Express & Star

Stoke 1 Wolves 1 - Report

Wolves returned from their Marbella trip with a journey to Stoke, drawing 1-1 as their pre-season preparations continued.

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Raul (Getty)

After flying back to England on Thursday there was no rest for the players as they trained on Friday and arrived at the Bet365 Stadium on Saturday.

A strong Wolves side started brightly, with Adama Traore the main threat, but fell behind due to poor set piece defending as former captain Danny Batth finished into the bottom corner.

Within minutes Wolves were level, however, when Raul Jimenez anticipated a loose ball in the box and finished from close range.

The second half saw Wolves dominate and control the ball, with substitute Morgan Gibbs-White shining as part of the front three, but they could not find a way through and settled for a draw.

Despite playing another fixture in just 24 hours - away to Coventry - Bruno Lage named a strong Wolves starting XI against Stoke as he started in a 3-4-3 formation.

Conor Coady and Traore came in for their first pre-season appearances, while Fernando Marcal was preferred over Rayan Ait-Nouri at left-wing-back. Lage also named a strong bench which was topped up with several youngsters.

Marcal (Getty)

Michael O’Neill also named a strong Stoke side, starting in a 3-5-2 formation. Former Wolves players Batth and Steven Fletcher were involved.

With 2,400 away supporters packed in at the Bet365 Stadium - matching or even beating the number of home fans - the Wolves fans were making all the noise as the game kicked off.

It was the first time, too, that old gold fans have travelled to an away game for more than 17 months.

And with the away support buoyant, Wolves started the game fairly well. Traore was sharp in the opening stages and headed just wide at the far post after meeting a Joao Moutinho cross. The move was also started by Traore who lifted a lovely cross-field pass to Nelson Semedo.

Moments later Moutinho then lashed an effort wide from 25 yards after some nice build-up play between Semedo and Francisco Trincao.

Adama Traore (Getty)

As the game ticked beyond the 15th minute mark it was Wolves dominating the ball and playing some nice football through the thirds, but without that killer instinct and final ball up front.

Stoke, meanwhile, were winning the ball back well in midfield and were aggressive in the tackle, but most of their long balls into the channel were mopped up by the Wolves back three.

Ruben Neves almost handed Stoke a gift when his soft pass was picked up by Fletcher but with two defenders still to beat, the striker shot from distance and saw his effort trickle wide.

At the other end Traore popped up on the right flank and whipped in a cross for Jimenez. The forward rose at the back post and saw his headed effort saved by Joe Bursik’s fingertips.

Just before the 30 minute mark Stoke took the lead. A corner caused an almighty scramble in the box and although Jose Sa saved one from close range, the defenders failed to clear it and former Wolves captain Batth stabbed home.

Francisco Trincao (Getty)

But only two minutes later Wolves were level. Bursik palmed away a long range shot from Semedo but only as far as Jimenez who raced onto it and smashed it home to bring his side level.

The first half then petered out as the two sides entered the break drawing 1-1.

As the teams emerged for the second half Wolves made three changes, introducing Max Kilman, Leander Dendoncker and Gibbs-White. They stuck with the 3-4-3 formation, however, as Gibbs-White moved to the left wing. Yerson Mosquera, Neves and Traore all came off.

Gibbs-White almost made an instant impact, too, when he got beyond his man and raced into the box. He crossed low for Jimenez who was just beaten to the ball by a defender, with the goal gaping.

Wolves were again controlling the game in the opening stages of the second half and effortlessly passed the ball between the lines. A slip from a Stoke defender then saw Gibbs-White through on goal but he struggled to get the ball out of his feet and the defender recovered.

Conor Coady (Getty)

Gibbs-White again was heavily involved when his effort from 15 yards was blocked by Bursik, but despite all of Wolves’ dominance, it was Stoke that almost took the lead again moments later.

A poor Coady pass was intercepted and the home side raced towards goal. A low cross was aimed at Fletcher at the back post but Kilman slid in to block his effort and save his side.

Lage made several substitutions in the second half, with one eye on tomorrow’s clash with Coventry, but the game began to slow down with chances few and far between.

One final chance came for Patrick Cutrone, who was picked out by a lovely ball from Romain Saiss. The striker’s shot inside the box was saved by Bursik’s feet.

That opportunity was the last of the game as the two sides drew 1-1.

Stoke: Bursik, Wilmot (Chester, 71), Batth, Fox, Smith, Allen, Vrancic (Thompson, 89), Powell (Norton, 89), Tymon (Clucas, 71), Brown, Fletcher (Doughty, 71).

Subs not used: Davies, Macari, Jones, Goodwin.

Wolves: Sa, Semedo (Hoever, 81), Saiss, Coady, Mosquera (Kilman, 45), Marcal (Ait-Nouri, 81), Neves (Dendoncker, 45), Moutinho, Trincao (Cutrone, 74), Traore (Gibbs-White, 45), Jimenez (Silva, 74).

Subs not used: Ruddy, Marques, Bueno, Estrada, Cundle, Campbell.