Wolves 1 Southampton 1 - Report

It might not have delivered a victory, yet perhaps the final 20 minutes here will be enough to spark Wolves’ season.

To this point their campaign has provided for the optimists and pessimists in equal measure and for much of last night this match looked like serving up further fuel for the latter.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s men trailed to Theo Walcott’s 58th minute opener and were fortunate not to be further behind after the same player missed a golden chance to double Southampton’s lead.

But the introduction of Pedro Neto was enough to shift the momentum. Within five minutes the 20-year-old had restored parity and - more importantly - a Wolves attack which had struggled for cohesion through most of the match and much of the season suddenly had life.

A winner proved elusive, visiting keeper Alex McCarthy capping an impressive night by denying Neto with his legs.

But a point, in the grand scheme of things, was hardly a bad one against a Saints team who were targeting a fourth straight win on the road.

Perhaps even more significantly, this was a result achieved despite considerable off-field upheaval. For the first time in 120 matches Wolves were missing Conor Coady in central defence, following his period of self-isolation.

They were also without Romain Saiss, after he tested positive for coronavirus during the international break.

The unusual look of the Wolves team, missing Coady for the first time in more than three years, was further compounded by Nuno’s decision to switch to a back four.

Joao Moutinho returned to add an extra man to midfield, while Adama Traore replaced Neto out wide in the other Wolves change.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the hosts initially looked a little uncertain in defence and were fortunate not to concede inside the opening two minutes.

Willy Boly allowed a dangerous Ryan Bertrand cross to run across the box and was left breathing a sigh of relief as Che Adams just failed to make contact before Rayan Ait-Nouri cleared behind.

From the corner the ball again found its way to Betrand, this time Neves climbing to beat Adams to the ball and head away from underneath his own bar.

A couple of minutes later it was Wolves wondering how they weren’t ahead.

Neves found Podence on the left and the winger promptly cut inside, his run rudely upended on the edge of the box by Oriel Romeu’s challenge.

Moutinho’s free-kick hit the wall but Nelson Semedo immediately brought a fine save from McCarthy with a sharp drive, though it was nothing compared to the stop the keeper made to deny Dendoncker on the follow-up, spreading himself wide and deflecting the Belgium international’s shot over the bar with his shoulder.

It was a remarkable stop but in truth a rare moment of alarm for the Saints in the early stages.

Instead it was they who were asking increasingly tough questions of Wolves new-look defence, Theo Walcott testing out Rui Patricio with a shot on the angle after being played in by Stuart Armstrong.

It was the latter who would then have the best chance of the half but put through one-on-one by Adams, he could only direct his finish wide of the post.

Wolves had their moments but generally lacked cohesion in attack with Raul Jimenez frequently cutting an isolated figure.

Traore, meanwhile, played in bursts, at one stage winning a free-kick on the edge of the area from which Podence, an unlikely man to win a header, brought another good save from McCarthy.

Otherwise the breakthrough never looked like arriving for the hosts as they drew a blank in the first half for the 60th time in 85 Premier League matches.

The second period began more promisingly, Podence bringing another save from McCarthy after linking up well with Ait-Nouri. From the corner, the latter then delivered a dangerous looking cross upon which Jimenez was unable to make clean contact.

But it was the Saints who then broke the deadlock two minutes before the hour mark. Moussa Djenepo found Adams with an angled ball into the box and when the latter drove the ball hard and low across the face of goal at the second attempt, following a Kilman block, Walcott was there to tap home in front of a snoozing Semedo. It was the former England international’s first goal since returning to his boyhood club from Everton during the recent transfer window.

Walcott should have had a quick second but clean through on goal and with all day to pick his spot after being picked out by Adams’ ball over the top, he could only shoot wide.

Nuno introduced Neto with 20 minutes remaining and the switch almost worked instantly. Traore got the better of Bertrand down the right and Podence cleverly flicked the ball on to Neto, who saw his shot blocked by Walker-Peters.

But the Portuguese didn’t have to wait much longer. With Wolves finally asking serious questions and committing men forward, Jimenez crashed a low shot off the base of the post and Neto was quickest to react, turning home the rebound.

Jimenez then briefly thought he had put the hosts ahead when he nodded home a Moutinho free-kick only to see celebrations cut short by an assistant’s flag.

But it was all Wolves and the Saints were grateful to McCarthy again when he denied Neto with his legs.

Teams

Wolves (4-1-4-1): Patricio, Semdeo, Kilman, Boly, Ait-Nouri, Neves (Neto 70), Traore, Moutinho, Dendoncker, Podence (Vitinha 85), Jimenez Subs not used: Hoever, Marcal, Silva, Otasowie, Ruddy (gk).

Southampton (4-4-2): McCarthy, Walker-Peters, Vestergaard, Bednarek, Bertrand, Armstrong (Diallo 90), Ward-Prowse ©, Romeu, Walcott, Djenepo (Long 79), Adams Subs not used: Stephens, Obafemi, Tella, N’Lundulu, Forster (gk)

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