Molineux rocks again as Hwang Hee-chan double ends dismal home run against sorry Newcastle

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Hwang Hee-chan - Molineux rocks again as Hwang Hee-chan double ends dismal home run against sorry Newcastle - GETTY IMAGES
Hwang Hee-chan - Molineux rocks again as Hwang Hee-chan double ends dismal home run against sorry Newcastle - GETTY IMAGES

The Bruno Lage era is up and running, and Molineux is rocking once more. It was Hwang Hee-chan who shone electric bright amongst gloomy skies, the South Korean’s smart double securing back-to-back victories for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Goalless and pointless at home in three? Few better sides to face than Steve Bruce’s Newcastle United. Jeff Hendrick’s leveller gave their travelling contingent hope of a first victory of the season: as is so often the case, it proved false. “We controlled all the game,” said Lage. “Since the first minute to have the feeling that you’re going to win the game, from the way you’re playing, the way you’re training all week, with that support from our fans, it was a good feeling.”

Hwang has been a live-wire since arriving on a season-long loan from RB Leipzig. He was allowed to leave following a difficult Bundesliga campaign. Before that, the forward had enjoyed a well-decorated stint with sister side Red Bull Salzburg, and contracting Covid hardly helped his German adventure. Early signs are that Wolves have found a gem; the option-to-buy may be exercised sooner rather than later. Lage, though, is not one to get carried away: “We have four wingers with different profiles. Every game we can find a strategy and today we took the best decision,” he said.

Perhaps as heartening was the South Korean’s link-up play with Raul Jimenez. The Mexican, who alone braved a T-shirt amidst the torrential warm-up rain, dropped deep throughout, held the ball up well and twice teed up Hwang. The favour was almost returned late on after yet another surge down the flank, Jimenez inches from connecting.

At any other club, Bruce’s tenancy – now 96 games old – would be expiring. But this is Mike Ashley’s built-on-a-sixpence football business. With Callum Wilson absent, much, if not all, of the attacking burden falls on Allan Saint-Maximin’s trickery. He carries it well, but it is a near-impossible task.

Had Jose Sa not thwarted Saint-Maximin from point-blank range early in the second half, the outcome could have been different: “We’ve got to take that chance,” a despondent Bruce said. “I didn’t think we deserved to get beat again, but unfortunately I’ve said that too many times this season. Another one has crept away from us.”

With conditions tricky, at times the match struggled for momentum. When steam was built up, niggly fouls and minor injuries stymied it.

The game’s first sight of goal led to the opener. Jimenez shrugged off Sean Longstaff’s attention and threaded in Hwang, who slotted past Karl Darlow from an acute angle.

Thereafter, Wolves slowly took control, although Newcastle’s response was to revert to a back three and that squeezed some of the space around the box. Home fans could have enjoyed a much more comfortable afternoon had Francisco Trincao doubled Wolves’ advantage shortly before the break. Ciaran Clark was dispossessed, Ruben Neves swept the ball forward and Hwang raced away. His cross found fellow loanee Trincao who smashed a vicious 12-yard effort off the underside of the bar.

Seventy-three seconds later, Newcastle controversially – in the eyes of those in gold – restored parity. Saint-Maximin twisted and turned before finding Joelinton. Sa rushed out bravely and won the ball, but stayed down holding his shoulder. The hosts failed to clear and Hendrick, who had only just replaced the injured Joe Willock, finished smartly from the edge of the box with Sa scrambling to regain his ground. The usually ultra-composed Lage saw yellow for his protestations.

Given that the last five top-tier meetings between these sides have ended one each, the smart money was on no further goals. But that extraordinary run was broken when Hwang again beat Darlow on the hour. Newcastle have now won just twice in 17 winlessess Premier League games. Quite where that elusive first victory is coming is anybody’s guess.

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