Rafa Benitez rages at red card decision against Wolves, but the real anger should be directed upwards at Newcastle United
The ball was up in the air. Everything was. It was the fourth minute of five added on to a match already eventful in terms of goals, chances and refereeing decisions. Martin Dubravka, the Newcastle United goalkeeper, had just parried Diogo Jota’s shot.
For 37 minutes Newcastle had played with ten men following DeAndre Yedlin’s dismissal and had managed through both judgement and some luck to repel the waves of Wolves attacks. Now, though, the ball was in the air and Wolves’ Matt Doherty was following in. The Irishman only had to nod the ball in from four yards and Wolves would have three points and their second win in five days. Doherty made no mistake.
As Newcastle as a club, a set of players and staff folded into themselves, Wolves’ bench burst onto the pitch in celebration. It was, as it always is on Tyneside, a contrast in black and white.
Wolverhampton’s jubilation equalled Newcastle’s dejection. And when, soon after, the whistle blew, Rafa Benitez raged.
Read more: DeAndre Yedlin red card: Why the Newcastle defender was dismissed by Mike Dean
The Newcastle manager had been incensed by referee Mike Dean at the time Yedlin was shown a straight red card for dragging down Jota. Benitez’s temper had not calmed by a review of the footage and he was in the press conference room calling for VAR.
“I saw the replay and we need VAR, right now,” Benitez said.
He was not even referring to the red card incident at that particular moment, rather a later collision between Ayoze Perez and Willy Boly, when the Wolves’ defender’s elbow smacked into Perez’s face. Neither Perez nor Benitez used the word “deliberate” but both inferred it.
“The guy elbowed me really hard straight in my nose,” Perez said with some disbelief that it had not only gone unpunished but his bloody nose had been explained away by Dean. “The ref said it was the ball that hit me, not the elbow.”
Yedlin red card decision
Benitez had already addressed the decision to dismiss Yedlin.
“When you have a player in the corner of the box, with the ball two or three metres away, he was pulling DeAndre and DeAndre was pulling him, and [Jamaal] Lascelles was close enough,” Benitez said, struggling to overcome his annoyance.
“I cannot believe that every time he would put the ball in top corner and it’s a clear chance to score, I cannot believe that.
“It’s very difficult to explain to our fans, when the team is fighting for survival.”
The Wolves manager, Nuno Espirito Santo, agreed with Benitez and Perez that Boly’s stray elbow was “clear”. He did not think it was intentional, however.
But Nuno disagreed with the Newcastle interpretation of the red card. He did not think Lascelles would have made it across to block Jota.
The sprightly way Jota was playing, it is easy to conceive of him getting a shot on target. Having scored his first Premier League goal on Wednesday against Chelsea, he gave Wolves the lead here on 17 minutes with a sharp piece of control from Helder Costa’s diagonal 17th minute cross.
Jota brought the ball down with his chest then sent a volley that cannoned off Dubravka’s stomach and into the net.
A defeat at ‘home'
It was already an end-to-end sort of affair and within ten minutes Newcastle had equalised. Salomon Rondon, the centre forward on loan from West Brom, may well have been motivated by the sight of Wolves’ old gold. Rondon smacked the crossbar with a free-kick and when the ball was cleared he collected it and sent it back in. Perez met it with a Sheareresque flick of the head. The ball looped over Rui Patricio and in.
It was fairly even – until Yedlin was rushed in possession by Jota and saw red. That led to Wolves dominating, and there was another pleasing cameo from Morgan Gibbs-White.
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Dubravka stood firm until so close to the very end, and the defeat means Newcastle have lost seven at home. Benitez was too angry to discuss that record, but it will return as an issue.
Those Newcastle fans who had postponed their planned boycott will point out that as long as Mike Ashley and his company’s logo remain, this is not a home.
When the noise of this day fades, Newcastle United need to make it one again.
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