Premier League

Player ratings as Magpies move above Liverpool into fifth

Player ratings as Magpies move above Liverpool into fifth

Newcastle United returned to winning ways with a hard-fought 2-1 victory at home to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Sunday afternoon, climbing into the Premier League top five with the club’s first top-flight triumph in eight weeks.

The Magpies came into the contest with the fewest goals in 2023 across Europe’s top five leagues while Wolves were the lowest scorers across the entire campaign in English professional football. Perhaps understandably, both managers fielded entirely new-look forward lines.

The replacement striker Julen Lopetegui deployed was controversially denied a chance to break the deadlock by a combination of the officials and Nick Pope midway through the first half. Raul Jimenez pounced upon a heavy touch from Newcastle‘s goalkeeper and tumbled under a shoulder barge as Pope hurriedly tried to rectify his error. Both the on-pitch referee and VAR overlooked the strident protestations.

Alexander Isak was one of the alterations Eddie Howe turned to and justified his selection within half an hour of kick-off. The Sweden international eased Jonny Castro Otto out of his way to meet Kieran Trippier‘s set piece unchallenged, flicking a header into the far corner to end Newcastle’s five-and-a-half-hour wait for a goal just six minutes after Pope’s controversy.

Newcastle didn’t capitalise when in the ascendancy and were shifted onto the back foot after the break by their reinvigorated visitors.

Wolves equalised in the 70th minute through a fog of confusion. Hwang Hee-chan was one of five substitutions made during a break in play seconds before Trippier and Pope got their wires crossed, with both Newcastle players trying to clear the same ball. Trippier beat his goalkeeper in the race but slipped as he cleared, presenting Hwang with an open goal.

Lopetegui’s first raft of changes swiftly led to the equaliser but his switch to a back five to protect Wolves’ lead had the exact opposite effect. Miguel Almiron, himself a substitute, played a crisp one-two with Joe Willock around a staggered mess that was once the visiting defence, rifling Newcastle back in front in the 79th minute.

For the first time since Boxing Day, Newcastle scored more than one goal in the same Premier League game which proved to be enough to send Howe’s side above Liverpool and into fifth.

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