30 min This is a not unenjoyable game – not things we’re used to saying about those featuring either of these sides. It’s easy to laugh at “this league” and its sense of importance, never mind baulk at its moral vacuum, but the standard of play and entertainment so far this season has been great.
28 min Saint-Maxmin gets away from Semendo, who yanks him down. He’s booked, and must now last an hour without attracting further punishment; good luck with that, old mate.
26 min Massive chance for Wolves! Trippier finds himself under pressure down the left when he thought he’d have time to clear, Jimenez robbing him then curling a delectable cross to meet the arrival of Nunes! But mistiming his jump slightly, he gets under a ball he needs to be over, half-heading, half-shouldering a poor effort over the top from eight yards. That was the best chance of the game so far, and though the finish was miserable, you’ve got to applaud the timing of Nunes’ run and his desire to be the third man.
25 min Wolves, though, are a threat on the counter, Jimenez pulling wide feeding Jonny, whose cross is to no one but a tester, under the bar; Pope shovels it away well enough.
24 min That said, Semedo is defending him well so far, refusing to fall for his stepover when isolated and jockeying so that he’s forced to check, turn and send the ball backwards to no avail.
23 min If Newcastle can get Saint-Maximin on the ball, they can cause damage here; Wolves would be well advised to double-up on him, because it’s hard to see concerted danger emanating from anywhere else.
22 min Another iffy corner picks out Joelinton, arriving late at the back of the box, but he can only poke wide.
21 min Newcastle are starting to assert ringfencing the Wolves box so that when Longstaff slides a decent ball out to Almiron, it’s rolled back to Trippier whose cross yields a corner.
19 min Longstaff is putting himself about here, eager to take a chance he’ll not have expected, and after Botman wrestles Jimenez from behind, he lunges in and knees mince; Jimenez is hurt by the impact, but quickly recovers.
18 min Newcastle can’t get their passing game going here, but then Trippier lofts a decent ball over the top from left to right, Saint-Maximin worrying Semedo who’s underneath it. But just when it looks like he’s misjudged the flight, he stretches to poke behind, and the resultant corner comes to nothing.
16 min Wolves get the corner away and one pass, swept out to Guedes by Neves, turns the play. They’re looking dangerous on the counter, but this time, Longstaff tracks well to make the challenge.
15 min A loose touch from Collins allows Saint-Maxmin to rob him just outside the box, left of centre. He punches a square-ball to Wood, who might shoot but instead sets for Longstaff, and his shot is blocked behind. In co-comms, Don Goodman thinks Wood should’ve shot first time, but I don’t think his body position was right.
14 min Longstaff introduces studs to metatarsal, leaving a few on Nunes. This is a really physical game and much the better for it.
12 min Now a chance for Newcastle! The ball bounces about as Wolves can’t clear a corner, Nunes yanks Longstaff by shirt and arm – for some reason, neither ref nor VAR appraise a penalty – then the ball breaks to Willock, in space beyond the last man … but he can’t shovel it out from under his feet and get it on target, shooting a couple of yards wide.
Joe Willock misses a big chance for the visitors. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters10 min Neto is enjoying himself now, dashing down the left and standing up a cross this time … but again Pope grabs it. He’s got the legs on Burn, and Wolves need to feed him whenever they can.
9 min I’m not quite sure what happened, but Willock is hobbling about. I think he’ll run off whatever it is, and we see that as he ran backwards to make an angle for Schar as Newcastle played out from the back, he slipped.
8 min Wolves are starting to play, another nice move allowing Jonny to feed Neto outside him and down the left. But though the eventuating cross arrives into a decent near-post area, no one gambles so Pope fields easily.
7 min Chance for Wolves! Moutinho collects a loose ball just outside his own box and pretty central, leaping in a glorious inside-out pass that swerves out to Guedes on the right. His cross is a decent one too, but Neto, arriving on the scene just before Pope, has to flicks quickly before the keeper blocks, and sends a fair effort onto the roof of the net.
Chance for Wolves as Pedro Neto goes close. Photograph: Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Getty Images6 min …Nunes and Moutinho are over it, the former swinging an overhit cross directly into Pope’s gloves.
6 min Wolves win a free-kick out on the right, 25 yards from goal and a few yards in from the touchline…
5 min Joelinton’s pressure suddenly puts Wood away down the left of the box. Sa, though, rushes out to narrow the angle, diving to block an attempted cross behind. The corner comes to nowt.
4 min On Willock, we shouldn’t forget that just last week, he beat Kyle Walker in a “foot race” (as opposed to a flying race). There aren’t many who can say that.
Joe Willock. Quick. Photograph: Molly Darlington/Action Images/Reuters3 min Neto looks to run at the Newcastle defence, so Willock races in and applies the shoulder, ragdolling him to the ground, then when Wolves target the channel, Botman shoves Guedes over and the ref lets it go.
2 min Nunes tries a flick but it goes to no one, so he races at Joelinton to press; Joelinton gets the ball away.
1 min Why is Castore suddenly all over the show? The Pony de nos jours?
1 min Away we go, Newcastle in their Saudi Arabia away kit. Football is the winner.
Absolutely no sportswashing here as Newcastle prepare to kick off. Photograph: Phil Noble/ReutersHi-ho Wolverhampton. The crowd are up for this one, belting out the chorus of their signature song. Their team need them.
Absolute tune pumping at Molineux as the players come out. Sorry, but you’ll have to talk amongst yourselves – I’m off to the kluhrb.
The players are tunnelled…
At Tannadice, Celtic lead Dundee United 9-0. Both them and Rangers making the Champions League groups is a potentially interesting but terrifying development for the SPL, given the pre-existing exchequer disparity.
Jamie Carragher reckons that, given Newcastle’s two big misses, this is a chance for Wolves and he’ll be delighted to learn that I concur. If they can compete physically, they’ve got the craft to pick holes about the box – but can they create and take chances?
On Sky, we have a quick look at Saint-Maximin, who might be the funnest player in the league. And now he looks to be maturing without losing all the joy – goodness me, that’s an achievement on it’s own – but as I mentioned below, if he doesn’t create it’s hard to see who will.
Eddie Howe confirms they were waiting until the last minute hoping Isaak would get his work permit but it didn’t arrive, and that Guimaraes picked up a niggle in midweek. He says Wood has never let him down, scored and played well in midfield, and that his team will need the solid attitude they’ve displayed so far this season. Wolves have, he reckons, got some dangerous attackers, but if his lot get themselves going, they’ve got plenty of firepower themselves.
Record signing signing Alexander Isak misses out today for Newcastle. Photograph: Kieran McManus/ShutterstockOn which point, it’s not just Longstaff – that Newcastle midfield is not unlike those favoured by Jürgen Klopp before Thiago arrived, three serious athletes able to out-run and out-strength pretty much any other trio. And Wolves’ might just lack a bit physically, because, though Moutinho and Neves are fine passers, they’re neither as fast nor as powerful as the men who’ll be setting about them, and Nunes is still acclimatising. Newcastle might still struggle to create – unlike Liverpool, they don’t have full-backs as good as Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson – but if they dominate physically, they’ll hope to get Alain Saint-Maximin enough of the ball to do damage.
As for Newcastle, those two absentees will be problematic – Guimaraes is serious player, and gives them craft they don’t have without him, while Wilson holds it up and gets goals. Longstaff, in for the former, might just be growing into the player he looked like becoming when he bullied Man City at the start of his career – Michael Carrick with legs would be a helluva player – but Wood will necessitate a change in approach, a focal point but not a point of difference.
It feels faintly ludicrous to bemoan Wolves’ travails in front of goal. Under Nuno Espírito Santo, it was easy to blame a conservative approach that was almost an insult to the talented attackers he had at his disposal. But under the more expansive Lage, the same problem persists, and Newcastle are unlikely to let them play themselves into prolificity, were prolificity a word.
Oh, and Lage still hopes to get in a couple more players, also noting that Guedes has just found a home – mazal tov, old mate – and Nunes has a bag of clothes. My guess is that what he really wants is a goalscorer. I really like Podence, who has skill and attitude, but he’s more of a 10 than a 9 – Lage mentioned this too – and it doesn’t feel like he can rely on Jiménez, much as we hope to the contrary.
Bruno Lage tells Sky that “all the good signs are there”, and though Wolves only have one point, they’re playing pretty well. He’s got players coming back from injury who didn’t have a pre-season, and also notes that they’ve hired two fine players – Nunes and Guedes – who are just getting comfy. He’s building a squad with competition for places, he reckons – Traoré, Podence and Hwang on the bench says he’s right – and asked by Don Goodman if he’s changed to a back four for reasons of creativity, he says the idea is the same regardless of formation, and actually wanted to go with 4-3-3 last season, but it’s taken him until now to feel ready.
Newcastle also make two changes: Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimarães are injured, so Sean Longstaff and Chris Wood come in; Alexander Isaak is still awaiting his work permit
Wolves make two changes from the side that lost at Spurs: Ait-Nouri drops out, with Nelson Semedo coming in, and Daniel Podence is on the bench, replaced by Raúl Jiménez. But the main chance looks to be tactical, and a change from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3. Even on paper, the balance looks better, and a midfield of Moutinho, Neves and Nunes should be enough to contest control, with the extra man in attack giving them something extra to go at. There’s still no place, though, for Adama Traoré – thogh he’s a pretty decent option to have in reserve.
Teams!Wolves (a sensible 4-3-3): Sa; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Jonny; Moutinho, Neves, Nunes; Neto, Jimenez, Guedes. Subs: Sarkic, Ait-Nouri, Podence, Hwang, Mosquera, Toti, Dendoncker, Traore, Campbell.
Newcastle (a matter-of-principle 4-3-3): Pope; Trippier, Schar, Botman, Burn; Willock, Longstaff, Joelinton; Almiron, Wood, Saint-Maximin. Subs: Darlow, Dummett, Lascelles, Ritchie, Targett, Manquillo, Fraser, Murphy, Anderson.
Referee: Peter Bankes (Lancashire)
PreambleOur teams this afternoon have made contrasting starts to the season. Newcastle are the feelgood story of the summer, Eddie Howe’s merry bunch of altruistic underdogs building on the progress made last term and developing into a serious force. Though they’ve only won once in three, a creditable point at Brighton was followed by an inspirational draw with Manchester City, a game in which they hit a level of performance far beyond what most teams can offer.
Except that is only half of the story. Though it was difficult not to be impressed by how adeptly they moved the ball and created overloads, what was even more striking was their bravery and intensity. Going a goal down to the champions in just five minutes, there was ample excuse to abandon the gameplan to stay in the game, but Newcastle did nothing of the sort, continuing to throw men forward and take chances on the ball. They were earned every bit of the 3-1 lead they accumulated, just as they did the point they defended when City came on strong towards the end. It feels wrong to call a draw a statement performance, but it’s no less right for that – and that was before they added Alexander Isaak into the mix.
Wolves, on the other hand, have just one point from three games, courtesy a 0-0 home thriller with Fulham. On the face of things, that’s a problem, but looking at their squad, it’s easy to feel optimistic for them: Pedro Neto is still feeling his way back, Gonçalo Guedes is settling, Nathan Collins is promising and Matheus Nunes is a potential gamechanger. They do, though, need to get a wriggle on – confidence is contagious and defeat today would hit them hard, so there’s plenty on the line at Molineux, and it’s live!
Kick-off: 2pm BST