A ruthless Wolves comfortably beat Everton 3-0 at Molineux on Sunday afternoon.
The game’s first big chance fell to the hosts, as Daniel Podence’s low drive had to be pushed away by Jordan Pickford. And after pinning back their opponents for much of the half, they deservedly went in front, as the winger was fouled by Lucas Digne in the box. It paved the way for Raul Jiménez to comfortably convert the resulting penalty just before the break, putting his side 1-0 up.
The Midlands side then started the second-half brilliantly, as Leander Dendoncker headed in to double their lead.
Defender Digne went close for the Toffees, as they looked to get back into the game with a greater attacking intensity. But a superb long-pass from Rúben Neves found the run of substitute Diogo Jota, who fired past Pickford to make it three for the dominant home side.
There was still time for Adama Traoré to incredibly miss from close-range, as Wolves wrapped up a comprehensive win.
Key Talking Point
With Jota and Traoré both on the bench, it was an unfamiliar front-three for Wolves as Jiménez was partnered with the Portuguese pair of Pedro Neto and Podence upfront. Having failed to score in their last two games, it was clear that Santo wanted to shake-up his attack, adding fresh legs to help them win a key game in their bid to qualify for the Champions League.
While some fans may have been nervous when they saw the lineup, there was little to worry about in the first-half. Both wingers looked to take their opponents on, with Neto’s direct running and Podence’s trickery with the ball helping to pin back the Toffees into their own half. It was only a matter of time before the Midlands side took the lead, and it was down to Podence’s superb skill forcing Digne to foul him, leading to Jiménez converting his spot-kick quite comfortably.
In the second-half, Wolves continued to threaten Everton going forward, and with Neto picking up an injury, Jota’s addition meant that they could maintain their potency in front of goal, without any fear of a drop-off in quality. When Podence came off, there was little to celebrate for their opponents’ defence, who now had to deal with the pacy Traoré, who should have scored from another quick break-away towards the end of the game.
So despite many questioning their depth at the start of the season, today’s performance will have been encouraging for their Portuguese head coach, knowing that he has plenty of dangerous attacking options at his disposal.
Starting XI: Patrício (6); Boly (6), Coady (6), Saïss (6); Doherty (6), Dendoncker (6), Neves (6), Jonny (6); Neto (7), Jiménez (7), Podence (8*).
Substitutes: Jota (7), Traoré (6), Moutinho (6),
The most dangerous player on the pitch, Daniel Podence was a constant nuisance.
Making his first Premier League start since joining the club in January, the Portuguese winger was incredibly lively, and used his pace and skill effectively to create chances for Wolves. Indeed, he looked the likeliest to score in the first-half, and it was his trickery that won the penalty in added time at the end of the half.
Key Talking Point
Eyebrows were raised pre-match when Ancelotti chose to move away from his favoured backline and field a three-man defence. The normally-adventurous Digne was picked as a centre-back, while Baines and Walcott were used in the unfamiliar role of wing-backs.
This move resulted in there being a lack of creativity in their play going forward. Too often were the likes of Sigurðsson and Davies found to pass the ball sideways or backwards, rather than looking to kick-start a quick attack. While Anthony Gordon tried his best to link the midfield to attack, there was not enough support to help him do so.
It left the front two of Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison isolated in their attacking half. One shot on target in the first half said it all, as did the second-half substitutions Ancelotti made early on to help rectify the problem, including bringing on Bernard, Alex Iwobi and young Jarrad Branthwaite for his debut.
There will be plenty for the Everton manager to think about after this game, with his side looking toothless in attack and in need of greater creativity in their midfield, which they should look to address in the summer.
Starting XI: Pickford (5); Mina (6), Keane (6), Digne (6); Walcott (6), Davies (6), Gordon (7), Sigurðsson (5), Baines (6); Calvert-Lewin (5), Richarlison (6)
Substitutes: Coleman (6), Branthwaite (6), Iwobi (6), Bernard (6), Kean (6)
On a disappointing afternoon for Everton, youngster Anthony Gordon was the standout in their midfield.
Constantly looking to push forward and support the forwards, there was plenty to like about his performance, and with the Toffees’ midfield struggling to fashion chances for their front-two, he should be expected to get more opportunities for the rest of the season.
Wolves next travel to fellow top-half side Burnley on Wednesday evening, while Everton host relegation-threatened Aston Villa a day later.