Wolves bounced back from their heavy defeat to Brighton last weekend to dent Aston Villa’s European ambitions with 1-0 win at Molineux.
Toti Gomes’ early header looped over Emiliano Martinez and Wolves proceeded to hold on for the win – their seventh victory without conceding in nine games at Molineux. The derby win was met with jubilant scenes by Julen Lopetegui and his staff at the final whistle.
Aston Villa desperately needed the points as they seek to secure European football at Villa Park next season but found it difficult against resilient opposition, Tyrone Mings wasting their best chance of the game when he fired over from close range late on.
The result sees Wolves move to 40 points, above Bournemouth and into 13th place in the Premier League table. Villa miss the chance to move up from eighth and remain one point behind Brighton, with the south-coast side now having three games in hand.
Wolves: Sa (7), Semedo (7), Dawson (8), Kilman (7), Toti (8), Neves (7), Lemina (6), Nunes (7), Cunha (6), Neto (7), Costa (7).
Subs: Hwang (6), Collins (6), Traore (6), Moutinho (n/a).
Aston Villa: Martinez (6), Young (6), Konsa (6), Mings (5), Moreno (6), Luiz (6), McGinn (6), Traore (4), Ramsey (6), Buendia (6), Watkins (5).
Subs: Bailey (6), Carlos (6), Duran (6), Digne (6), Kamara (6).
Player of the match: Toti Gomes.
How Wolves frustrated Villa
Aston Villa began the game playing with the sort of confidence one might expect of a team that had lost only one of their previous 11 games but they conceded from Wolves’ first attack when the recalled Toti headed in Ruben Neves’ right-wing corner.
Villa pushed and probed for the remainder of the half with Ollie Watkins having the best opportunity to level things up, his firm header from Jacob Ramsey’s cross directed straight at Jose Sa. The Wolves goalkeeper produced a better save to keep out Emi Buendia.
Toti Gomes was recalled to the Wolves starting line-up with Hugo Bueno dropping out. Matheus Cunha for Joao Gomes was the other change from the 6-0 defeat at Brighton.
Bertrand Traore came in for his first Premier League start in over a year in place of Leander Dendoncker.
At the other end, Lopetegui’s team tested Villa’s high line often enough to keep the home fans interested in a second goal, Matheus Cunha shooting just over. But the pattern was set for the second half with Villa pushing and Wolves looking for the counter-attack.
They found it early on when the impressive Pedro Neto put Diego Costa away in the left channel but his shot was saved by Martinez. That almost proved costly for Wolves when Mings had a volleyed chance from six yards but cleared the crossbar.
But Villa, denied space in behind, were unable to create anything particularly clear-cut. With Tottenham winning, their chances of Europe look bleaker now. For Wolves, there is relief and pride that Lopetegui, who took over with them bottom, has turned it around.
FPL Stats: Wolves 1-0 Aston Villa
|Bonus points||Toti (3), Sa (2), Dawson (1), Kilman (1)|
Analysis: Molineux form saves Wolves
Wolves looked as if they were on the beach at Brighton when beaten 6-0 last weekend but this was yet another impressive performance in front of their own supporters that helps to explain why there is so much optimism surrounding Lopetegui at Molineux.
Remarkably, given that they were bottom at Christmas, no team in the Premier League has kept more clean sheets at home this season. It is seven wins from nine games at Molineux now, with every single one of those wins coming to nil. That has kept them up.
The fear was that Lopetegui did not have the firepower squad to keep Wolves in the Premier League and they still have only two players who have scored more than twice this season – Neves and Daniel Podence having netted six apiece.
But they have been able to make up for that with enough endeavour and industry to see out these narrow wins. Diego Costa has scored only once all season but typifies that spirit with his work rate. Pedro Neto brought the same energy against Aston Villa.
Unai Emery has rightly received huge praise for transforming Villa’s fortunes, lifting them seven places up the Premier League table. But there is another Basque manager in the Midlands who has done just the same. Credit Lopetegui for saving Wolves’ season.
Lopetegui: ‘People told me I was crazy’
Lopetegui described keeping Wolves in the Premier League as his greatest achievement in management. They are not mathematically there yet but his celebrations suggested he believes safety has been assured. “Today, I show more emotion,” he said.
“Very important points for us to arrive at 40 points. Not mathematically, but very close to achieving our aim, very happy for the club, for the fans.
“It has been a very hard year for lots of reasons. We arrived here in December with 10 points, at the bottom, four points was the difference from the next [safe] team after 15 matches. It was a very, very bad situation. A lot of people told me, ‘You are crazy, why are you going there?’ I believed.
“It was a great challenge in my life. I believe my most difficult achievement as a coach, much more difficult than winning the Europa League, more difficult than putting Sevilla consecutively three times in their history in the Champions League.
“That is why I am very happy with the players and after the reaction to the defeat to Brighton, this was a very hard week for us and for our fans too. It was not easy. But they have shown that they were better players than they showed at Brighton.”
Emery: ‘Season is not finished’
“We played better than some matches we won before. We have to be clinical, of course,” said Emery. “We tried to keep the game plan and we did it, progress with passing to stop the high press and get in the box, taking corners and creating chances.
“The first half, we played how we think and I told the team I like to see them play like that. The second half, the rhythm was going down and they were trying to waste time. We did not get our best performance like the first half. It was more difficult.
“As well, they started the second half getting good chances, a save from Emiliano. We tried to draw and change the match but we did not do it. After, we can be frustrated a bit but the way we showed in the first half is the way we want.”
Villa have work to do to qualify for Europe now but they can make up the three-point deficit to Tottenham when they face them at Villa Park next weekend. Emery has not given up hope. “We are still getting a chance to get the European places,” he added.
“Of course, after this less. But we have to be excited because three months ago there was a different target. Of course, two weeks ago there was a better chance but we try to enjoy it with our supporters at home because, for us, the season is not finished.”
Wolves head to top-four hopefuls Manchester United on Saturday May 13, kick-off 3pm.
Aston Villa return to Villa Park on the same day where they host Tottenham in an important top-six fixture. Kick-off 3pm.
May 13: Man Utd (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Everton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Arsenal (A) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
May 13: Tottenham (H) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 20: Liverpool (A) – Premier League, kick-off 3pm
May 28: Brighton (H) – Premier League, kick-off 4.30pm
Wolves 1-0 Aston Villa – Opta stats
- Wolves are unbeaten in their last five league games against Aston Villa.
- Aston Villa have lost back-to-back Premier League games for the first time since February, having gone unbeaten in 10 before this.
- Wolves have kept four successive clean sheets at Molineux in the Premier League for the first time since June 2020, with no side keeping more shutouts on home soil in the Premier League this season than Wolves.
- Tote Gomes became Wolves’ 14th different goalscorer in the Premier League this season.