Miles Starforth’s match analysis: Newcastle United 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 0

Daryl Murphy
Daryl Murphy

Newcastle United just don’t do routine cup wins.

The club’s recent history tells you that.

But this was as routine as you can get.

No fuss, no nonsense. And importantly, no extra-time.

Even Wolverhampton Wanderers manager Walter Zenga admitted his team had lost the game long before the half-time break.

And a remarkable crowd of 34,735 was at St James’s Park to see Rafa Benitez’s side win 2-0 to reach the fourth round of the EFL Cup.

Yoan Gouffran

Yoan Gouffran

Just three days earlier, Wolves had won by the same scoreline in the Championship.

The United team, and the performance, was unrecognisable from the weekend.

In previous seasons, multiple changes for the competition have angered fans given their keenness for a long-overdue run in the League Cup.

United have only made it past the fourth round of the competition once in the last decade.

There were few complaints when Benitez handed in a teamsheet with eight changes.

But there were few complaints when Benitez handed in a teamsheet with eight changes.

Only Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame survived from the weekend’s 2-0 Championship defeat to Zenga’s side, when Benitez felt “bad decisions” cost his team.

After all, the club’s over-riding priority is promotion to the Premier League and the EFL Cup, as it’s now known, could prove an unwanted distraction in an already-congested Championship fixture list.

In came Daryl Murphy and Achraf Lazaar for their debuts, while DeAndre Yedlin made his full bow.

Shelvey was handed the captain’s armband with club skipper Jamaal Lascelles among the substitutes.

The only surprise was the inclusion of Ritchie given his importance to the club’s league campaign.

Ritchie had run himself into the ground in the league game against Wolves three days earlier before being taken off before he was sent off on the advice of referee Tim Robinson, who went on to dismiss Vurnon Anita.

Suspended Anita, having served the first game of his three-match ban, will miss the Aston Villa and Norwich City league fixtures.

Benitez’s side had the better start. Diame, poor in the league game, looked much sharper behind Murphy, though goalkeeper Andy Lonergan was untroubled.

But Grant Hanley did well at the other end of the pitch to block a shot from Paul Gladon in the 15th minute, and Karl Darlow, starting between the post for only the second time this season, stopped a shot from Jed Wallace.

Wallace had glided through United’s defence, and he got his shot away before a stumbling Hanley could challenge him.

Newcastle were under pressure as the half reached the midway point.

Then Ritchie showed exactly why Benitez had named him in his team.

The winger exchanged passed with Jack Colback on the right before beating Lonergan with a low shot into the far corner of the net to give United a 29th-minute lead.

Two minutes later, the ball was in the net again. Ritchie broke down the same flank and crossed for Gouffran, who volleyed the ball past Lonergan.

There was no stopping it, just as there had been no stopping his volley against Derby County 10 days earlier.

Benitez sent out an unchanged side for the second half, and Diame hit the crossbar with a delicate shot. Gouffran put a follow-up effort over the bar.

Jack Colback put another chance wide as the hour-mark approached.

United were in complete control, and Diame continued to probe and prod in the final third of the pitch.

Benitez resisted the urge to change his team as they moved the ball around the pitch to the frustration of Zenga. Finally, he made a change in the 72nd minute, replacing Diame with Ayoze Perez.

Christian Atsu quickly followed Perez on to the pitch.

Gouffran, the man he replaced, was warmly applauded as he left the field.

Just a few months ago, feelings on Tyneside towards Gouffran were much cooler.

But as a long winter draws ever nearer, the 30-year-old is proving indispensable for Benitez, whose side takes on Aston Villa at Villa Park in the Championship on Saturday.

Zenga bemoaned the “gifts” his team presented to Newcastle in his post-match Press conference.

But Gouffran, this season, is becoming the gift that keeps on giving.

United have won every game he has featured in this season.