Adama Traore well and truly stole the show against his former side, as Wolves overcame local rivals Aston Villa 2-1 on a cold, sunny, Remembrance Sunday
After both sets of fans wonderfully respected the Last Post, you could feel the fierce nature of the West Midlands Derby start to unfold with the Wolves faithful singing in full voice from start to finish. It is fair to say they had reason to since their team dominated the majority of the game, with each player putting in a performance of the highest quality in this Premier League battle.
The game began at a high tempo with challenges flying, but referee Anthony Taylor decided to let things go early on. This soon changed, to the dismay of the home fans, where the game began to be interrupted by continuous fouls, leading to four yellow cards just in the first half. It was Wolves who had the first major chance, with Matt Doherty hitting the crossbar unintentionally from a cross, after a delightful switch of play from captain Conor Coady, who put in a classy display on his 200th appearance for the club. Coady, who made a key mistake in Wolves’ last home Premier League game, will no doubt be pleased to have resumed normal service.
It soon became clear that it was not going to be Villa’s day when goalkeeper Jed Steer, on his first Premier League appearance of the season, went down injured followed by the withdrawal of Matt Targett, who up into that point endured a day to forget. Adama Traore was clearly in the mood as he breezed past the left-back time and again, demonstrating the pace, power, and silky skills we all know he possesses.
The Wanderers front three were causing all sorts of problems, including a great Diogo Jota run, opened up by strike partners Traore and Jiménez, which ultimately led to nothing. In truth, it looked like it was not going to be Raul Jimenez’ day as he spurred a number of chances, failing to even hit the target on several occasions.
However, the ever-present Ruben Neves demonstrated his full potential, curling in an exquisite effort, following a training ground set-piece delivered by the intelligent Joao Moutinho just before half time. It must be questioned how he was afforded such space as it really is no secret how capable he is from outside the box. Dean Smith, after the game, brutally described 1-0 as being “the best thing that came out of the first half”.
After the break, the Villa side that put in strong performances against Liverpool and Manchester City came racing out of the blocks, creating more chances. John McGinn once again showed why he had such interest over the summer, looking unfazed on the ball throughout the whole game. However, it was the recently called-up Spanish international Traore that caused problems again, fiercely striking the woodwork in the 49thminute. The Sir Jack Hayward stand was rocking once more, spurring the Wanderers on, with the players reflecting their club’s motto ‘The strength of the wolf is in the pack’.
Still, Villa were looking dangerous on the counter with Anwar El Ghazi leading the attack from a Wolves corner and teeing up Wesley, but the Brazilian could not repeat what Neves did in more or less the exact same position. As the Villans began to play out from the back more frequently, it was the Wolves trio up top who threatened again. Traore somehow nipped in front again to start an attack which saw Jota force a great save from Orjan Nyland, the substitute keeper.
It was clear that Villa were in no mood to give up, pegging back a well-shaped outfit and it nearly paid off as captain Mings missed a great chance to level things up. Nuno Esperito Santo was keen to preserve his sid’s slender advantage as he prepared to bring defender Ryan Bennett on for Neves but, before this tactical substitution could be made, Jiménez finally found the target, making it 2-0. It all stemmed from a crunching tackle from Neves on Nei Taylor, distributing it to Traore who once again sailed down the wing past Douglas Luiz, squaring it to an unmarked Raul Jiménez who looked to have sealed all three points.
However, just when it looked all but over, with the Wolves faithful beginning to ‘Ole’ every pass, Egyptian winger Trezeguet fired in a low volley in the second minute of injury time. The strike was given courtesy of a goal-line technology check by Anthony Taylor. Nevertheless, it was only to be a consolation as Wolves saw off the remainder of stoppage time before Molineux erupted on the referee’s final whistle.
After the game, Santo was full of praise for his players, with his only fault being that they should have been ‘more clinical in seeing the game off earlier’. Man of the match Adama Traore will hope he can continue on from his dazzling display after the international break, where he has decided to withdraw from the Spanish squad and stay with his club.
The result moves Wolves up to eighth in the Premier League table, while Aston Villa now sit 17th, just three points above the relegation zone.