Wolves gained a valuable and memorable win over Chelsea on Wednesday night to re-ignite their season after a poor run of results. It was a game that saw a remarkable turnaround in the last half an hour or so as they produced another excellent performance against one of the top teams in the country.
As we said on this site at the weekend, December had become a real crossroads in Wolves season. No exaggeration to say that had the poor run of results in November had continued that manager Nuno would have come under pressure, and question marks would have been asked about the quality of the squad. But it would only need a few wins to get back on track to get them back competing for a place in the top half of the table, and to beat Chelsea is the ideal way to get the month underway.
A home win had looked unlikely in the first hour of the game. Chelsea were keeping possession so easily, their passing was crisp and controlled, and their movement off the ball was highly impressive. Yet it was a fortunate goal that put them in front when a Loftus Cheek shot saw Coady try to divert wide with his head only to deflect the ball into the corner of the net. For a short time after that goal, there was a real threat of Chelsea running away with the game as they camped in the Wolves half with Hazard and Willian a constant threat coming in from the wide positions. An excellent save from Patricio from a Willian free-kick kept Wolves in the game, as did a magnificent last-ditch tackle from Ryan Bennett when the same player was clean through on goal. But they regrouped and remained in the game for the first hour by being well organised and having Moutinho and Gibbs White playing excellently when they got possession, and Jota looking refreshed on the left after being left out of the team in recent weeks.
Just before the hour, the game took on a complete change. Great work from Gibbs-White ended with a precise through ball to Jimenez whose powerful shot from an angle beat the Chelsea keeper. Suddenly Wolves looked a different team and the excellent Moutinho put Doherty away on the right and his low ball across the face of the goal saw Jota come in on the back post to score his first Premier League goal. Molineux erupted but when the crowd consulted the clock on the scoreboards it dawned that there was still a quarter of the game to go for Wolves to earn a much needed three points. In reality they took on that challenge really well and Chelsea didn’t seriously threaten to rescue the game, and the positive vibes had returned to the club after a worrying few weeks.
Patricio 7 – fell below his usual standards in the last couple of games but was back looking the part here highlighted by one brilliant one-handed save from a Willian free kick.
Bennett 8 – recalled to the team after being surprisingly left out at Cardiff and justified his place with an excellent performance including a match-saving tackle to thwart Willian. Also revealed a new weapon for Wolves with a couple of long throws into the Chelsea box.
Coady 7 – unlucky to concede the own goal but otherwise gave another steady defensive display.
Boly 7 – played his part in this back three who with a few exceptions have been consistently good and a key part of Wolves season.
Doherty 8 – another lung-bursting performance up and down the right flank contributing well in defence and attack.
Moutinho 9 – Wolves needed him to step up to the plate in the absence of the suspended Neves and he produced possibly his best performance in a Wolves shirt.
Saiss 7 – stepped into the Neves role and gave the steady performance we came to expect from him in the Championship last season.
Jimenez 7 – had a poor game at Cardiff last week and wasn’t at his best in the first hour here, but took his goal really well to give a much-needed boost to his confidence that had appeared to be flagging. Tops the Wolves list for goals and assists this season.
Gibbs White 9 – playing in a ‘false number nine’ position on his full Premier League debut and fulfilled the promise of his sub appearances. Good movement, runs with the ball and passing, highlighted by the through ball to set up the first goal. Maybe only 18 but is just too good not to be in the team.
Jota 8 – so good to see him back to his best, capped by the winning goal. We haven’t seen the best of Diogo this season so far but this was just the confidence boosting game he needed and no surprise to see him kick on from here.
Costa was the first subbed used and proved to be a good outlet on the right flank as Chelsea tried to get back into the game.
Dendoncker finally graced the field in the Premier League for the first time and gave a tidy performance that made you wonder why it has taken so long for the £12m man to get a game.
Cavaleiro came on late in the game.
A much-needed win and one that showed that this Wolves team have nothing to fear in the quality stakes against the best teams in the country. The next two games are against Newcastle away on Sunday then Bournemouth at home the following Saturday. Two games where Wolves will be hoping to use this win as a springboard to push again for a place in the top half of the table. If they can reproduce this type of performance, and with Neves to return also, then the worries that the bubble had burst in November will soon become a distant memory.
Writer: DJ Wolves