Wolves earned a victory at Molineux against Crystal Palace 2-0 after two stunning first-half goals.
The first was a clinical volley into the bottom right corner from the debutant Rayan Ait-Nouri to make it 1-0 in the 18th minute. Less than 10 minutes later, Podence slotted home a beautiful cross from Neto after a nice move from the front three.
Wolves move up to third with the rest of the league still to play this weekend.
Nuno made one change to the side that drew 1-1 to Newcastle last week, giving the French 19-year-old Ait-Nouri his debut in gold and black. The boy sure did impress. He spent 90 minutes frustrating Palace’s right side and got on the scoresheet to become Wolves youngest ever Premier League goalscorer. It came off a poor clearance of a floated cross that fell to the feet of the wing-back just inside the box. He used textbook technique, hit the ball low and hard to the far post, beating the outstretched arms of Guaita.
Wolves had plenty of other chances in the first half including a huge missed opportunity from a corner. Nuno, who called out for higher production from set-pieces during the week, could only watch on as a really poor header from an unmarked Willy Boly glanced wide.
The home side kept pushing forward though, continually winning the ball in key positions off the back of an influential performance from the midfield. Neves and Dendoncker are no doubt the best pairing in the middle of the park. The passing ability of Neves combined with the work rate of Dendoncker was key. The switch of play from Neves to the wingbacks and wingers resulted in multiple chances in the first half but it was the ball-winning ability of the Belgian that led to the second goal.
Dendoncker won the ball off a Palace throw and fed Jimenez to start a trademark Wolves counter attack. Raul broke upfield and found Neto down the right wing who whipped in a curling cross that was cushioned into the back of the net by the right foot of Podence. It was the first goal of the season for Podence who gave the Palace back line nothing but trouble all game.
Things got a little chippy in the second half with Palace trying to scrap their way back in the game. It was Zaha and Ait-Nouri who got into it after a poor tackle and a rub on the head from Zaha on the Frenchman. The kid did not take it lightly and got right in the face of Zaha and received another touch to the head from the Ivory Coast international. On another day, Zaha might not have been allowed to finish the full 90. That toughness is something that Wolves fans would love to see from Ait-Nouri, who is still just a teenager trying to prove himself in the Premier League.
Nuno’s side was able to see out the three points in the end. Wolves delivered a defensive second half performance and even went to 5-3-2, a shape we have not seen too often this year. Crystal Palace were reduced to 10 men in the 86th minute after a dangerous challenge from Milivojevic on Moutinho went to a VAR review and was determined to be a red card.
15’- Batshuayi disallowed goal
Patricio is beaten by a first time shot from Michy Batshuayi but the 27-year-old attacker was caught offside, keeping the game at 0-0
18’- Rayan Ait-Nouri debut goal
A Podence cross is cleared but only as far as Ait-Nouri, who kept his head over the ball and smashed a bouncing shot into the net. 1-0.
25’- Dendoncke smashes the bar
A wonderful half volley from 25 yards beat everyone but the woodwork. It was all Wolves at this point.
27’- Podence makes it 2-0
A stunning counterattack was finished by the inside of the right boot of Daniel Podence, giving Wolves a deserving 2-0 first half lead.
38’- Palace pen overturned by VAR
A frustrated Willy Boly was relieved to see a soft pen overturned after Patrick Van Aanholt was caught offside on the pass leading up to the foul.
55’- Penalty scare
Wilfried goes down in the box after a collision with Ait-Nouri. Ref says there is nothing in it but after looking at the replays, the defender got the man and no ball. VAR says no pen as well. For me, it was shocking that no pen was called.
86’- Milivojevic red card
Moutinho was extremely lucky to come away injury-free after a very poor challenge from the Palace midfielder. It took a VAR for the card to come out but in the end the correct decision was made.
Man of the Match- Daniel Podence
This could be given to a number of players, and Podence was no exception. The Portuguese winger started on the left but covered the other two attacking spots on the field several times throughout the match. He troubled Guaita throughout the match and showed great poise with his finish on the goal. He has continued to improve on his crossing ability throughout the season. His performance should be the catalyst for more goals in the coming weeks.
Where Wolves need improvement
There is not much to call out in terms of improvement without being picky, but good sides need to be picky. While Wolves did not allow many threats inside their own box, when Palace did get inside the penalty area, Wolves did not look as confident defending their goal. Although Wolves were the better side for most of the game, things could have been much different if VAR was not on their side for the two possible penalty incidents. With a tough road test against Leicester City approaching, I would not be surprised to see Saiss involved to sure up the defence. We may see him LWB for Ait-Nouri, but after his performance today, I would like to see Saiss brought in for Kilman to provide more experience and cover for the young wingback. I also expect to see Traore in the starting 11 next week with Nuno going for a more counterattack style against Vardy and high-flying Leicester.