Wolves fightback ends Saints' unbeaten run

By SFC Media time Sat 18 Jan Saints v Wolves
Photo by Matt Watson | Shane Long
Sat 18 Jan 3PM
Premier League
Wolverhampton Wanderers
Bednarek [15'] Long [35']
Neto [53'] Jiménez [65' 76']
Ward-Prowse (29') Bednarek (57')
yellow card
Neves (88')
Referee: Darren England | Venue: St Mary's Stadium | Attendance: 31,152

Southampton saw their six-match unbeaten run come to an end as Wolves mounted a stirring second-half fightback at St Mary’s.

Leading 2-0 at the interval after Jan Bednarek and Shane Long both scored for the first time this season, Long headed against the post soon after the restart as Saints chased a killer third.

Instead Wolves got themselves back into the game, with the help of VAR, which decided no handball against Pedro Neto for the visitors’ first goal, before overruling referee Darren England to award a penalty converted by Raúl Jiménez.

Jiménez’s second, the match-winner, arrived 15 minutes from time after the technology deemed explosive winger Adama Traoré had not used his arm to control the ball in the build-up.

The return of Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patrício, rested for the midweek FA Cup replay at Manchester United, was the only change between both managers, as Ralph Hasenhüttl kept faith in the same side that won at Leicester – Saints’ fifth victory in six games.

It was the visitors who shaded the opening exchanges. Powerhouse Traoré took an uncharacteristically subtle approach by jinking inside Cédric and hitting a shot that clipped the defender on its way through, leaving Alex McCarthy scampering across his goal and relieved to see it sail wide.

But Saints made their presence felt from a set-piece in the 15th minute, as James Ward-Prowse’s delivery somehow evaded all of his teammates en route to Bednarek at the far post, who still had a lot to do, but adjusted his body impressively to guide the ball back across the rooted Patrício and break the deadlock.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Cedric Soares(L) of Southampton joins his team mates as they celebrate Jan Bednarek's(R) goal during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St Mary's Stadium on January 18, 2020 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Saints celebrate Jan Bednarek's opener - his first goal of the season

It was a first period of few chances, but the home fans were enjoying their team’s hassling of the Wolves players, particularly Traoré, against whom there was a clear plan to press him early, before the speedster could use his electric pace.

It was via the other winger, Neto, that Wolves threatened an equaliser midway through the half.

Escaping down the left, the 19-year-old stood up a cross to the far post that tempted McCarthy, who could only tip the ball into the path of 17-goal top scorer Jiménez, who was denied by a combination of the flailing McCarthy and the covering Bednarek.

At the other end, some fine work from Nathan Redmond went unrewarded when Cédric stepped in front of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg to meet his cross with his head, when the skipper was primed to connect with his foot. 

Then Stuart Armstrong stepped inside and let fly on his left foot with a well-struck shot too close to Patrício, who was able to make a routine save.

But the lingering threat of Jiménez was growing. First, he stepped across fellow goal-getter Danny Ings to fire a snapshot over the bar, before throwing himself at a brilliant Neto cross, from which he was just unable to generate any direction on the stretch.

Not that the hosts had much cause for concern, as Long headed his first goal of the season 10 minutes before the interval to give Saints some welcome breathing space.

Started by Armstrong’s diligence in keeping the ball in play, after the Scot himself broke his 2019/20 duck last time out, Cédric’s measured cross from the right was met by a glancing header from Long to score a goal warmly received by all inside St Mary’s of a red and white persuasion.

It was richly deserved for the Irishman, who was unlucky not to net in the FA Cup tie against Huddersfield when VAR cut Saints’ celebrations short, before winning a penalty at Leicester that again saw the technology rule him offside by little more than a shoelace. 

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 18: Shane Long(L) of Southampton scores with his head to make it 2-0 during the Premier League match between Southampton FC and Wolverhampton Wanderers at St Mary's Stadium on January 18, 2020 in Southampton, United Kingdom. (Photo by Matt Watson/Southampton FC via Getty Images)
Shane Long watches on as his downward header finds the bottom corner

All that was missing was a goal from the Premier League’s second highest scorer, but Ings resumed his pursuit of number 15 soon after the break, when his shot deflected off Leander Dendoncker and landed kindly at the feet of Long, but this time he was offside as Patrício denied him at close quarters.

Saints’ number seven was in the thick of it again when he rose to meet another accurate Redmond cross, this time clipping the outside of the post as his luck was out.

Those chances to extend the lead would have made Hasenhüttl more irritated when Neto halved Wolves’ deficit in the 53rd minute, as Troaré for once got away down the right, leaving Bednarek in his wake and picking out Neto, who kept his head to take the ball down and finish sharply from 10 yards.

Having reviewed the goal for a possible handball, when the ball struck Neto on the chest, VAR was having its say again 10 minutes later, overruling referee England to award Wolves a penalty.

Marauding wing-back Jonny raced on to a through ball and was fairly barged off the ball by Cédric, but the sliding Jack Stephens collided with both players, leaving all three of them on the floor as England initially awarded Wolves a corner.

After a lengthy delay, Jiménez stepped up to wrongfoot McCarthy from the spot and the visitors, out of nowhere, were level.

Back came Saints. This was absorbing stuff and a far cry from the early stages, as the game really opened up, and Redmond sent a thunderbolt grazing against the top of the crossbar.

But Wolves were the team with momentum, and Neto went close to completing the turnaround when he fired over from a promising position midway through the second half.

Instead Jiménez would be the man to bring Saints back down to earth to end the club’s perfect start to 2020, after more fine build-up play from Traoré.

So well marshalled in the first half, Wolves’ express train was not to be derailed as he raced in behind Saints’ defence again, keeping his cool to pick out Jiménez, who did the rest with a low first-time shot to leave McCarthy no chance, taking him one short of 20 goals in all competitions this season.

Saints were shell-shocked. Having already introduced Ché Adams and Moussa Djenepo in a double change, Sofiane Boufal arrived immediately after Jiménez made it 3-2, as Hasenhüttl chased a result to keep his side’s remarkable upturn intact.

Cue heavy late pressure, with VAR’s input ensuring six minutes of added time, but Stephens’s glancing header just past the post was as close as Saints came, before Boufal wildly skied another chance high over the bar.


Head to Head Stats

Wolverhampton Wanderers
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Alex McCarthy (GK)
Cédric Soares
Jack Stephens
Jan Bednarek yellow card goal
Ryan Bertrand
James Ward-Prowse yellow card
Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (C)
Nathan Redmond
replace Sofiane Boufal (78′)
Stuart Armstrong
replace Moussa Djenepo (71′)
Shane Long goal
replace Che Adams (71′)
Danny Ings
Che Adams
Sofiane Boufal
Moussa Djenepo
Oriol Romeu
Angus Gunn
Jannik Vestergaard
Michael Obafemi

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Rui Patrício (GK)
Romain Saïss
Conor Coady (C)
Leander Dendoncker
Rúben Neves yellow card
Matt Doherty
João Moutinho
Raúl Jiménez goal goal
Pedro Neto goal
replace Maximilian Kilman (86′)
Adama Traoré
Ryan Giles
Benny Ashley-Seal
Bruno Jordão
Maximilian Kilman
Morgan Gibbs-White
Oskar Buur
John Ruddy
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