Wolves bounced back from a poor showing in the FA Cup to win against Southampton in the league on Sunday afternoon. After a poor first half which saw Wolves fall behind through a superb volley from Danny Ings, Nuno’s side took control Ruben Neves converted from the spot before a moment of brilliance from Pedro Neto saw Wolves take the lead as they saw through a vital victory on the road.
Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Bertrand, Ward-Prowse, Romeu, Armstrong, Minamino, Ings, Redmond (Subs: Djenepo, Admas, Salisu)
Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio, Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss, Semedo, Moutinho, Neves, Jonny, Traore, Jose, Neto (Subs Used: Marcal, Silva, Kilman)
After a controversial team selection for the FA Cup tie against Southampton on Thursday evening, Nuno reverted to a more familiar eleven for the league game against the same opponents. Adama Traore, Pedro Neto and Willian Jose were all re-instated into attack, while Max Kilman dropped to the bench for captain Conor Coady to return to the starting line-up. Elsewhere, Nelson Semedo replaced Ki-Jana Hoever. Southampton made just two changes following their win at Molineux on Thursday evening as they like Wolves, continue to combat a depleting injury crisis. Southampton dominated the first half creating early chances for January signing Minamino and Nathan Redmond, both were well saved by Rui Patricio. Wolves failed to take note of the early warning signs and fell behind as Danny Ings volleyed home superbly to make it two goals in two games against Nuno’s men. Despite the quality of the strike, Wolves will be disappointed with their defensive efforts which allowed the cross to come into the area. Wolves failed to have a shot on target in the first half.
Nuno made a crucial tactical change at the break involving the Wolves front three. Pedro Neto and Adama Traore swapped flanks to play on opposite sides, ultimately making the attacking triplet narrower and therefore playing closer together. The results were almost immediate as Wolves maintained possession higher up the pitch early in the second half, and soon had a route back into the game after Ryan Bertrand’s handball. Following Neves’ spot kick, Wolves’ confidence clearly increased and Neto’s stunning individual strike gave the away side the lead mid-way through the second half after creating numerous promising openings beforehand. It was certainly no coincidence that Neto scored this goal coming inside from the right-hand side following the tactical change at half time. The influence of Adama Traore was important too, skipping past defenders with ease as he came inside with the ball to create space for others, rather than his predictable run down the right flank to the by-line. Traore had numerous opportunities to play both Neto and Jose through during the second half to kill the game but the final ball wasn’t on point. Despite this, Wolves restricted Southampton to long range attempts in the closing stages and eased to three points, a stark contrast to the disaster of a first half.
A disastrous goal to concede from a Wolves point of view as Stuart Armstrong skips past Nelson Semedo and Adama Traore with ease before getting the better of Leander Dendoncker. His cross found the unmarked Danny Ings who fired a superb finish beyond Rui Patricio to give the Saints a half time lead.
Penalty Incident/Neves Goal
Wolves started the second half with far greater intensity and won a penalty curtesy of a Ryan Bertrand’s handball from a Nelson Semedo cross. Bertrand was deemed to be making his body bigger by extending his arm meaning the VAR did not get involved in the decision. Neves dispatched the spot kick sending McCarthy the wrong way to level the scores early in the second half.
A superb goal from a very special player as Wolves worked the ball well down the right-hand side. Neto found himself at the by-line before getting the better of Vestergaard. Neto still had a lot to do at a tight angle but he unleashed an excellent strike beyond McCarthy into the far corner to give wolves the lead.
Man of the Match – Pedro Neto
It was yet another man of the match display from Wolves’ start man this season as he turned the game on its head on the south coast. Even during the first half, Neto was Wolves’ shining light, providing energy and intensity in the final third. Fortunately, in the second half Neto’s skill came to fruition proving a moment of magic for the goal which ultimately brought three points for Wolves. Even after Wolves took the lead, Neto was crucial in ensuring Wolves relieved any pressure on the back line and kept the ball in the opposition’s half. Neto did create two half chances in the closing stages but neither ended in a third goal for Wolves.
Things to Improve
Wolves were excellent in the second half and believe it or not it was an enjoyable watch at times. But where was the high intensity press and ability to move the ball forwards quickly in the first half and on Thursday night? It seemed that Wolves had turned a corner and started to build momentum with impressive results against Chelsea, Arsenal and Leicester, but a bitterly disappointing defeat to the Saints on Thursday, followed by a less than convincing first half in the league meant Wolves fans were scratching their heads for an explanation of such indifferences in performance. Play as they did in the second half and there is every chance Wolves will end the season on a positive note, pushing towards the top half of the table. Play as they did in the first half and the bitter disappointment from large sections of the fan base will remain. Wolves must find greater consistency that they have been renowned for in recent seasons to ‘save’ what has been a disappointing campaign.
A game of two halves if ever there was one, but most importantly Wolves came out on top to take all three points on the south coast. There are various areas in which Wolves must improve going forwards after an extremely frustrating first half performance, but a superb comeback means Wolves are just two points from the top half of the table and are well clear of the relegation zone just past the halfway point in the season.