the latter which brought about the Magpies’ first opportunity of note, substitute Miguel Almirón – an early replacement for the injured Ryan Fraser – scooping narrowly over.
Two minutes later, United thought they had taken the lead after Wood swept home a loose ball inside the six-yard box. Bruno and Almirón did brilliantly to work an opening, before two Wolves defenders got in a muddle following the Brazilian’s square and Wood picked up the pieces. However, an offside in the build-up saw the goal chalked off after a VAR check, and with it, the sting was taken back out of the game.
Indeed, a hopeful 45th-minute header from Joelinton aside, neither side registered so much as a shot at goal during the remainder of the half.
As a spectacle, at least, the second period started a lot better. Centre backs Schär and Burn combined following a Magpies free kick in the 52nd minute, with the latter seeing a close-range effort held by Wolves ‘keeper José Sá. The visitors finally threatened themselves through Hwang Hee-chan – the Magpies’ nemesis at Molineux earlier in the season – but the South Korean international’s shot was blocked after a purposeful run.
As the hour mark came and went, Allan Saint-Maximin – largely subdued during the first half – became ever more involved. He perhaps ought to have done better after meeting Bruno’s square at the back post, firing over with a little more time than he realised. However, the wide-man was influential in the build-up to the penalty won, and converted, by Wood, releasing Joelinton down the left with a clever pass. Joelinton in turn played through Wood, who was brought crashing to the ground following a wild lunge from Sá. The Kiwi confidently picked up the ball and thumped it home from the spot to register his first goal for United at St. James’ Park.
It was nearly 2-0 very quickly. Saint-Maximin was the architect once more, releasing Bruno down the right following a swift attack. With the angle tightening, the midfielder tried to pick out the far corner but a slight deflection took it wide.
A snapshot from Fábio Silva aside, which Martin Dúbravka did brilliantly to tip wide, United rarely looked in any danger of relinquishing their lead. The Slovakian stopper was never seriously troubled again as the Magpies saw out the remaining exchanges to record a significant win.