Wolves 0-1 Newcastle: Aleksandar Mitrovic strike sends Newcastle back top of the Championship
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 11/02/17 8:33pm
An Alexandar Mitrovic strike just before half-time was enough for Newcastle to return to the top of the Championship table with a 1-0 win against Wolves.
Mitrovic's strike in the 44th minute proved the difference at the Molineux Stadium as Newcastle put in an impressive defensive display to see off Wolves.
However, the game could have been different with Mitrovic possibly deserving a second yellow card for a nasty challenge on Wolves goalkeeper Carl Ikeme 15 minutes beforehand.
The result means Newcastle go back to the top of the Championship and one point ahead of Brighton, who beat Burton earlier in the day. For Wolves, they remain in 18th and six points off the relegation zone.
The game began with Newcastle having their best chance of the first half through Jack Colback. Matt Ritchie slotted the 27-year-old through but the angle to take the shot on was narrowed down well by Ikeme, who got in the way of the attempt.
Mitrovic received a yellow card in the 15th minute for persistent fouling and could have been sent off after colliding with Ikeme as the Serbia international appeared to stamp on the goalkeeper's heel. Referee Craig Pawson did not issue a second yellow card though.
With Wolves having far more of the ball, Paul Lambert's men created two good opportunities to score in the first half. First Nouha Dicko couldn't convert his half-volleyed effort which went just wide.
Then shortly afterwards, defender Richard Stearman met a Helder Costa free-kick but was stretching too much and stabbed the ball over the bar.
It would be Mitrovic who would give Newcastle a first-half lead though. On the stroke of half-time, a free-kick into the box was met by Mohamed Diame, who powerfully struck the ball towards goal.
The deflected shot was deftly back-heeled by Newcastle defender Jamaal Lascelles into the path of the Serbia international and he slotted the ball into the net.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Benitez decided to substitute his goalscorer Mitrovic for Christian Atsu to avoid him risking getting a second yellow card.
Despite Wolves dominating possession in the second half, the hosts had only one shot on target, a powerful strike from Costa easily caught by Darlow.
Wolves' closest chance to scoring the second half was through Dave Edwards in the 49th minute, who headed the ball just wide of the near post after meeting a curling cross from Costa.
The second half was scrappy with Lascelles putting in a man-of-the-match performance for the visitors at centre-back. He won all five of his aerial duals and made eight clearances.
There were late appeals for a Wolves penalty for a possible handball by Lascelles when Dicko backed into the 23-year-old, but Pawson did not award one.
Unfortunately for Wolves, they were unable to fashion out any clear-cut chances and the game ended with Newcastle securing a vital win.
Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez
"We are working very hard as a team that for me is the key.
"The players help each other. They stick together when we have to defend and after we try to play counter-attack when the other team is pushing and going forward. It was fine and hopefully we can continue like this until the end of the season."
Wolves manager Paul Lambert
"I thought there was only one team pushing for the goal. I just saw all the stats and we were the dominant team. Whether the goal should have stood I'm not so sure.
"There was a good case for a red card [for Mitrovic] there as well so I think that there's big moments in the game when we didn't get the break or the decisions but I can't fault for the lads for the way we are playing.
"We are playing really well at the minute. We should have worked the goalkeeper more than we did, with the amount of the ball, we were dominating the game so I think there was only one team in it."