Wolves beat Newcastle United as match-winner Matt Doherty proves small money can bring success
Wolverhampton Wanderers win on road for first time in two months, as Newcastle crash to seventh defeat of season already
If few games can be described as a tale of two right wing-backs, this was that rarity. One was the villain, the other the hero.
Newcastle United’s DeAndre Yedlin handed the initiative to Wolves when he was sent off. Long after he departed, his Wanderers counterpart Matt Doherty turned match-winner, materialising to head in a 94th-minute winner.
It gave Wolves a first win on the road in two months and Newcastle, more remarkably, a seventh defeat of a season that has not reached its half-way stage. It illustrated that Rafa Benitez’s meticulous planning can be undone by undistinguished personnel and Yedlin completed a wretched eight days.
He had been tormented by Felipe Anderson and troubled by Richarlison in his previous two games. Diogo Jota proved his latest nemesis.
While Benitez matched up against Wolves 3-4-3 system, he found himself short of both natural and occasional centre-backs. Already without the suspended Fabian Schar, Newcastle lost Federico Fernandez at half time, courtesy of a calf injury.
As Javier Manquillo came on, Yedlin moved infield, albeit only for 12 minutes. Then he was dispossessed by Jota, dragged the winger back and, to Benitez’s evident displeasure, was dismissed.
The Spaniard signalled for VAR, a futile gesture considering it has not yet been introduced in the Premier League but Mike Dean was correct to expel the defender.
It was neither the first nor the last time Jota exerted an impact. He had not scored in his first 14 appearances of the season. By the time the 17th minute had elapsed, he had two goals in as many games, a winner against Chelsea being followed by a well-taken opener.
While Jamaal Lascelles was caught ball-watching, Jota controlled his compatriot Helder Costa’s cross with his chest and, while Martin Dubravka flung himself at the Portuguese’s volley, he could not keep it out.
Wolves have had too few goals from their forwards this season so, with top scorer Raul Jimenez benched, this assumed an added importance. The habitual dribbler Adama Traore led the line instead.
The club record buy remains a conundrum, a substitute who can torment defences but a player yet to nail down a starting spot, an attacker capable of beating defenders but one who scores too few goals. He was ineffectual for an hour and then replaced.
Indeed, both sides demonstrated the merits of the specialist striker.
Jimenez came on to rattle the bar. Newcastle started with Salomon Rondon, who had tested Rui Patricio with a first-minute volley. He excelled as United equalised.
The Venezuelan has started to look a worthy inheritor of Newcastle’s No 9 shirt, a forceful forward with the capacity to make something happen and just a hint – if not the prolific goalscoring record – of Les Ferdinand. Rondon thumped a free kick against the underside of the bar and, rather than bemoaning his bad fortune, reacted to cross for Ayoze Perez to head in.
After they traded goals inside six minutes, Newcastle seemed able to hold on for a hard-earned point. But Nuno Espirito Santo sent for Morgan Gibbs-White and Joao Moutinho.
Jimenez unleashed his thunderbolt and the indefatigable Doherty became a growing influence. He drew a fine save from Dubravka but, if the excellent goalkeeper preserved parity, it was only temporarily.
When he parried Jota’s shot, Doherty was on hand to head in his third goal of an outstanding campaign.
For all the focus on Wolves’ spending, and while Newcastle can only wonder what would have been possible were Benitez granted a transfer budget the size of Nuno’s, one of the stars of their season has been a defender bought for just £75,000 (Dh350,765) from his native Ireland.
Updated: December 9, 2018 10:20 PM