After an incredibly frustrating week for Wolves, Nuno’s men bounced back with an emphatic win over Everton at Molineux on Sunday lunchtime to ensure Europa League qualification remains in their hands going into the final three games of the season. A penalty from Raul Jimenez just before the half time whistle got the ball rolling before Leander Dendoncker and substitute Diogo Jota rounded off a resounding win.
Wolves 3-0 Everton Reaction
Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Jonny, Neto, Jimenez, Podence (Subs Used: Jota, Traore, Moutinho)
Everton (3-5-2): Pickford, Keane, Mina, Digne, Walcott, Davies, Sigurdsson, Gordon, Baines, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin (Subs Used: Coleman, Branthwaite, Iwobi, Bernard, Kean)
Having faced criticism for the lack of ideas and creativity going forward in the 1-0 defeat to Sheffield United on Wednesday evening, Nuno made three changes to the starting eleven which saw the highly anticipated full league debut of January signing Daniel Podence. He was joined by fellow winger Pedro Neto having recovered from a knock received from a kick towards the end of the defeat at home to Arsenal, and midfielder Leander Dendoncker as Wolves stuck with the 3-4-3 formation. It appeared that Carlo Ancelotti had anticipated Wolves to revert to the 3-5-2 formation, as he set his Everton side up to match Wolves and aim to win the midfield battle.
Unlike recent performances, Wolves showed their attacking intent from the off with both Daniel Podence and Pedro Neto looking lively. Despite these highly welcome changes to the starting eleven, combined with the improved first half performance, it appeared Wolves were heading for their sixth consecutive goalless first half as Raul Jimenez’s impressive acrobatic effort was well saved by Jordan Pickford. However, just before the half time whistle, some impressive trickery from Daniel Podence won a penalty which Raul Jimenez dually dispatched. It was clear throughout the first half that both Podence and Neto added a completely different dynamic to the Wolves attack, with the Everton backline unsure how best to deal with their pace and trickery. This is an extremely positive sign for Nuno as surely now believes he has that strength in depth in the attacking areas to make the changes in games that are not quite going Wolves’ way.
Another aspect in which Wolves have been criticised in recent games is their lack of threat from attacking set pieces, but this was yet another improvement as almost immediately after the re-start, Pedro Neto’s dangerous in-swinging free kick was met by Leander Dendoncker who put Wolves firmly in control. It was the worst possible start to the second half for Everton, as Jarrad Branthwaite gave away the free kick and also lost Leander Dendoncker at the free kick having only just entered the field as a half time substitute. Despite the Everton changes which allowed them to gain more of a foothold in the game and increase possession, Wolves Neves looked like losing this one, as Ruben Neves won the ball back superbly and played a sublime ball forward to Diogo Jota. Jota showed that killer instinct which had been absent in recent games and dispatched his chance at Pickford’s near post to ensure of the three points for Wolves.
In truth, the score line could most certainly have been more, with Jota once again breaking free after good work from Ruben Neves, only for Jota to lose control of the ball when one on one with the goalkeeper as Pickford managed to smother. Jota was once again in on the action as he made progress forward towards the Everton goal and spotted the run of fellow substitute Adama Traore who, when the ball was squared, smashed it against the crossbar and into the empty Southbank. It was a much-improved display from the home side, with the jaded Moutinho and Jota in clear need of a rest from the start while Podence and Neto took their chance to the full extent. Nuno now faces a selection headache ahead of the trip to Burnley on Wednesday evening, but this will be a much more welcome choice than the ones he has had to make in recent games.
Wolves 3-0 Everton Key Moments
Podence Penalty incident/Jimenez Goal
After a stunning piece of work from Daniel Podence to beat two Everton defenders he was finally brought down by Digne right on the edge of the penalty area. Having reviewed the replay, there is a clear kick from the Everton defender meaning referee Anthony Taylor got the decision correct. Raul Jimenez dispatched the spot kick with ease as Wolves fans have come to expect, with his usual tactic of watching the goalkeeper’s every move prior to striking the ball. It was Wolves’ first goal in the first half for 5 league games, and a vital one on the way to three points on Molineux.
It was an induction to forget for Everton half time substitute Branthwaite who, having given away a free kick out wide could not keep hold of Leander Dendoncker as Pedro Neto swung in an excellent free kick for the Belgium international to head home. His glancing header was too much for Pickford who was picking the ball out of the net right at the start of the second half knowing the toffees had a mountain to climb.
What a moment for Diogo Jota who rounded off Wolves’ resounding victory with an emphatic finish beating Jordan Pickford at his near post. However, all credit here goes to Ruben Neves who, having been one of very few players to maintain his high standards in recent games, won the ball back just outside of Wolves’ penalty area and brought it forward only to play a sublime ball forward onto the chest of Diogo Jota. Jota still had a lot to do with his excellent chest control allowing him a clear path to goal. An excellent finish and a goal that will give him the confidence he needs heading into the final three games.
Wolves 3-0 Everton Man of the Match
It had been a long time coming but Daniel Podence finally got his first league start for Wolves after two team performances completely devoid of attacking intent and creativity against Arsenal and Sheffield United. Podence clearly felt he had something to prove, and looked threatening from the off, initially starting down the left-hand side for Wolves attack where he managed to force a smart save from Pickford at his near post. Shortly after he and Pedro Neto switched flanks and Podence once again showed his intelligence and trickery to work his way into the penalty area and draw the foul from Digne to win the penalty which ultimately set Wolves on course for the win. Podence was lively throughout the first half, proving to be Wolves’ main attacking outlet and route to goal, a theme which continued into the second half where he almost got his first Wolves goal as his shot from an angle was spilt by Pickford, just before he was substituted in the 70th minute. Having been called for throughout the past week for a start by many Wolves fans, the young Portuguese winger did not disappoint and has more than staked his claim for a starting place at Turf Moor on Wednesday.
After the bitter disappointment of defeats to both Arsenal and Sheffield United in the past week, Wolves needed to bounce back and bounce back they did. Nuno came under much criticism for the performance and lack of new ideas at Bramall Lane on Wednesday but deserves credit for being bold and making the attacking changes he did which ultimately brought about three points. There is still a tense battle in these final games in the race for European qualification, but the Europa League remains firmly in Wolves hands, play like that, and there will be plenty more European nights and Molineux to come.
You can listen to the lads discuss the game in this week’s Talking Wolves podcast, too.
Ciaran Barker is part of the Talking Wolves editorial team – you can follow him on Twitter here.