English Premier League

Wolves 1 – 1 Newcastle United

Allan Saint-Maximin volleyed in a brilliant 90th-minute equaliser as Newcastle extended their unbeaten start to four matches and kept winless Wolves in the bottom three.

Wolves thought they were going to claim their first win of the season thanks to skipper Ruben Neves’ excellent first-half strike.

But Saint-Maximin had other ideas.

When Hwang Hee-chan sent his mistimed clearance into the air, the Frenchman waited on the edge of the area before delivering the sweetest finish that gave Wolves keeper Jose Sa no chance.

In a pulsating finish, the visitors twice came close to snatching victory. First Saint-Maximin brought a fine save from Sa with a powerful shot, then substitute Elliot Anderson hit the bar with a far post header after Raul Jimenez had flicked a cross into the youngster’s path.

The result was a massive blow for Wolves, who thought they had made it 2-0 nine minutes from time, only for Jimenez’s close-range finish to be ruled out after a VAR intervention for a foul in the build-up.

This was not a point won by Newcastle in the same thrilling manner as last week against Manchester City. But it said so much about the character Eddie Howe has instilled in his squad.

Even without new signing Alexander Isak, whose work permit is still to be processed, plus Callum Wilson and Bruno Guimaraes – both influential figures in last week’s six-goal thriller against the league champions – Newcastle still found a way to get something out of a game they struggled to influence for the first hour.

Joe Willock was too slow to close down Neves for the Wolves opener and the visitors were passive in midfield.

Yet they never let their heads drop and didn’t allow themselves to be overwhelmed in the way Newcastle teams of the past might have been.

And, in Saint-Maximin, they have a player capable of moments of genius.

Wolves boss Bruno Lage will lament Hwang’s poor clearance, but the home defence had thrown their bodies in front of some many half-chances, there seemed little likelihood of the Korean being punished when the ball fell to the French forward.

Sa barely moved before the ball whistled past him into the corner – Saint-Maximin’s first goal of the season being well worth the wait.

The result means Newcastle are unbeaten in their first four games for the first time since 2012.

This was another example of Wolves failing to make the most of their overall performance.

At least today they managed to score, after a wait of 302 minutes since their only other league goal of the season, by Daniel Podence on an opening day at Leeds.

And they were led superbly by Neves.

The Portugal midfielder was the automatic choice to replace Conor Coady as captain given he skippered Porto in the Champions League when he was just 18 and is one of the few remaining members of Nuno Espirito Santo’s Championship-winning squad.

Neves is not as vocal as Coady – hardly anyone is in fairness – but still has a massive influence on the squad.

The 60-yard cross-field pass from inside his own half that allowed Goncalo Guedes the chance to create a decent early opportunity for the lively Pedro Neto was sensational, given it was delivered as Neves was moving pretty quickly himself.

And if Newcastle weren’t ready for Neves’ 38th-minute goal, they should have been.

Exactly half of Neves’ 16 Premier League goals have come from outside the penalty area, including four of his last five.

The sight of him scrapping for possession inside the Newcastle half, when the game remained in the balance, epitomised the midfielder’s industrious approach.

Sadly for him, and his team, Saint-Maximin’s brilliance ensured it did not bring the victory that, for so long, looked likely.

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