Saints suffer frustrating defeat at Wolves


Southampton were beaten by Wolves despite bossing much of the game on a frustrating afternoon at Molineux.

Daniel Podence scored the only goal in the last minute of the first half, as his scuffed finish deceived Gavin Bazunu after Armel Bella-Kotchap lost his footing in the build-up.

That rather summed things up for Saints, who ought to have taken at least a point from the match, as Ché Adams somehow contrived to use his arm in scoring from a yard out, and then hit the crossbar with a header after the goal was ruled out.

A late cameo from debutant Samuel Edozie kept the Wolves defence on their toes in the closing stages, but a nervous home crowd breathed a collective sigh of relief as Saints ran out of time in the Black Country.

Ralph Hasenhüttl made one enforced change to his side that defeated Chelsea on a memorable night under the lights at St Mary’s in midweek.

Roméo Lavia, sidelined for six weeks with the hamstring injury that forced him out of that win only half an hour after scoring his first senior goal, was replaced in the midfield by Joe Aribo, with James Ward-Prowse and Ibrahima Diallo protecting the back four.

There were places on the bench for three of Saints’ four deadline-day signings, Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Edozie and Juan Larios, but Daje Ćaleta-Car was not registered in time to feature.

Wolves were without a win in their last 12 Premier League matches, but started brightly, buoyed by the inclusion of 6ft 7in debutant Saša Kalajdžić up front.

Pedro Neto was the first to threaten, receiving a pass from Matheus Nunes that was underhit and invited the winger to take a touch inside and shoot towards the near post, leaving Bazunu relieved to see the ball skid wide.

But Saints responded well, with Adam Armstrong shooting wide from the edge of the box when maybe Kyle Walker-Peters was better placed to his right.

It was down that right side that the visitors continued to ask questions, as Adams’s low cross towards Aribo was crucially intercepted by Rúben Neves, before Walker-Peters’s centre struck Nathan Collins on the arm, but no penalty was forthcoming.

Both sides then traded chances from corners. Bella-Kotchap had a clear sight of goal, only to head James Ward-Prowse’s delivery wide from ten yards, while even the towering figure of Kalajdžić struggled to grow enough to direct the ball on target at the other end.

Perhaps an even better opportunity arose without an attempt on goal to show for it, when Mohamed Elyounoussi had Adams ahead of him but delayed the pass, meaning the striker ran offside when an earlier ball would have given him a clean run on goal.

Wolves came into the game as the league’s joint-lowest scorers, and were struggling to find a way through the Saints backline.

Rayan Aït-Nouri delivered a teasing cross that forced Bella-Kotchap to intervene, and the defender did well to apply just enough of a touch to take the ball behind for a corner without risking an own goal.

Half-chances continued to come and go, as Armstrong fired over from an awkward ball that sat up rather too high on his left foot, before Wolves took the lead right on the stroke of half time.

Saints were aggrieved when Ibrahima Diallo was booked for an innocuous foul on Podence, before the hosts worked the ball down the right, as Neto fed the surging Nunes, whose low cross found Podence as a result of Bella-Kotchap losing his footing in the middle.

Then Bazunu was deceived by Podence’s mishit, as the goalkeeper went to ground too early and saw the ball bounce over him and bobble almost apologetically into the net.

Kalajdžić, given a bloody lip by Mohammed Salisu early in the game, was nursing a knee problem shortly before the interval and never reappeared for the second half, replaced by Gonçalo Guedes, with Raúl Jiménez having suffered a groin problem in the warm-up.

The home team had rediscovered their swagger regardless, and Neto was a constant menace down the right, albeit Romain Perraud seemed happy to let him go on the outside, where his crossing was rather more erratic with his right foot.

At the other end, it was a low cross from Perraud that fell invitingly for Elyounoussi, whose snapshot sailed past the angle of post and bar.

Saints had struggled to match their first-half performance, but the introduction of Stuart Armstrong as part of a double substitution, along with Moussa Djenepo, as Diallo and Elyounoussi made way, breathed new life into the visitors.

Armstrong immediately won a free-kick in Ward-Prowse territory, albeit to the right of the D, which made the chance more difficult for the skipper and led to an easy save for José Sá.

It was on 62 minutes that Adams somehow spurned the chance to equalise, much to his own bemusement.

Aribo’s cross from the byeline was parried into the air by Sá, who was powerless to prevent Adams surely nodding the dropping ball into the empty net from a yard out behind him.

But instead the striker mistimed the connection and lost the flight of the ball, which only crossed the line via his arm, meaning the goal was chalked off.

The Scot nearly made up for it soon after, meeting a volleyed cross from compatriot Armstrong, but his header crashed against the face of the crossbar from six yards.

Wolves sensed the chance to kill the game on the counter-attack, as Jonny arrowed a shot inches wide, while Bazunu was taking risks in rushing out to sweep up way outside his box to intercept anything played in behind his defence.

With 17 minutes left, Hasenhüttl turned to Maitland-Niles and Edozie in a bid to rescue a result, and the pair instantly combined down the left side when the winger adjusted impressively to keep the loanee’s pass in play, and immediately set off on a run to the byeline.

Edozie was similarly direct when he beat two men the next time he got the ball, crudely taken down by Neves, but his natural talent and ability to dribble were clear from the outset on an otherwise disappointing day for the away side.