Wolves: Sa (5), Kilman (7), Dawson (7), Toti (8), Semedo (6), Lemina (7), Traore (6), Ait-Nouri (7), Neto (8), Cunha (7), Hwang (7).
Subs: Doyle (7), Kalajdzic (6), Gomes (n/a).
Newcastle: Pope (5), Trippier (6), Schar (7), Lascelles (6), Burn (6), Guimaraes (7), Longstaff (6), Joelinton (6), Almiron (6), Wilson (8), Gordon (6).
Subs: Willock (6).
Player of the match: Callum Wilson.
How it played out at Molineux
This fast-paced game started as it would go on with Matheus Cunha to the fore early on, but the breakthrough goal came for Newcastle as a result of an error by Sa. The goalkeeper attempted to come through bodies but dropped the ball with Wilson lurking.
The Newcastle striker saw his first effort blocked brilliantly by Toti Gomes but acrobatically found the net when the ball came back to him. The England international has the best strike rate of any Premier League player to play 90 minutes in the competition this season.
- Gary O’Neil made two changes to the Wolves team that won at Bournemouth with Mario Lemina and Nelson Semedo came straight back in following their suspensions. Out went Joao Gomes and Matt Doherty so it was Boubacar Traore who retained his place in midfield.
- Eddie Howe made just one change to the starting line-up that saw off Crystal Palace so emphatically last weekend and it was enforced. The injured Jacob Murphy was replaced on the wing by Miguel Almiron. There was no Sandro Tonali in the squad, of course.
Wolves did not appear disheartened by it and immediately pushed for an equaliser with Cunha and Neto both forcing Nick Pope into smart saves and O’Neil’s team scored from the left-wing corner that resulted from the second of those stops.
Pope came but did not get there and it was Lemina who outmuscled Kieran Trippier to head home Neto’s centre. Wolves were deservedly level at that stage but Newcastle finished the half strongly with a series of corners. The final one of the first half brought the penalty.
It was a controversial call against Hwang who was adjudged to have fouled Schar after a sloppy first touch. He checked his kick and got a touch on the ball with his other foot but it was not deemed to be a clear and obvious error by referee Anthony Taylor.
Wilson restored Newcastle’s lead from the spot, his shot squeezing past Sa despite the goalkeeper getting a hand to the ball. When Wolves appealed in vain for a penalty at the other end, the atmosphere at Molineux was febrile going into the half-time interval.
The intensity was unrelenting with the impressive Cunha and Neto continuing to spring attacks from deep, although clear-cut openings for either side were limited until the unlikely creativity of powerhouse defender Toti brought Wolves’ second.
Finding himself on the right wing, the Portuguese jinked one way and then the other before feeding Hwang with the reverse pass. The Korean then cut inside his marker before beating Pope at his near post to spark wild scenes of celebration in Wolverhampton.
The mood changed again when Neto, in the form of his career, was carried off on a stretcher after being stopped in his tracks by what appeared to be a torn hamstring. With seven assists already this season, it is a huge blow for player, manager and club.
Neto’s departure robbed Wolves of some momentum and it was Newcastle who came closest to finding a winner in the closing stages when Schar headed the wrong side of the post from Trippier’s cross. There was to be no winner. Just a thrilling draw.
FPL Stats: Wolves 2-2 Newcastle
|Wilson (2), Lemina, Hwang
|Neto, Schar, Toti
|Wilson (3), Lemina (2), Schar (1)
Controversial VAR call against Hwang
Schar was savvy in nipping ahead of Hwang after the Wolves man’s poor touch, getting to the ball first and anticipating the contact. But one suspects what followed was not quite as clear-cut as the referee had believed it to be in real time.
Schar’s touch deflected the ball onto Hwang’s left foot, while the player checked the kick with his right, limiting the contact. O’Neil, who received a PGMOL apology for a VAR call on the opening weekend, was emphatic in his assessment after the game.
“It was a scandalous decision,” he said. “Terrible, I thought. Terrible on-field decision and terrible that VAR did not intervene so, yeah, I thought they got it badly wrong.
“He goes to clear the ball and makes such minimal contact with Schar. I mean, hardly any. A glance of the boot. Schar is already on the way down. And the ball actually hits Channy’s other foot before he even makes contact with Schar so technically he gets the ball before he touches Schar. So, that is why it was a terrible decision.”
Even his counterpart Howe did not seem convinced that his Newcastle side should have been awarded the penalty. “I think our one is a contentious one. Fabian has just got to the ball first. With a long delay you know it is a tight call. It went our way.”
Howe counting cost of squad issues
Howe made only one substitution which reflected the limited options that he had available to him. Alexander Isak and Jacob Murphy are injured. Sandro Tonali is now suspended for 10 months. The Newcastle boss was left with a bench full of full-backs.
“I was left with a lot of defenders,” he explained. “I have to be careful making changes. That game was very difficult to come into. You really want to be changing attacking players and going for three points but they were not available for us.”
Newcastle did finish the game strongly. “One of our best spells was at a late stage.” But he admitted that he would have liked to “maybe freshen things up because of fatigue” after a week that saw them facing Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday.
That challenge is mental as well as physical. “We have seen a top player leave us for 10 months, that is tough on the players because they know that they need help.” Even so, they extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League. “I am very proud of the players.”
Neto loss is huge for improving Wolves
With only three teams on a longer unbeaten run than Wolves in the Premier League, O’Neil has certainly won over the supporters at Molineux. His team pushed Newcastle all the way in a thrilling 2-2 draw that nevertheless came at a heavy price.
The loss of Neto was cruel on the club but primarily the player. He has been flying this season, providing more assists than anyone else in the Premier League. He succumbed to a hamstring injury in the second half when on yet another driving run from deep.
“He is moving around in there,” said O’Neil afterwards. “We are hoping it is on the smaller side and Pedro won’t be missing for long.” On replacing him, he added: “Not many teams will have two wingers of Pedro’s quality just sitting on the bench waiting to play.”
Clearly, there is nobody at Neto’s level. O’Neil had suggested recently that Wolves have limited wing options even before this injury. The team will need to be tweaked and Wolves will try to find a way. But they are unlikely to be this dynamic without their star man.
The game in stats
- Only Arsenal and Tottenham are on longer unbeaten runs in the Premier League than both Newcastle and Wolves.
- Callum Wilson scored his 44th and 45th Premier League goals for Newcastle, taking him ahead of Andrew Cole and Shola Ameobi as the outright third highest goalscorer for the club in the competition.
- Wilson has scored 16 of his 17 Premier League penalties – of players to take at least 15 in the competition, only Matt Le Tissier and Danny Murphy have a better conversion rate from the spot.
- Hee-Chan Hwang scored his sixth Premier League goal of the season, his best return in a single campaign in the competition. Five of his six goals have come at Molineux, with no player scoring more home Premier League goals so far this season.
- Pedro Neto has assisted more goals than any other Premier League player this season (7).
Wolves are back in action next Saturday with a trip to Sheffield United next Saturday, kick-off 3pm. They then host Tottenham at Molineux on November 11 in the lunch-time kick-off, kick-off 12.30pm.
Newcastle face a trip to Man Utd in the Carabao Cup fourth round in a repeat of last season’s final live on Sky Sports on Wednesday, kick-off 8.15pm. They are on Sky Sports again when they host Arsenal on November 4, kick-off 5.30pm.