Sunday’s match against Wolves was supposed to be one not filled with controversy as it initially was going to be after the Magpie Group cancelled their planned boycott. However, controversy found Newcastle after all, and a 10-man defeat to Wolves left many fans in anger.
The match began with an early chance for Newcastle that saw Mo diame, of all people, swing in a ball to Rondon who chested the ball down and fired a volley that was saved by Rui Patricio.
Wolves began to pile on the pressure, at times appearing to play with a front 4, that certainly put the pressure on Newcastle’s back 5. The constant pressure led to a 13th minute free kick taken by Ruben Neves, that was comfortably saved by Martin Dubravka.
Four minutes later however, Diego Jota scored as Jamal Lascelles seemingly fell asleep at the back allowing Jota the opportunity to take his time with a beautiful ball played into him by Helder Costa. Jota chested the ball and sent a hard volley just past Dubravka from 4 yards out. The pace on the ball was too much for Dubravka to handle, as he got a little bit of his body on it.
Moments later Ayoze Perez won a free kick a few yards outside the box. Rondon stepped up and took the free kick, to the surprise of many, and rattled the cross bar.
The ball eventually made its way back out to Rondon who served up a delicious cross to Ayoze Perez who tied the game up after just 5 minutes of being down a goal.
Newcastle had one more chance before the half as Ki swung in a free kick that Fernandez eventually headed straight at the keeper.
Halftime came with a change that made Rafa wish he had not dropped Fabian Schar from the team for the night’s match. Fernandez picked up a slight knock, and was subbed off for Javi Manquillo. Manquillo took his spot as a Right Back, while Deandre Yedlin, despite never playing Center Back professionally, moved to play the right Center Back position.
The alternative solution would have been to go to a 4 in the back with Manquillo or Dummett playing Left Back. Rafa decided to stick with what had been working for the first 45 minutes, and not change anything tactically
To be fair, DeAndre held himself back from bombing forward like he usually does and was a somewhat competent Center Back in Newcastle’s new “bend but don’t break” defense.
Wolves continued to pile on the pressure, but Newcastle responded well and it seemed as if Newcastle could finish the match with a draw or even win the match.
In the 57th minute however, DeAndre Yedlin was caught tugging at Jota, who went down easily resulting in DeAndre being shown a red for denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity. There is a lot of disagreement around the call with fans claiming that Lascelles was in the vicinity, ergo it was not a clear goal scoring opportunity. Other Newcastle fans made the claim that DeAndre was fouled before fouling Jota, and Jota should have been the one that was booked. Regardless, nobody could do anything to reverse the fact that Newcastle were going to have see out the last 38 minutes of the match plus extra time down a man.
‘An obvious goalscoring opportunity’...discuss... pic.twitter.com/Rlruhg5GHf— Martin Hardy (@mhardysport) December 9, 2018
The way Lascelles was playing it would have taken him 72 hours to get there so yes, clear goal scoring opportunity— Anthony McIvor (@dinobaby02) December 10, 2018
More controversy ensued as Ayoze Perez took what appeared to be a deliberate elbow to the face in the box, that many believe should have been awarded as a penalty. Ayoze later made the claim that the ref told him the ball hit him in the face. Clearly, it did not.
To Newcastle’s credit, they were able to contain wave after wave of Wolves attackers bombing forward until the final minutes of extra time. Jota struck a ball sweetly that forced Dubravka to make a save, Unfortunately, Dubravka’s parry landed at the feet of Doherty who scored in the 94th minute to claim all three points for Wolves.
After the goal a mass exodus occurred at St James as the fans, who were practically silent all match, did not care to stick around and encourage the team,
After the match many fans took to Twitter to share their various opinions about all the controversial decisions, with many at least agreeing with the fact that Ayoze was fouled.
Ayoze Perez and Rafa Benitez both commented on the controversial calls, or lack thereof, with Ayoze claiming he was fouled and Rafa clamoring for VAR.
Newcastle currently sit in 15th, one point behind Cardiff with 13 points. Newcastle have the opportunity to claim 3 points at Huddersfield this weekend, who currently sit in 18th.