Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle drew 1-1 in a hotly-contested game on Monday evening.
Isaac Hayden gave Newcastle the lead 10 minutes into the second half which looked to have won his side the game. But Willy Boly equalised in the fifth minute of injury time to earn Wolves a share of the points.
But what did we learn?
1. Benitez’s good work undone by a minute of madness
Who would’ve thought a Champions League-winning manager would be quite good tactically?
When Rafael Benitez named his starting XI, it was clear he was setting up with the main aim of nullifying Wolves, to stop any potential onslaught.
But the Spaniard also ensured he had just the right amount of attacking players on the pitch so as not to fully sacrifice his own team’s chances of scoring.
For most of the first half, it looked as though the travelling Newcastle fans would be in for a long evening as Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez often looked isolated up front as Wolves enjoyed more of the possession.
But the front two had glimpses on goal, while also bringing those around them into the game, and it eventually paid off.
Ten minutes into the second half, centre-back Fabian Schar moved the ball towards the edge of the Wolves box. Shaping to shoot, the Swiss instead played a neat through ball into Isaac Hayden whose shot beat Rui Patricio at his near post.
The goal opened Wolves defence, giving Rondon more gaps to work with, as the two wing-backs looked to get their side back into the game.
However, a deserved victory was snatch away from Newcastle in the fifth minute of injury time – after four had been initially signalled, with Martin Dubravka failing to deal with Adama Traore’s high cross into the box.
2. Wolves’ struggles against tight defences continue
Wolves have enjoyed a good first season back in the Premier League, currently sitting seventh in the league and holding a genuine outside chance of qualifying for the Europa League should cup results go in their favour.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s men have earned their lofty position thanks to an eye-catching style of play which carried them from the Championship, and has seen them earn some scalps throughout the season.
But, with the highs have come frustrating lows, and Monday was another example of the latter.
Newcastle travelled to Molineux set up to frustrate with five defenders and a four-man midfield in front of them, looking to destroy the creativity in Wolves’ danger men. And it did exactly that.
As much as Wolves tried to press down the flanks with their wing-backs, once the home side got into attacking positions, they were crowded out by the Newcastle defence, with few options to move the ball on.
Even when they did make their way into the box with beautiful football, one of three centre-backs were on hand to robbed Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez of the ball before they could get the killer touch.
Wolves may have stolen a point late on, but it came more through fortune and sheer persistence as opposed to Santo’s style of play.
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3. Wolves saved by a last-ditch goal again
It looked like it was set to be another blue Monday for Wolves as they stared another Premier League defeat in the face.
Four times previously Wolves had played in the Premier League on a Monday, and four times they had lost including against Manchester City in January.
But Willy Boly had other ideas.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) February 11, 2019
The centre-back put enough pressure on goalkeeper Dubravka to force an error, rising above the Slovakian to score in the fifth minute of injury time.
It was Wolves’ fifth goal in second-half injury time this season, the joint-most in the Premier League alongside Manchester City and Cardiff City.
4. Things are starting to look brighter for Newcastle
It’s not often a debuting playing will get as big a cheer as Miguel Almiron did when coming on with 20 minutes to go.
Record signing Miguel Almirón on for his debut. ⚫️⚪️
A reminder Lionel Messi scored 401 LaLiga goals during the time it took for Newcastle to break the previous record. https://t.co/ZW2BEOddV3
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 11, 2019
For Newcastle’s travelling fans, it was a long-awaited moment as the club had finally broken a 14-year transfer record in bringing the forward from Atlanta United.
The 25-year-old did not have much time to show Newcastle fans his worth, that will come in the future. But his arrival on the pitch, as Mike Ashley watched on, is a glimmer of hope in an otherwise cloudy situation off it.
5. Referees are starting to agree on dissent
One thing which seems to have cropped up once more in refereeing discussions recently has been their dealing with dissent.
It started when Wilfried Zaha was sent off for two yellow cards in Crystal Palace’s 1-1 draw with Southampton for sarcastically clapping a decision made by Andre Marriner at the end of January. The forward was later charged by the FA with improper conduct and handed an extra one-match ban currently pending an appeal.
The circumstances were made worse when Palace fans pointed out Ashley Barnes had not been sent off for remonstrating in the referee’s face having just been booked for diving in Burnley’s own 1-1 draw with Southampton.
Then, over the past weekend, both Kurt Zouma and Matt Ritchie were booked for dissent in their respective matches.
Zouma’s yellow card for dissent actually came at the end of Everton’s defeat to Watford in which he confronted the referees, unhappy with some of the decisions throughout the game, and brought a red as the Frenchman had already been booked.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Matt Ritchie was punished for his demonstrations after not being awarded a penalty having gone down inside the area, following on from previous chats with the referee throughout the match.
Things may not be perfect, but referees are starting to find some consistency with their dissent decisions.