Wolves manager Julen Lopetegui has insisted he didn’t take Ruben Neves off against Newcastle United because he was worried about him picking up a yellow card.
The 26-year-old was one of five players to be substituted during the 2-1 defeat at St. James’ Park.
Wolves lost the game 2-1 thanks to a late goal from Miguel Almiron.
Wolves had got back to 1-1 after Hwang Hee-chan came off the bench to equalise. The South Korea made an instant impact following his return to the side from injury.
Alexander Isak had given Newcastle the lead in the first-half.
Prior to that goal though, Newcastle got away with one when Nick Pope fouled Raul Jimenez in the penalty.
Somehow, VAR did not overturn Andy Madley’s on-field decision.
Pope should have also seen a red card.
It could have been an entirely different game, and there is a feeling of frustration for Wolves fans who are fed up of being stung by bad decisions this season.
In the second-half, Lopetegui made a number of changes to try and tip the balance in his side’s favour.
One player that came off was Neves.
Most people assumed that was because Neves is currently one booking away from a two-game ban.
But Lopetegui insisted that actually played no part in his decision. He said (Express & Star): “No, I don’t think about this, we wanted to do different things in the match. This is all.”
Julen Lopetegui clearly believes in his squad, as he explains Ruben Neves decision
It is interesting to hear Lopetegui speak about his decision to hook Neves against Newcastle.
Most people just assumed it was because the manager was trying to protect his captain from that 10th booking.
But to be fair, Lopetegui did also speak about Neves ahead of the game. He never seemed worried about Neves getting booked against Newcastle and missing the games with Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.
It’s clear that he believes in the quality of his squad, and not even Neves is above being taken off in pursuit of finding solutions.