Wolves picked up a valuable three points on Saturday afternoon as they defeated Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park, with Leander Dendoncker grabbing the only goal of the game.
The game started slowly, but it was Wolves' Raul Jimenez who came closest to opening the scoring in the opening exchanges, his header from Joao Moutinho's free-kick being saved. Diogo Jota was later presented with a glorious opportunity to give his side the lead before the break after Orjan Nyland appeared to accidentally release the ball from his grasp, but Jota fired over.
Wolves took the lead just after the hour mark, however, Leander Dendoncker firing in from the edge of the box low into the bottom right corner of the goal. Substitute Adama Traore was instrumental, driving at the Villa defence.
Villa tried to find an equaliser, but Wolves comfortably saw out the remainder of the game and could even have added to their lead.
Here's 90min's breakdown of the game.
Key Talking Point
Aston Villa's last Premier League win came back in January, yet Dean Smith's side remain in with a chance of survival if they could string a few results together. As a result, Smith made a key tactical change to his starting lineup with the hope of making his side more attacking against Wolves.
Smith opted to go with two strikers up front, while also moving Jack Grealish back into his preferred position as an attacking midfielder. But while the hosts saw plenty of the ball, they struggled to get in behind the Wolves backline and supply the two attackers with goalscoring opportunities.
Ultimately, the new formation was a gamble worth taking, but it did not have the desired impact. At all. Smith now needs to conjure up a new plan - and fast.
At the back, Smith has been left with yet more questions to answer over Nyland in goal after what could have been yet another crucial and avoidable mistake.
Every Villa player takes an extra 5-6 seconds on the ball before making the pass this in turn slows every attack down and allows Wolves to regain shape. #AVLWOL— Gareth Cooper (@ThatGarateyjc) June 27, 2020
Aston Villa Player Ratings
Starting XI: Nyland (3); Konsa (5), Hause (5), Mings (5), Targett (N/A); Nakamba (5), Hourihane (6), Douglas Luiz (7*); Grealish (6), Samatta (5), Davis (6).
Substitutes: Taylor (5), McGinn (5), Trezeguet (5), El Ghazi (5), Elmohamady (5).
Operating at the base of Villa's midfield, Douglas Luiz never stopped working and looking to press the Wolves players. As well as taking up good positions and sniffing out danger, Luiz was also bright on the ball. His immediate thought after picking up the ball would be to either drive forward or play an incisive pass that would break the lines.
Luiz was always an option for his teammates, and his work ensured the likes of Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho weren't able to dictate the game as much as they would have liked.
Another fine performance since the restart for Luiz.
#AVLWOL Douglas Luiz has looked good since the return— David O'Rourke (@daveorourke77) June 27, 2020
Key Talking Point
Nuno's men haven't wasted any time since the resumption of play, looking strong as they chase Champions League football for next season.
However, a notable absentee from the starting lineup against Villa was Adama Traore, who started the game on the bench. Instead, Nuno opted to go with a similar setup to the one that saw his side overcome West Ham, with Dendoncker providing extra solidity in the midfield.
As has been seen regularly this season, Wolves looked to keep it tight at the back in the early exchanges before growing into the contest and posing a real threat with each attack. And they were finally rewarded for their calm, professional performance when Dendoncker put them ahead.
This is a Wolves team that continue to deliver week after week, and they will continue to fight for a place in the top four.
Wolves Player Ratings
Starting XI: Rui Patricio (6); Doherty (7), Boly (6), Coady (6), Saiss (6), Jonny (6); Dendoncker (8*), Moutinho (7), Neves (6); Jota (5), Jiménez (7).
Substitutes: Traore (8), Neto (6).
Leander Dendoncker remains a very underrated footballer.
Dendoncker may not score plenty of goals or provide a stunning amount of assists, but he is a crucial squad member for Nuno. Equally capable of playing in midfield as he is in defence, Dendoncker is a reliable, consistent performer and that is why the boss knew he could count on him against Villa from the start.
He would do the 'dirty work' with his tough tackling and reading of the game off the ball, but would make lung busting runs when on the ball. A tireless player who deserves greater recognition.
Aston Villa will have one week off before travelling to take on Premier League champions Liverpool on Sunday, and will then host Manchester United.
Wolves next host Arsenal on Saturday before travelling to take on Sheffield United the following Wednesday.
Source : 90min