Newcastle 2-1 Wolves (Isak 26′, Almiron 79′ | Hwang 69′)
The Magpies demonstrated a vim and vigour they have sorely missed in recent weeks, with Alexander Isak terrorising the opposition defence throughout the first half.
It was Isak who opened the scoring, powerfully heading home Kieran Trippier’s free-kick, before Hwang Hee-chan equalised just 57 seconds after coming off the bench.
This was Hwang’s third goal in four games against Newcastle compared to three in his 44 other games for the Midlands side, but it was not enough. Fellow substitute Miguel Almiron latched onto Joe Willock’s pass to give Eddie Howe’s side a first win in six league games.
Yet Wolves fans will feel aggrieved that they were not awarded a penalty after just 20 minutes. Nick Pope, playing for the first time since his red card against Liverpool, body-checked the onrushing Raul Jimenez in the box and could have received a second red in as many games.
Yet six minutes later, Trippier’s free-kick from deep on the right-hand side of the pitch found Isak almost too easily, allowing the young Swede to nip ahead of the Wolves pack and power a header low past Jose Sa.
Newcastle continued to dominate throughout the first half as the imperious Isak constantly caught out Craig Dawson and co with his direct running, although he could not find a second.
Hwang’s goal capitalised on a Trippier slip under pressure, but Almiron’s winner gave his side a much-needed and much-deserved three points.
Julen Lopetegui’s side will be desperately hoping they can call Korean forward Hwang a true striker, as their year-long goal drought from traditional No 9s continues.
Isak and Bruno Guimaraes were stand-out performers in the first league game the two have won while playing together since the Swede’s summer signature.
Howe’s side remain four points behind Spurs with two games in hand and will gain huge hope from Isak’s performance that their record signing may fire them into the Champions League.
- Nick Pope – Could, and perhaps should, have conceded a penalty after 20 minutes for a clash with Jimenez after he clumsily controlled a pass. Saved by his post from a Daniel Podence shot but made up for it with some excellent second-half stops. 5
- Kieran Trippier – His unfortunate slip led to Wolves’ goal, but an excellent performance going forward. His free-kick delivery for Isak’s goal was place-perfect and he could have both created and scored multiple others from set-pieces. 7
- Fabian Schar – Could have gone into half-time with a brace if he had a lighter touch. Solid at the back and bullishly dangerous in the opposition penalty area. 7
- Sven Botman – A classy and composed performance from the young Dutchman, who continues to justify his links to Champions League sides like PSG. Should have added a third in the dying moments. 7
- Dan Burn – Stretched well to give Guimaraes an excellent opportunity to score from close range before half-time and presented a much greater attacking threat down Newcastle’s left than Saint-Maximin. 7
- Bruno Guimaraes – Occasionally swarmed off the ball in deeper positions, but produced a series of fantastic passes, especially for Isak, to regularly unlock the Wolves defence. Should have scored when his header from Burn’s cut-back hit the bar from within the six-yard box. 8
- Sean Longstaff – A very Sean Longstaff showing, solid but unspectacular to help nullify Wolves’ midfield. 7
- Joe Willock – Missed an excellent chance early on but generally acted as a solid replacement for Joelinton. Held the ball up well and found Almiron for the winner. 7
- Had a great chance, generally been an excellent replacement for Joelinton
- Jacob Murphy – Did the legwork his fellow forwards neglected, causing havoc for Nelson Semedo in the second half. 7
- Alexander Isak – A performance which will instil belief in the St James’ Park faithful. Consistently direct and dangerous in behind and took his header imperiously, yet also unselfish when needed to create some excellent chances. Taken off moments before the equaliser. 8
- Allan Saint-Maximin – His indecisiveness was only emphasised by Isak’s directness. Ran himself into circles and waited too long to pull the trigger on multiple occasions, although he did occupy defenders well. 5
- Callum Wilson – 6
- Miguel Almiron – 7
- Matt Ritchie – N/A
- Jose Sa – It says a lot about a performance when a side’s best player is the keeper. There was little he could do to stop Newcastle’s goals but did brilliantly to keep the scoreline down. 7
- Nelson Semedo – Dealt well with Saint-Maximin and put his body on the line when needed, but also risked a sending-off for a poor last-man challenge on Murphy. 7
- Craig Dawson – Caught on his heels by Isak throughout the first half but solid throughout the second. 5
- Max Kilman – Did what was asked of him but little he could do to save his teammates. 6
- Jonny – A sloppy showing from the left-back, out-jumped for Isak’s goal after a mindless pass to the advertising hoarding earlier in the game. 4
- Ruben Neves – Solid defensively as always, punctuated by some clever attacking moves early on that became gradually more rash, eventually resorting to hammering shots over the bar from distance. 6
- Mario Lemina – Outran and out-performed by his opposite numbers in black and white, although made some important challenges when called upon. 5
- Adama Traore – Hauled off at half-time after an anonymous performance from a player its usually hard to miss. 4
- Joao Moutinho – Gave Guimaraes an occasional challenge in midfield but largely failed to get into the game. 5
- Daniel Podence – Hit the post just before half-time but largely isolated, now suspended for Wolves’ next game after picking up his fifth yellow of the season for a scrappy challenge. 5
- Raul Jimenez – What started as a solid pressing performance became an overzealous effort littered with cheap fouls, including the one which led to Newcastle’s goal. Often looked as though he was trying too hard to break his side’s striker’s curse. 4
- Pedro Neto – 6
- Hwang Hee-chan – 7
- Rayan Ait-Nouri – 6
- Nathan Collins – 5