Newcastle United 1-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers (Wood 72′ pen)
ST JAMES’ PARK — Newcastle United will reap the rewards of being the Premier League club that was prepared to take a gamble on the Bruno Guimaraes.
Confronted with the evidence that this was a player capable of making a difference Arsenal dithered. A newly-minted Newcastle did not and here, on a Friday night that could have fallen flat, was another dividend banked on the £35m invested in January.
On Tyneside, they are already enraptured by a midfielder with the rare gift of midfield dynamism and the bravery to take on opponents – like Wolves – who seem happy to sit back and make the opposition do the work.
Whether carrying the ball or breaking the lines, he was the chief creator on a night when Newcastle surely guaranteed they will be playing Premier League football again next season.
Bruno was the reason this game didn’t drift, even if Newcastle’s match-winners were Chris Wood – topping and tailing his evening with a penalty goal that was reward for his persistence – and a home support that reflects new-found optimism in these parts .
The sun-kissed spring afternoon in Newcastle lent itself to a heady atmosphere that was far removed from the depression that had settled on St James’ Park under Mike Ashley. For all the debate elsewhere, there is no inhibition about embracing the new era among the vast majority of Newcastle’s supporters.
The positivity extended to driving their team forward when the game appeared to be running into a cul-de-sac. They sang the name of Allan Saint-Maximin, having one of those nights, in a show of solidarity.
If those new owners can harness that positivity, there is little doubt that they will break the cycle of annual survival battles in the North East. Wolves are battling for the Europa League but nothing they exhibited will have dissuaded Newcastle that with smart investment and a sense of unity they can’t be in a similar position soon.
Wolves looked strangely off-key throughout, far removed from the expansive football they have rolled out under Bruno Lage this season. Luke Cundle, a 19-year-old academy product, was called into a sitting role in midfield and his evening seemed to consist solely of stroking the ball backwards into comfortable areas for his two full-backs.
At least he seemed happy to collect and recycle possession. Most of those in Old Gold lacked the mettle to take on a Newcastle side smarting from a drubbing at Tottenham that had chaotic echoes of the Steve Bruce era. While the hosts looked motivated to avenge that defeat, Wolves sat, content to strangle the game as a contest.
What invention there was came from Bruno, who looked a cut above in a soporific first half. Never mind those half-baked transfer rumors linking the club with Gareth Bale or Eden Hazard, Newcastle’s hierarchy see the Brazil midfielder as the symbol of what they are going to try and do in the next five years – take high caliber players before their peak years who can grow with a club as it attempts to make an impact at the top of the Premier League.
Those are fine words and they will need to find more like Guimaraes, who had no interest in playing at the pedestrian pace of those around him. His pleasing turn of pace and smart pass teed up Miguel Almiron’s backheel which carved open Wolves for a Wood goal that was disallowed by virtue of VAR.
But Wood was to have the final say with a second half penalty that settled the contest.
- Dubravka 6
- Krafth 6
- Schar 6
- Burn 6
- Targett 6
- Shelvey 7
- Joelinton 6
- Guimarães 9
- Fraser 6
- Saint Maximin 6
- Wood 7
- Sa 6
- Otto 6
- Coady 6
- Bolly 6
- Kilman 6
- cuddle 6
- dial 5
- Moutinho 4
- Lashing 5
- Silva 5
- Hwang 5
- Ait Nouri
- Campbell 6
- Net 6