Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 Newcastle United 1: Mitrovic fires club back to the top

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic

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Aleksandar Mitrovic fired Newcastle United back to the top of the Championship tonight.

The striker's first-half goal saw Rafa Benitez's side beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 at Molineux.

Aleksandar Mitrovic

Aleksandar Mitrovic

And the result moved Newcastle a point clear of Brighton and Hove Albion, who beat Burton Albion 4-1 this afternoon to briefly lead the division.

READ MORE: Christian Atsu reveals how he almost ‘gave up’ on English – before Newcastle came to the rescue

Mitrovic's strike, his sixth of the season, came at the end of an incident-packed first half at Molineux, where Newcastle were backed by 4,200 fans.

United manager Benitez had preferred Mitrovic up front to Daryl Murphy, who came off the bench late in the game.

Benitez also left Isaac Hayden out of his starting XI because of an ongoing ankle problem and recalled Jack Colback, who had recovered from illness.

Jonjo Shelvey's every touch was booed by home fans.

Shelvey had served a five-game ban after being found to have used racially-aggravated language towards Wolves player Romain Saiss in September.

Colback forced an early save from Carl Ikeme, but chances were few and far between for United in a half punctuated by incidents involving Mitrovic, who was booked for a 14th-minute challenge on Richard Stearman.

Stearman should have put Wolves ahead as the half-hour mark approached, but he shot over after a free-kick was flicked on to him.

Mitrovic was fortunate to stay on the field after catching Ikeme with a high challenge. There was an exchange between the benches as Mitrovic and Ikeme were treated.

Newcastle's breakthrough came a minute before the break after Shelvey delivered a free-kick into the box. Mohamed Diame had a shot blocked, and the ball ran to Mitrovic, who poked it home.

Benitez, aware Mitrovic was a late foul away from a dismissal, replaced him with Christian Atsu for the second half.

Wolves never really looked like equalising until a rally late in the half, but United survived four minutes of injury time to claim three more important points.

Newcastle are back in action on Tuesday night when they take on seventh-placed Norwich City at Carrow Road.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS: Ikeme; Doherty, Stearman, Batth, Coady; Price (Evans, 46), Edwards, Weimann (Marshall, 64), Enobakhare (Bodvarsson, 61), Costa; Dicko. Subs not used: Burgoyne, Saville, Hause, Ronan.

NEWCASTLE UNITED: Darlow; Yedlin, Lascelles, Clark, Dummett; Shelvey, Colback; Ritchie (Murphy, 82), Diame (Perez, 88), Gouffran; Mitrovic (Atsu, 46). Subs not used: Elliot; Hanley, Gamez, Hayden.

Goal: Mitrovic 44

Bookings: Mitrovic 14, Doherty 64, Ritchie 67, Colback 87, Perez 89

Referee: Craig Pawson (South Yorkshire)

Attendance: 24,876