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Wolves Fans' Verdict v Everton: "We're back"

Wolves | Published:

Our fans are left encouraged by an opening-day 2-2 draw with Everton.

There wasn't a spare seat in the house at Molineux yesterday (© AMA / Matthew Ashton)

Chris Hughes

What's your verdict on the match?

Welcome back! After six years in what Sky described as 'the wilderness' (before realising that they spend money for the rights to show live games from said 'wilderness') many Wolves fans will have spent Friday night like excited children on Christmas Eve, awaiting the gift from Nuno Espirito Santo Claus of a return to Premier League football.

A packed Molineux welcomed the sides as we faced off with the best of the rest in last season's eighth-placed finishers Everton. When the raucous pre-match build up came to an end and the game kicked off the crowd burst into an excellent rendition of 'Nuno had a dream' which felt like it had all four sides, plus the poncho-clad patrons of the roofless temporary stand, singing as one.

The pouring rain soaking the pitch, along with the front 25 rows of the North Bank, was very apt as it gave Everton's new signing Tom Daley, sorry, Richarlison a suitable environment for his theatrical falls throughout the game. The 'making the most of contact' we saw yesterday is something we'll have to get used to seeing this season and was one example of where our players are going to have to learn the subtle differences in pace of thought and movement required at the higher level. For Everton's opener, Doherty lazily swung a leg out attempting to win the ball back from Richarlison and tripped the Brazilian. While he did make a grand attempt at ensuring he won the free-kick, there was no doubt that Doherty had caught him. It was sod's law that the resulting free-kick would find the £40m debutant in the 6-yard box to fire home the opening goal.

Testament to our character, we continued to play brand Nuno football even after we fell behind. Moving the ball from left-to-right and probing for space. Another difference at this level is the strength of mind our opposition have in holding their shape for longer. While there was an intense pressure on the ball at the high end of the pitch, Everton were structured behind, both before and after Jagielka's attempted to restructure Jota's ankle, and forced us to make more passes before finding a gap than we required last season.

And what of the aftermath of Jagielka's poor challenge? Welcome to the top flight Ruben Neves! Having dispatched free-kicks from similar positions against Brentford and Cardiff into the top left corner last season, the wonder-kid from Porto went to the opposite side with this one, wrong-footing England's number 1, who'd taken a step to his right perhaps in expectation of a repeat of the two efforts of last season, and leaving him flailing at thin air trying to get near a sweetly-struck free-kick.

Going in at the break on level terms and with a man advantage, I felt there was a good chance we could come away with the 3 points but, as mentioned above, Everton remained well-drilled and kept a good shape at the back to restrict the space we could play in. We also weren't helped by our tendency to take an extra touch or telegraph our passes a lot of the time. While getting used to the opposition being quicker, we've also got to increase our thought-processes and step up our tempo too or we'll risk having a lot of possession with little to show for it.

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Everton's second was an example of both quality finishing and our sloppy defending. Neves switched off completely from an Everton throw-in to allow Richarlison to run off him and receive a pass from Tosun in space on the edge of the area where he made no mistake in rolling a cute finish around Coady and beyond Rui Patricio into the far corner. That's what £40m buys you!

Again though, we stuck at our game. The introduction of Ruben Vinagre added some impetus down the left-flank as the young Portuguese showed more intent to run with the ball than Otto had done and he stretched the field of play much wider to create bigger spaces inside. When his pass found Neves in space, he made amends for his earlier error by swinging in a cross that would have terrified Dracula and was met with a beautiful glancing header from Raul to put us back on level terms.

Overall there was a lot to be encouraged about and some clear areas that need to be worked on but enough to feel that we'll be able to compete over the 38 games once Nuno has put in a bit of work with the lads on the training ground.

Who played well – and who didn't impress?

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The stand out player was obviously Neves. While not quite dominating the game as he did last season he still racked up the most touches and completed passes of any player on the pitch and added a goal and an assist for good measure. Rui Patricio was also solid on his debut not just in his performance but in the constant talking to the back three during breaks in play. Raul was also impressive. A constant worker when Everton had the ball, he put Pickford under repeated pressure, and in running the channels when we had possession, he got his reward with his goal. With expected improvement as he adapts to the pace of English football, he could be a handful this season.

Of the back three it was surprising that Boly seemed to be the one having the biggest issue with the step up in class, though this seemed more to him being too casual than a problem with quality, but did settle a little in the final 30 minutes or so. Moutinho was tidy in general but did give the ball away a few times by taking a little too long to make his decision. Again, I expect him to adapt to the difference in pace between Ligue 1 and the Premier League along with those around him. The biggest disappointment was Helder Costa. Some sloppy play in general where he gave the ball away often, along with a return to the Costa of old giving up on the ball easily at times. We had little option to change from the bench in the absence of Cavaleiro and Traore but I expect to see more competition for wide positions that will force Costa to up his game or end up on the bench.

Rob Cartwright

What's your verdict on the match?

These are days to enjoy. The whole city was buzzing and the atmosphere inside the ground was electric.

We weren’t firing on all cylinders, but showed enough of our excellent passing and movement game to know we will not be out of place in this higher division.

We started well, taking the game to Everton. Our midfield looked solid but the defence appeared fragile. The main difference is you do not get any time on the ball at this level. You have to be quick thinking and with your feet. Any lapse is likely to be punished by the opposition, as it was here.

Boly made a few uncharacteristic errors leading to goal scoring opportunities. Everton took the lead from one of these, against the run of play. Mistakes are capitalised on.

We were finding it difficult to establish a foothold on the game when Jagielka over stretched, catching Jota’s ankle, on edge of their box. A harsh but deserved red card.

Neves territory - he didn’t disappoint.

Wolves controlled the second half without really making the most of the extra man. We dominated possession and got the passing going with Neves and Moutinho running things from the middle. Meanwhile, Everton continued to look dangerous with pace when on the attack.

Again, we had the chance to clear the ball from danger when Richarlison picked the ball up wide. He turned, dribbled and passed the ball into the goal.

Wolves resilience in coming back twice was a big positive and Neves set up the excellent Jimenez for a debut goal. Perfectly tee’d up, but a good header. Very cool.

Last ten minutes, Everton settles for a point and Wolves huffed and puffed without creating much more. Honours shared and a decent start to the new season.

Who played well – and who didn't impress?

Boly made mistakes, but he played well in between so no need to worry. Bennett did okay but I think Coady was the pick of the defence. Jonny Otto looked good too.

Neves and Moutinho both did well. Great passing, gathering the ball time after time.

I was very impressed with Jimenez. Hard working and making intelligent runs. He took his goal well and will be a worthy custodian of our beloved No.9 shirt.

Both Jota and Costa were not at their best. We know they can do better (and will).

It was a shame that neither Cavaleiro or Traore were available from the bench, but these will be options in the weeks ahead.

My Man of the Match is Neves for his goal, assist and excellent passing throughout.

Russ Evers (Hatherton Wolves)

What's your verdict on the match?

So after all the hype and the pre-season spending spree it was almost a relief to get back to the actual football. Last season we learned quickly and you could see the team as a whole and each player grow with belief and understanding as the game wore on. Everton are a good side and fancied by many to qualify for Europe this season but even with a two-goal £40m striker they still couldn't beat us. A hard earned point and you can't help feeling that this was more of a much needed early learning curve. Satisfactory at worst!

Who played well – and who didn't impress?

We were strangely cautious for an hour but Neves carried on from where he left off and Raul Jimenez, my man of the match, topped off a great individual all round display with our second equaliser

Natalie Wood

What's your verdict on the match?

What a great game to start the season. Full of action, excitement and some great positives to take from the performance. Don’t get me wrong it also highlighted plenty of things that needed improvement but overall a great start and a good point against a very good side.

As the atmosphere grew around town all day it was obvious we were in for something special but when the teams were welcomed onto the pitch it was something else. I have never experienced such a noise from the Molineux and the fireworks were phenomenal- if that entrance did not give a warning sign to the premier league we were here to play then I don’t know what would!

I think the only way I could describe the opening 10 minutes was chaotic. Wolves were trying to get a hold of the game but Everton were pressing so hard constantly it made it difficult. The game did settle and became a more even affair. Willy Bolys miskick in the box was the first heart in mouth situation of the season, thankfully Patricio got down to save Boly's skin but Everton’s first goal was inevitable really, but defensively it was a shocking goal to give away. Our set piece nightmares continue!!!

We responded well after the first goal with Neves (of course) taking control of our midfield, between him and Moutinho there were plenty of balls into the final third but we were just missing that spark. Jota battled well but didn’t quite seem up to the speed we are used to seeing. Everton’s defence worked him out quite quickly and just didn’t give him any space.

We played well in the first half but I couldn’t really see how we were going to get through the Everton defence and it was obvious we needed a stroke of luck to get back into the game....thank you Phil Jagielka! The red card did seem harsh to me and we did take the free kick about 5yards further forward than the incident but hey we will take it! Our first game changing moment of the season called for just one man Mr Neves. Yet another perfect free kick to introduce himself to the premier league! Perfect end to the first half.

Second half I was expecting Everton to shut up shop but I think they had clearly seen enough of our shaky defence to see 10 men or not the game could be there for the taking. There were multiple occasions where we made silly and lazy defensive mistakes with Willy Boly being the main culprit! It became only a matter of time before One of the mistakes gave Everton the chance they were looking for and when it came the very impressive Richarlison finished well.

From this moment on Wolves really pressed hard and we really started to see what this new team could do. Everton were basically stuck in their final third and it was all down to us to find that elusive final ball we had been missing all day. Again step up Mr Neves with a perfect pass to Jimenez who made absolutely no mistake in finding the net. We did really push on for the winner but all in all it was a fair result and gave plenty of positives to take into next week.

Who played well – and who didn't impress?

Stand out performance for me would be as always Ruben Neves, a great performance to start the season, looks like we are in for another season of trying to work out how this lad is human!

Out of the new boys Jimenez was the stand out debutant for me and looked very sharp and read the game well. Otto also had a good first game, some good work defensively and seemed to just slot in nicely. Moutinho worked well with Neves and created some nice moments but wasn’t quite up to speed. I can see though given a bit of time he is going to be a key part of our game. Patricio didn’t really impress me, he made a couple of good saves but really didn’t seem to be controlling the box the way I would expect. Our defence is clearly our weakness so he really needs to step up and get them all in order.

I came away from the game quite happy, Everton are a good side and the fact we came away with a point shows we can go toe to toe with some of the better teams in the league. We played with courage and showed at times what we can do but there were some points that let us down.

Defensively we need improvement, too many lazy mistakes that we are going to get punished for very quickly!! As we move further up the field our class shows more but we are just a bit slow in moving the ball, Once we can speed up the passing in the middle of the park we will be on a roll!

It is clearly going to be a rollercoaster season for us but yesterday showed me enough that we are here to compete! Bring on Leicester next week!

Clive Smith

What's your verdict on the match?

Welcome to the PL then. We huffed and puffed but the opposition is much harder to blow away in this League. We worked damn hard to earn our point - an indication, if it was needed, how hard we will have to work to get 40 points.

The flags, fireworks and full house made for a good atmosphere and the football matched the high expectations.

Some of the faces had changed but our formation and style of play was quite familiar.

Neves was on the ball more than ever and diagonal passes were a constant theme. In Jimenez he had a forward who looked busy, skillful and on the same wavelength. Doherty seemed the go-to guy all the time but as soon as he got the ball it was moved ball on immediately. When it was to Costa or Jimenez there was promise, but often the ball went backwards from whence it came.

Everton too looked well organised and played a similar game when in possession. They had more players willing to sprint forward than us making the tempo at times very quick. We were however undone from a set piece, failing to get a clean header on a free kick. The close range scramble saw us go a goal behind.

We did not look phased, although we maybe tried a bit too hard to find the killer ball. Often it was the short sharp passing that looked not only most pleasing to watch but also potentially to be our best chance to score. Jimenez's neat layoffs and work rate started to create half chances but it was a challenge on Jota that looked to have changed the game significantly. The foul by Jagielka looked to have really hurt Jota. Because of where it was, a few yards outside the box, the ref showed a red card. In real time that looked the right call, although replays from several angles made it perhaps look harsh. Thankfully Jota again showed his bounce back ability and to everyone's delight Neves then beat the England keeper.

Playing ten men for a half had us hoping for a win. In truth, it never felt like we had an extra man. Everton looked solid in defence and quick on the break. (I have a feeling that might be the case with most teams we play). Bennett found Jimenez with a superb through ball but Pickford blocked the effort on goal. That was our best chance, but besides that, Everton looked just as likely to score as the game gradually opened up.

Patricio made a good save off a strong low shot but was beaten with fifteen minutes to go. The strength and pace of Richarlison left Neves trailing and a precise shot finished inside the far post.

Thankfully this current Wolves is made of stern stuff and it was not long before we equalised. A perfect cross saw our precise finish go in off an excellent Jimenez header. The sort of goal not seen since Stephen Fletcher day's.

A hard earned point against a likely top ten side was not a bad way to start. We will see stronger opposition, but hopefully weaker ones too. It provided a good benchmark. We know you can not afford to switch off for a second - there is a quality, a physical presence and a game craft that we rarely came up against last season.

Both teams were short of recent signings and hopefully we will be better when they are available. Although we used three subs in the last twenty minutes, none of them made us look stronger, which perhaps shows our depth of squad could be a hindrance during the season.

Who played well – and who didn't impress?

Patricio looked the part and made a couple of good saves. Perhaps he could have done better on the second goal.

Doherty saw a lot of the ball wide and in advanced positions but the end product disappointed. His instinct was to lay it off immediately, usually backwards, which meant our forward momentum was lost. His positioning was very adventurous - we needed him defending goal side more as the game wore on.

Jonny Otto was deeper than Doc and less involved in attacks. He looked comfortable on the ball and did not look like a new kid on the block. Perhaps the correct phrase is, he has settled in well.

Coady put in a workman like shift. Passed the ball well and marshalled the defence as he does. Looked nervy at times like all the back three. It was as if they all thought any mistake would be costly.

Boly looked strong both on the floor and in the air, although he failed to get a clean head for their opening goal. A couple of times he received passes in ridiculous places which could easily have cost us.

Bennett had a patchy game. Starting by giving a needless free kick he looked nervous andp like he had to be on his game all the time to be able to compete.

Moitinho slotted in perfectly. Running and passing well he kept feeding other players and recycling the ball.

Neves looked our star player. Unfortunately most sides in this League also have a star player of a similar level. He was a joy to watch, looked like he was enjoying himself, and scored a super goal. MOTM.

Costa - with Traore and Cav as alternate options we needed a strong performance. The physical challenge continues to hold him back but I am sure he will be able to rise above that in time.

Jota needed to see more of the ball, he was kept quiet most of the time. He looked slow in the head and often chose the wrong option when in possession.

Bonatini, contributed in the build up to our second goal as did Vinagre who looked to be playing like a winger when more restraint was needed.

Gibbs-White was full of energy and looking to get in the game as much as possible.

Adam Virgo

What's your verdict on the match?

The first game is always a tough one because there’s so much excitement to get started and the tempo of the game was very high, especially in the first 20 minutes.

On the basis of everything that happened, it was good to come away with a point after going behind twice, and yes Everton had 10 men but that can sometimes make it harder in a sense.

If we had Cavaleiro or Traore on the bench at our disposal, I feel like they could have been the difference and given us something else to possibly go on and win the game.

We didn’t look as strong defensively as we did last season but as mentioned earlier, the pace of the game was so quick that it did make it difficult and in the Premier League, mistakes get punished as proved yesterday with Richarlison’s second.

However, there are a lot of positives to take from the game, one of them being Ruben Neves playing for us and I’m confident we are only going to improve and get better as the season goes on.

Who played well – and who didn't impress?

Moutinho probably won’t get as much credit as he deserves for his performance yesterday because of Neves’s goal and assist, but he controlled the game very well and you can see the experience and composure he brings to the team.

Jimenez didn’t stop running and he thoroughly deserved his goal for the work he put in. His aerial ability is a big strength of his and it was good for him to get off the mark as soon as possible – I've got a good feeling he’s going to do well for us this season.

Ruben Neves has so much talent it’s ridiculous. His passing might not have been as good as it can be but my word he can deliver when called upon. No doubt he’s going to score some more unbelievable goals this season and even the ball for Jimenez’ goal was a peach of a cross.

Surprisingly, Boly had a poor game but I’m confident he’ll be fine and it was just one of those games for him. Jota and Costa weren’t anywhere near their best and not being able to bring on the likes of Cavaleiro or Traore was a little frustrating as they would have given us something different.

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