Wolves 3 Arsenal 1 – Report and pictures
Wolves beat Arsenal for the first time in 40 years with a memorable 3-1 victory at Molineux.
Ruben Neves opened the scoring on 28 minutes with a delicious free-kick and by half-time it was 3-0 thanks to goals from Matt Doherty and Diogo Jota.
Jota and Raul Jimenez both had chances to extend the lead and a Sokratis header 10 minutes from time was a mere consolation.
Tired? On the beach? Not a chance.
Instead of wilting or going through the motions with just a few games to go, fearless Wolves instead produced one of their most impressive victories of the entire season, writes Tim Spiers at Molineux.
They played the occasion perfectly, allowing Arsenal to control the ball and then taking full advantage of their defensive frailties to score three times in the first half and, ultimately, win the game.
Arsenal had 71 per cent possession but couldn't muster a solitary, measly shot on target during the whole shebang until they scored a mere consolation from a late corner. Sure they played some pretty stuff, but it was chilled out house over a 9am Ibiza sunrise kind of pretty. Note perfect, sure, but no zest, nothing piercing or penetrating.
In contrast Wolves were brash punk rock, producing razor-sharp two minute attacks on the senses. And Arsenal couldn't cope.
The magnificent Diogo Jota tore them to shreds with his now trademark gallivanting runs from deep. It was two such runs that led to a free-kick for the first goal and a corner for the second until Jota went it alone to net a third before the first half was up.
The odds on them beating Arsenal will have been far greater than them beating Brighton, but regular Wolves watchers knew which was the more likely victory (even though they hadn't beaten the Gunners in 20 matches and 40 years, since September 1979). That's 16 points earned against the big six now, compared to 10 against the bottom six.
Defensively Wolves were excellent. In sharp contrast to their horror show against Southampton a couple of weeks ago, they were disciplined, organised and defiant. The Gunners couldn't find a way through.
After a disappointing couple of post-Wembley results, Wolves are very much back on track. They travel to Watford this weekend to launch a revenge mission – and will now move a giant step closer to securing seventh if they complete that mission.
What a season it's been. Now for the icing on the cake.
Leander Dendoncker replaced Morgan Gibbs-White in the only change from Saturday's 0-0 draw against Brighton.
Arsenal boss Unai Emery made no fewer than seven changes from their 3-2 defeat at home to Crystal Palace, with top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out injured.
The Gunners came into the game with a poor away record, having won only six times on the road. Wolves, meanwhile, were unbeaten at fortress Molineux since January 2. The first half accurately reflected these facts.
It was actually a pretty dire opening 15 minutes, with Arsenal dominating possession (around 80 per cent) but doing absolutely nothing with it. Wolves were playing it tight and cagey but doing little going forward. As a spectacle it was so bad it had you wishing Brighton were the opposition.
Then Wolves burst to life. It was Diogo Jota who sparked some noise from the home crowd with a gallivanting run from his own corner flag to the Arsenal. Then the mercurial Ruben Neves got the ball rolling with an incisive pass from deep which led to Matt Doherty teeing up Joao Moutinho for a superb effort from 20 yards which curled just wide.
Wolves were motoring now and Raul Jimenez prodded over the bar from a long Ryan Bennett throw.
Then that man Jota stretched his legs to scamper forward from deep, playing to Jonny Castro Otto who was cynically wiped out just outside the box. It may have prevented a goal – but Wolves needn't have worried. From the resulting free-kick Neves clipped it powerfully up and over the wall and past a helpless Bernd Leno. Molineux erupted – Wolves were doing it again against a top six side.
Jimenez fired wide and Neves clipped a deflected free-kick over as Wolves, so passive in those opening 15 minutes, kept their boot to Arsenal's throat.
Soon after it was 2-0. Yet again Jota was the inspiration, taking Otto's pass and crashing one into the six-yard box, forcing Leno to push the ball behind for a corner. From that, Moutinho played it short to Otto whose whipped cross saw Doherty get ahead of a flailing Leno to head home for his eighth goal – by far the most prolific of his career (plus seven assists to boot).
But Wolves weren't done there. Before half-time they made it a scarcely believable 3-0 and it was no surprise to see Jota add his name to the scoresheet, producing another trademark run from deep, skipping past Sokratis before firing under Leno who made another gaffe to allow the ball roll beneath him.
Molineux buzzed amid a sense of disbelief and wonder at half-time.
The Gunners, whose only real opportunity in the first half came when Alexandre Lacazette fired over from the right of the six-yard box, had to change something and they switched formation for the second period to 3-5-2. It had little effect.
Indeed, it was more of the same with Arsenal controlling and dominating possession – and Wolves carving out the meaty chances.
The more Arsenal pushed forward, the more Wolves looked likely to add to their lead on the break.
Jimenez raced down the right and picked out Jota who, if he'd controlled the ball would surely have slammed home, but the ball bounced off him.
The impressive Otto was in the thick of the action again when he played the ball across the box for Jimenez, who set his sights from a narrow angle but drove across goal and wide
Arsenal pressed and pressed but to no avail. Bennett and Lacazette tangled legs in the box but referee Stuart Attwell judged it wasn't a penalty – and then Bennett brilliantly threw his body at the ball to block Lacazette's shot from close range.
Nuno sent on both Ivan Cavaleiro for the immense Jota who was rightly afforded a standing ovation.
It looked like being a procession but Arsenal pulled one back with 10 minutes to go when Sokratis headed home a Granit Xhaka corner to give them the faintest glimmer of hope.
Adama Traore replaced Jimenez as the Gunners ramped up the pressure slightly, with Wolves sat ever deeper, but a couple of uncomfortable set pieces aside they offered just a minimal threat.
Wolves saw out four minutes of stoppage time with ease and Molineux was in full hero-worship mode at full-time. Rightly so.
28 - GOOOOOALLLLLLLLLL!!!! What an astonishing free-kick from Neves! From 20 yards, the wonder-kid from Porto stylishly lifts the ball over the wall and into the corner, past the helpless Leno. Stunning strike to put Nuno's side ahead. Expertly taken.
37 - GOOOOOALLLLLLLLLL!!!! The two wing-backs combine as Wolves double their advantage! Otto's floated cross is nodded home by Doherty, with Leno caught in no man's land in an attempt to claim. Poor keeping from the German. Brave header by the Irishman.
45+2 - GOOOOOALLLLLLLLLLL!!!! Jota gets in on the act and makes it three! The fearless forward skips past Sokratis like he's not there and fires under Leno. Again, the keeper should do better, but it's a just reward for Jota's exceptional work this half.
57 - Arsenal want a penalty - but they don't get what they want. Lacazette goes down after a tangling of legs with Bennett. The referee ignores the Frenchman, who is bemused.
79 - GOAL! The Gunners pull one back as Sokratis heads in from close range. He rises above Neves from a corner. Muted cheers from the travelling supporters in the Steve Bull lower tier.
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Bennett, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty, Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho (Gibbs-White, 90), Otto; Jimenez (Traore, 82), Jota (Cavaleiro, 78)
Subs not used: Ruddy (gk), Vinagre, Saiss, Costa
Goals: Neves (28), Doherty (37), Jota (45+2)
Arsenal (4-3-3): Leno; Maitland-Niles, Sokratis, Koscielny (c), Monreal; Xhaka, Torreira (Guendouzi, 59), Ozil; Mkhitaryan (Kolasinac, 59), Lacazette, Iwobi (Nketiah, 71)
Subs not used: Cech (gk), Mustafi, Elneny, Willock
Goals: Sokratis (79)
Referee: Stuart Attwell
7th (51 points from 35 matches)
Wolves travel to Watford this Saturday, kick off 3pm.