Newcastle’s Richarlison’s very different response and Howe’s ‘lively’ words will worry Liverpool

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Newcastle United beat Wolves to move up to fifth in the Premier League and it was quite fitting that substitute Miguel Almiron scored the winning goal after being ruled out

Was this the night Newcastle United’s season came back to life? Time will tell, but Sunday’s 2-1 win against Wolves at St James’ Park looked like more than three points. It looked like Newcastle were firmly back in the running for the top four. As Kieran Trippier said after the game: “We want to bring Champions League football to this great club and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say that.”

No wonder so many players roared back into the locker room full time. This was not only Newcastle’s second league win in recent months, but the Magpies showed real spirit to go on and win the game – just minutes after Hwang Hee-chan equalized to cancel out Alexander Isak’s first half. Newcastle had not scored more than one goal in any league game in 2023, but top scorer Miguel Almiron came off the bench to lift his side fifth in the table with a trademark finish from just inside the box.

It was quite fitting that Almiron scored the winning goal. A different kind of character might have grumbled after being dropped – remember Spurs forward Richarlison’s fury last week over his lack of playing time? – but Almiron’s selfless response came as no shock to anyone who has worked with the Paraguayan international. That selfless mindset has been at the heart of Newcastle’s transformation over the past 12 months. Many players put the team’s interests before their own and that unity will go a long way in deciding where Howe’s team will end up. Just like a year ago when Newcastle stayed awake.

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Unlike the relegation struggle, though, when Chris Wood led the line for long spells, Newcastle have a striker in Isak who is the kind of elite talent who can supercharge the Magpies’ pressure across Europe after letting their back injury. Isak has certainly given Newcastle a new dimension up front with his pace and movement over the weekend and he even scored a trademark striker goal with his header in the 26th minute. Worryingly for both Spurs and Liverpool, Howe predicted there is much more to come from the Sweden international and his team as a whole.

“Yes,” the Newcastle manager told reporters. “There is so much more to come from us in general. There’s a lot more to come from him, there’s a lot more to come from a lot of players.

“I see their capabilities day in and day out and I really want the best for them. I’m really excited about what Alex can do for us now and in the future.”

Newcastle are now just four points adrift of fourth-placed Spurs with two games in hand, and the Magpies’ fate rests firmly in their hands for the final 13 games of the campaign after Howe’s bold decisions paid off. Howe doesn’t like radical changes, but the Newcastle boss has made five impressive changes for this game, with Fabian Schar, Joe Willock, Jacob Murphy, Alexander Isak and Allan Saint-Maximin entering the starting line-up. Joelinton and Anthony Gordon may have missed the game through suspension and injury respectively, but Howe’s decision to drop Callum Wilson, who had a bout of illness earlier this week, and Miguel Almiron felt like a statement in itself.

Wilson and Almiron may have been responsible for nearly half of Newcastle’s league goals this season, but there are clearly no untouchables in this team. The way Newcastle started the game said as much as those who broke into the starting XI seemed to make an immediate impression.

Newcastle pressed high from the start, forcing Wolves to make mistakes, and the Magpies had plenty of possession and territory in the early stages. However, when it came to clear chances, José Sá had little to do until the quarter-hour mark, when the goalkeeper easily blocked Isak’s header from Saint-Maximin’s cross.

It was Wolves who threatened a few minutes later when Pope tapped in a heavy pass from Sven Botman to allow Raul Jimenez on, but nothing was forthcoming after the Newcastle goalkeeper appeared to bring him down. It was a huge disappointment, but Newcastle soon took advantage of it.

With 26 minutes left on the clock, Kieran Trippier curled in a free-kick from the right and Isak climbed higher to head Sa to kick off Newcastle. It was Newcastle’s first goal in a month and renewed confidence soon flowed through the hosts.

Indeed, Newcastle could have doubled their lead just minutes later when Joe Willock’s shot was deflected wide after a goalmouth scramble. Newcastle clearly reeked of blood and Bruno Guimarães was the next player to go close after the Brazilian international’s header hit the post after Dan Burn had sent Trippier’s deep corner back into the danger zone.

Newcastle were on top but there was still just one goal and Wolves certainly weren’t out of it yet. The visitors recalled that even before the break when Daniel Podence broke in from the left and shot wide of the post.

Pope was soon forced into a crucial stop after the break when the Newcastle goalkeeper blocked substitute Pedro Neto’s venomous effort from the edge of the area with a strong hand in the 58th minute. However, it said a lot about how this second half went from end to end, the fact that Newcastle nearly scored themselves just a minute later when Sa pushed past Trippier’s free kick with a fine save.

Newcastle needed another goal and Howe sent Almiron and Wilson on to Isak and Saint-Maximin in search of that second killer in the 68th minute. Only it was the Wolves who soon tied.

Newcastle have conceded a number of weak goals in recent weeks, but none as bad as Hwang Heechan’s 70th-minute equalizer. Newcastle had several opportunities to clean up their lines in the build-up before Nick Pope and Kieran Trippier crossed the wires when the Magpies goalkeeper came to gather and his England teammate ended up inadvertently flicking the ball past Hwang after he slipped. Hwang couldn’t go wrong.

Newcastle could have crumbled but Almiron came through with a precious 78th-minute winner to secure a vital three points after a clever one-two with Willock. It could still be a defining moment for the season.

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