|So, an international break and 8 of 10 week 9 fixtures played, and Saints are still 5th. Substantial wins tonight for Wolves and Palace could see us drop to 8th but, Hey, win lifts us above Chelsea and Leicester to 3rd, a point off Spurs and Liverpool at the top. Heady days indeed!
Wolves are a decent outfit. They may possibly be glad they just missed out on Europe this season as coping with the Europa League as well as Covid in your second season back in the Prem was a huge ask. Back to back 7th places are a credit to the club who, on their good days, are a joy to watch. They do lack consistency though and rogue lousy performances have prevented them from getting closer to the CL positions.
The strong Portuguese contingent has worked well for Wolves who have that 3-4-3 thing working as well as any side I’ve seen. Their new left-sided player Ait-Nouri may be missing but Dendoncker is back and Coady could play despite having been in Covid isolation last week.
Saints only missing first teamer should be Ings with Bertie and JWP recovering from their ills during the break. I’d prefer Redmond on the left, but I bow to the mighty Ralph should he have other ideas. Today’s ref is Andre Marriner – again? He seems to do most of our games. COYR!
Theo Walcott scored his first goal for Saints in 15 years!
IBO Reporter : Spot51
|Floodlights on a November night in the West Midlands – the stuff dreams are made of! Burnley beat Palace in the earlier game, so they won’t be catching us tonight.
Ait-Nouri and Dendoncker both returned, and the team sheet suggested the midfielder would drop into the back three. Both Coady and Saiss, who might have played there, were both isolating. Traore was starting his 100th Wolves appearance. Saints were as expected with Bertie in for Jack the only change from the table-topping side of the weekend before last. Vestergaard was making his 50th appearance for Saints. Redmond not available apparently.
In the studio, Eddie Howe joined Carra and the gantry pundit alongside Rob Hawthorn was Alan Smith - again? He seems to do most of our games. The form table shows us level (on 18 points) at the top with Spurs. Who’d have thought that when they tonked us at SMS?
Saints, in the white kit, kicked off and it soon became clear that the absence of available central defenders had persuaded Nuno to go 4-3-3. Dendoncker was in midfield and Wolves’ erstwhile wingbacks were deployed at fullback.
The first action saw Bertie fire in a cross which eluded Adams but hit a defender giving us a corner. Theo took it and the ball found its way back to Bertie. His back post cross gained us a second corner which was cleared.
On 5m Bednarek stumbled allowing Podence through but the forward was upended by Romeu. Marriner must’ve given him a free hit tonight as no card appeared. Moutinho’s shot hit the wall but McCarthy was immediately called into action. Semedo’s drive was blocked by the keeper who then needed to turn Dendoncker’s follow up shot over the bar. The keeper was glad to grab the ball with both gloves when the corner came in.
Wolves then enjoyed a spell of possession but, when Saints broke, a neat backheel by Adams was well blocked by Kilman with runners going beyond him. Traore had been quiet so far but, on 12m, Semedo’s punt up the wing was travelling too fast for even the speedy Spaniard to latch on to.
On 15m Armstrong played in Theo whose low cross shot was gathered, at the 2nd attempt, by Patricio with Adams looming above him. Saints briefly set up camp in the Wolves half but, when a gold shirt hefted the ball up the park, Raul and Vestergaard collided and went to ground. The Mexican was quickest to get up but Bednarek came across to bail out his mate.
With Wolves now in our half, Adams won the ball and broke up-field at pace. Kilman stopped him with a well-judged sliding tackle before he could shoot. Then KWP had a run, cutting in from the wing, before being fouled. JWP seems to have been told to seek out Vestergaard with his free kicks and, sure enough, his cross found the Dane at the back post. He headed it back across the box, but a Wolves head cleared the danger. VAR had a quick butchers at Semedo but the ball clearly hit his chest so nothing doing there.
Kilman got another important block when Romeu let loose just as Sky’s caption suggested Saints had 75% possession over the past 10m. Traore only ever got past one defender before the next took him out and his next upending took place near our corner flag. Moutinho’s cross was headed out, then the pressure was released by Neves fouling Walcott.
JWP sent his free kick into the box setting off a bout of head tennis and a failed overhead by Adams before Wolves got it away. Next Djnepo fired in a cross which flew across the box before Traore, on 30m, escaped the attentions of Romeu and got a shot away which McC saved.
A minute later, a lovely Saints move saw Adams find Armstrong running beyond the defence but the Scot rolled his shot just past the far post. It was end-to-end now: Semedo sent over a cross that Podence headed wide. Straight up the other end, Adams won a corner off Boly. Wolves cleared and after Traore went past Bertie, Vesters took him out. Moutinho’s free kick found Podence rising at the front post and his glanced header was tipped over by McC. Saints cleared the corner. A foul by Ait Nouri gave JWP another chance to get the ball in Wolves box. The ball arrived where Theo could tussle for it but he was adjudged to have touched it last when it rolled out.
Armstrong got away with a foul on Ait Nouri but the very next one (by Neves on Romeu) earned the game’s first booking. Romeu broke up Wolves’ next attack before 1 added minute was shown from the side-line. During that period, Mr Marriner showed a 2nd yellow, this time to Traore for his foul on Djnepo. It was half time – still scoreless.
No changes were made at half time. Saints mounted the first attack with Theo getting down the right, but we had no-one in the box when his cross came over. Wolves’ first attack was snuffed out by Vesters before Traore was fouled again, this time by Bertie. Dendoncker had the ball in the net from Moutinho’s cross but was adjudged offside. On 50m, Traore ran down the right unchallenged and (probably surprised) sent his cross behind.
Two minutes later, a lovely move down Wolves’ left involving Moutinho and Ain Mouri created a chance for Podence. His shot was on target but turned behind by McC. From the resulting corner, Raul had a great chance to put Wolves ahead but didn’t get his header on target. Moments later they went behind.
A sweet Saints move saw Armstrong compete, successfully, with Ait Nouri to control a bouncing ball. His square pass found Djnepo who saw Adams run towards the back post and found him. Kilman blocked his first cross but Adams beat him with his next effort. At the back stick, Semedo was ball-watching and let Theo run in behind him – for a tap in, his first league goal for Saints since 2005!
Traore finally went by both Bertie and Vesters then stuck his cross too close to the keeper who grabbed it. On the side-lines several subs were now warming up. Wolves were definitely stepping it up, but it was Saints who created another great chance next. On 65m Adams won the ball back in the middle of the park and spotted Theo running into space. He delivered a beautiful pass into his mate’s stride but Theo put his shot past both Patricio and the far post. Damn it – that could have put us 3rd!
Wolves are very much a “second half team” and score the majority of their goals late in the game. They won a dangerous free kick after another Romeu foul. It was too close for a shot but Moutinho clipped the ball over our wall for Raul, but the Mexican couldn’t control it.
Saints then won a free kick when Dendoncker fouled Djnepo but Wolves cleared it. At the next break in play, on 70m, Neves was withdrawn and left sided forward, Neto came on. Saints immediately came under pressure and the next attack saw Neto shooting but Saints bodies were in the way.
Traore then found Raul but Bednarek cleared the ball. Another foul on Traore increased the pressure but Mouthino’s cross fell to Kilman whose shot looped over. Then, on 75m Wolves drew level.
Moutinho won the ball in midfield and this time carried the ball forward. His pass found Raul on the edge of our box and the striker hit a hard, low shot. McCarthy was beaten but the ball came back off the post. It fell right for Neto, just on, who made no mistake. 1-1.
Wolves had the ball in the net 2 minutes later following a foul on Raul. Moutinho put his cross right on the striker’s forehead but, as the ball hit the net, the lino was vigorously waving his flag. Phew!
On 79m Ralph replaced Djnepo with Long and Walcott went wide left. Neto then won a corner off KWP but the first kick was headed behind by Vestergaard. Moutinho’s next cross was punched away by McC. Saints had to survive another corner before 2 more substitutes joined in. Vitinha replaced Podence and Viallo came on for Armstrong.
In the final minute, Theo won another corner which Wolves cleared. In the 3 added minutes Diallo skinned Ain Nouri but Patricio collected his cross. Another Traore run was halted by our Danish man/mountain before the final whistle sounded. 1-1. Saints on to 17 points – if we keep this up, we could get to 70 come May!
This was a decent scrap between 2 well matched sides. Saints saw more of the ball in the first half as Wolves got to grips with four at the back. Wolves bench was lightweight (but, as my Wolves supporting mate said “any bench with Neto on it is a decent bench”).
Ralph would have expected Wolves to come at us after the break and us scoring first merely made them angrier. Raul was below par for 70m but showed his class by eluding Vestergaard to create their goal. I’d have loved to have finished the night in 3rd but can’t deny Wolves deserved their point. I’d say, behind Spurs and Chelsea, they are the next toughest side we’ve played.
Man of the Match
This is a tougher choice than usual. It was a decent enough team performance with few examples of individual brilliance. McCarthy made some good saves and those in front of him did most things right most of the time. We did a job on Traore but all those free kicks might have done for us were Raul not having a quiet night.
So I’m looking at the forwards now. Adams continues to improve and his ball to create what should have been Theo’s 2nd was sublime. We’ll be a barrel of trouble for defenders when Danny comes back. However, I’m going to go for the man netting his first Saints goal for 15 years and his first ever Premier League Saints goal. Well played, Theo Walcott