EFL Cup: Wolves 5 Blackpool 0 - Report
Seeing one striker score in a match, let alone three, has been a rare sight for Wolves in recent years.
Two netted in the first 25 minutes to set Gary O’Neil’s team on their way to a comfortable Carabao Cup second round win over Blackpool, before a debut goal for 18-year-old forward Nathan Fraser secured the club’s biggest victory since February, 2015.
Sasa Kalajdzic and Fabio Silva earlier became the first pair of Wolves strikers to score in the same game since Raul Jimenez and Diogo Jota more than three years ago and the goals were significant for both.
Kalajdzic’s was his second in just four days, on his first start since suffering that serious knee injury on debut nearly a year ago.
Silva’s goal, meanwhile, was his first for Wolves since May, 2021 and a welcome morale booster after a difficult start to the season.
There is no shortage of support for the young Portuguese striker, whose name was sung loudly by the South Bank as he celebrated. Of course, Wolves did not sign him and the Kalajdzic for a combined £50million so they could take apart the likes of League One Blackpool but goals should help build confidence, regardless of the opposition.
With Matt Doherty scoring twice in the second half on his second debut for the club, this was close to being the perfect night for O’Neil, who also secured his first Molineux win as head coach and listened to the South Bank sing his name at the final whistle.
The only blemish came via a nasty hamstring injury sustained by Joe Hodge just prior to the hour mark, further hitting Wolves’ reserves in the middle of the park.
Hodge was one of nine players brought into the starting XI by O’Neil and three marking significant occasions were involved in the opening goal 10 minutes in.
Doherty found Jonny, in his first appearance since March in the position of right wing back. The latter cut inside and picked out Pablo Sarabia with a lovely, left-footed slide rule pass and though Richard O’Donnell was able to spread himself to make the save, the ball looped up to Kalajdzic who sent a volley bouncing off the ground and into the net.
Early goals can take the sting out of encounters with lower league opposition but Blackpool were unfortunate not to be quickly level. Jensen Weir should have done better after Dan Bentley sent a rushed clearance into his path 25 yards from goal. Kenny Dougall was then unlucky to see a low, long range drive smash against the base of the post and fly across the face of goal.
That felt a big moment when Silva doubled the lead just past the midway point of the half. Sarabia was again involved, his first attempt to find the striker on the left hitting a defender but the ball rebounding kindly into his path and allowing a second opportunity which was not passed up. Silva’s finish took a slight deflection off a desperate, diving Marvin Ekpiteta but the 21-year-old had no reason to care.
Wolves might have been further ahead by the break but Jonny, who seemed to be enjoying himself, could not get any power on his shot after some impressive work to make space 20 yards from goal.
It was all going swimmingly for Wolves until 10 minutes into the second half when Hodge pulled up when on the ball, clutching his hamstring. The young midfielder was eventually helped off the field by two members of medical staff, receiving a consoling pat on the head from O’Neil before going down the tunnel.
That was frustrating for the head coach and his staff but at least they had another goal to celebrate soon after. Sarabia floated a cross to the far post and Doherty arrived from the right to send a header in off the bar and mark his Molineux return with a goal.
Six minutes later he had two. Fraser, who had replaced Kalajdzic just past the hour mark, fired in a cross which deflected perfectly into Doherty’s path and he slotted a finish inside O’Donnell at the near post.
Blackpool looked a beaten side well before the finish but did come close to a stunning consolation when skipper Callum Connolly sent a free-kick crashing against the bar.
Harvey Griffiths and Alfie Pond were also introduced for their first team debuts but it was Fraser who had most cause to celebrate when his effort looped off a defender and over O’Donnell with six minutes remaining.
The youngster might have had a second but was denied by a superb Ekpiteta block in stoppage time, with Wolves having to settle for matching the 5-0 margin of victory last achieved beating Rotherham in the Championship more than eight years ago.
Wolves (3-4-3): Bentley, Doherty, Kilman (Pond 81), Toti, Jonny, Traore, Hodge (Griffiths 55), Ait-Nouri (Bueno 810, Sarabia, Silva, Kalajdzic (Fraser 62) Subs not used: Gomes, Cunha, Dawson, Ballard-Matthews, King (gk).
Blackpool (3-5-2): O’Donnell, Pennington, Ekpiteta, Connolly, Lyons, Virtue, Weir (Oakley-Boothe 61), Thompson, Carey (Hamilton 67), Beesley (Apter 67) Subs not used: Husband, Dale, Morgan, Casey, Tharme, Grimshaw (gk).