In the match between the ex-managers of Bournemouth, both Eddie Howe and Gary O’Neil were unable to come out as the victor. The intense game showcased impressive skill, but also highlighted the fact that VAR often leads to criticism and added pressure on referees instead of simplifying their job.
The referee, Anthony Taylor, made several questionable decisions that were not well-received by fans. One of these decisions was the penalty that led to Callum Wilson scoring Newcastle’s second goal. As Taylor left, he was met with boos from the home crowd who had already been jeering at his previous calls. It took a long time for Stockley Park to confirm the penalty, causing the audience to become even more skeptical.
The Wolves, fueled by a sense of unfairness, eventually scored the goal they deserved thanks to a skillful move by Hwang Hee-chan, who had previously conceded the decisive penalty. Prior to this, Newcastle seemed capable of recovering from their Champions League exhaustion and facing a strong and threatening opponent, but as O’Neil commented about his team: “We faced some challenges out there, but the players stayed united.”
After receiving confirmation from Fifa of Sandro Tonali’s global suspension for gambling, Howe had limited options for his team selection. He was only able to make one substitution. The squad is currently struggling with the physical toll of playing in the Champions League, as seen with Jacob Murphy and Alexander Isak’s injuries during the match against Borussia Dortmund. The draw against Wolves marked the end of what Howe described as a mentally challenging week, particularly due to the situation with Sandro.
The Newcastle manager stated that he believes injuries have affected the team more than their schedule has. He also mentioned that he will not complain about the schedule.
In the misty rain at Molineux, Pedro Neto of Wolves showed his skill early on and proved to be a threat to the Saudi Arabian players. He easily passed by Dan Burn, who struggled to keep up, but later had to leave the game due to a hamstring injury. Hwang, who has now matched the record set by Wolves legend Derek Dougan 50 years ago with six goals in 10 matches, was also energetic from the beginning. After sharing the key to his success in their previous win against Bournemouth on Monday Night Football, O’Neil’s team continued to put pressure on their opponents with a high and aggressive style of play.
The game saw Kieran Trippier make an unexpected mistake, setting the tone for a difficult night for the English player. Despite his strong performance, Matheus Cunha’s finishing needs improvement, to the disappointment of Wolves.
The Wolves team faced double consequences when José Sá made a mistake and dropped Anthony Gordon’s cross, allowing Wilson to easily score and surpass Shola Ameobi and Andy Cole in the list of top goal scorers for Newcastle in the Premier League.
Mario Lemina’s equalising header, from Neto’s corner, was just reward for Wolves’ endeavours. It also meant Neto passed Trippier to top the Premier League assists charts. Far more importantly, Trippier himself had been culpable with lax marking.
Hwang made a mistake that was not intentional, as he challenged Fabian Schär and the referee, Taylor, gave a penalty. However, the VAR review took a very long time. It appeared that Hwang’s foot hit the ground before making contact with the Newcastle defender. Howe described it as a controversial decision and O’Neil called it scandalous. It was surprising that the decision was not changed after review. O’Neil expressed frustration with talking to VAR and will not bother until improvements are made. Sá’s opportunity for redemption was thwarted by blocking Wilson’s penalty with his hand, though it was not enough to stop it.
During the intermission, there was unrest among the spectators as they complained about a potential handball by Bruno Guimarães that was dismissed, causing O’Neil to express his frustration and the Premier League’s integrity to be challenged by the vocal Jack Hayward Stand.
The Wolves fans chanted, “If we were in that situation, you’d give him a red card,” after Jamaal Lascelles blocked Hwang’s run and the referee only gave a yellow card. This frustration quickly turned into triumphant excitement as Hwang skillfully maneuvered past Burn to score, with great assistance from Toti Gomes.
“I was saddened after giving them a penalty, so I was determined to make it up to my team,” stated Hwang, the unlucky player who became a hero.
The excitement from start to finish persisted. Schär narrowly missed a header, O’Neil substituted Sasa Kalajdzic for the injured Neto, and the tall Austrian posed difficult challenges for the Newcastle defense. One impressive reception of a high pass caused chaos in the Newcastle box, but despite the urgent pleas from their drenched managers, neither team could score a winning goal.