Maybe today’s Newcastle team had too much confidence. Instead of building on a midweek 6-0 win in London, Newcastle came out with a lack of focus and one calamity after another, losing to West Midland’s club, Wolverhampton Wanderers, 2-0 in front of an attendance 52,117.
Rafa continued making changes to his squad. After the beat down they gave QPR on a hot and humid Tuesday, Benitez elected to make 3 changes. Up top, Dwight Gayle replaced Aleksandar Mitrovic. After getting Tuesday night off, Mbemba was put back into the middle of the defence, replacing Ciaran Clark. Lastly, Mohamed Diame got back into the starting eleven, slotted behind the striker. With the omission of Yoan Gouffran, Perez was sent out to the left.
We watched Newcastle dominate possession (70-30) in the opening quarter-of-an-hour but Wolves quieted the sellout crowd, out shooting Newcastle 5-1 and forcing saves from Matz Sels. You can see Wolves were more than happy to sit back and cede possession to their host, allowing Newcastle’s back four to knock the ball around but never allowing the Magpies any penetration in their third of the pitch.
In the 30th minute disaster struck. Icelandic center forward Jon Dadi Bodvarsson put a cross into the 6 yard box where Chancel Mbemba was waiting to put the ball into his own goal. Mbemba’s night off Tuesday didn’t seem to do him any good as he made one mistake after another. He was out of position a number of times, made mental errors, and was misplacing many of his passes, all leading up to his own goal.
For the final 15 minutes of the half Newcastle continued their poor performance. Ritchie’s touch was poor, Perez and Diame were largely anonymous, and Gayle struggled to make any impact on the game. The crowd at St. James Park was silenced and confused.
It was clear Benitez gave his team an earful at halftime. Wolves players were on the pitch for four or five minutes before Rafa’s men resurfaced from the depths of SJP. Even after a few positive moments to begin the second half it was clear, with Wolves parking the bus, changes needed to be made if Newcastle was to rescue any points from the match.
Before those changes could be made however, Wolves doubled their lead. Perez lost the ball 25 yards from his own goal trying to dribble through three Wolves players. Helder Costa gathered the ball, picked his head up and found the bottom left of Matz Sels’s goal. 2-0 Wolves.
Benitez immediately made two changes to his shell shocked club bringing off Matt Ritchie and Isaac Hayden in favor of Aleksander Mitrovic and Christian Atsu. It was a really bad performance for Ritchie. He gave the ball away multiple times, was given yellow for dissent, and should have been sent off for a poor tackle just before the second goal was given away. He was clearly frustrated all day.
In the 77th minute, Mitrovic was given a golden opportunity to make a gigantic impact and bring the Magpies within one but couldn’t beat the Wolves goalkeeper. It was a chance he should have taken but didn’t.
Ten minutes later things continued to worsen for Newcastle, as Vurnon Anita was shown red for a late tackle on Ivan Cavaleiro. It now looks like Anita will miss the next 3 matches. It was a fitting way to close out the match, overall a very poor performance from a team buzzing with confidence. In the end, possession was 70-30 in favor of Newcastle with both teams getting 10 shots on goal, 2 shots on target for Newcastle - 4 shots on target for Wolves.
Huddersfield beat QPR 2-1 today pushing them 4 points ahead of Newcastle at the top of the table. With a 2-1 win in Nottingham, Norwich leapfrogs Newcastle with 17 points. Newcastle now sits in 3rd place with their next League game Saturday, away at Aston Villa, at 12:30.