Well, the elusive win has been on the cards, so it was no surprise that we did the business at Watford. This was probably our worst performance of the four league games; not that it was poor. We played positively, displaying a range of perfect passes to change the pattern of play and dominated the second half.
My only criticism is that we were too pedestrian in the first half. Traore and Trincao were showing pace, but the rest of our play was slow. Traore was unstoppable, but we failed to get him on the ball enough after the first 20 minutes.
Neves was running the show. He was instrumental in everything we did. He’s certainly found a new lease of life under Lage. I doubted he and Moutinho could play central midfield together any longer – I was wrong.
Semedo had a good chance to score just before half time. He had an even better chance just after the break too. Trincao did well before a weak shot too close to the keeper.
Jimenez looked set to score with a free header, from a Moutinho free kick, but he put it wide. How we would have loved that one to go in.
Respect to Lage for sticking to his game plan. Also for using his subs well, as they both impacted on the game and the result here.
After so many attempts on goal without success, it was with irony that our first goal was courtesy of a Watford defender. Marcal delivered a great ball into the box and the defender headed into his own net under the threat of Hwang.
Marcal was involved in the second goal too. He chipped back into the danger area for Hwang, following some clever play from Podence. This was an important moment and I think he will be a great asset to us this season.
Kilman shows he isn’t surrendering his place to Boly easily. Marcal was up for the fight again and generally comes out on top. Jimenez is getting there so I’m looking forward to many more goals in the “For” column.
Man of the Match was Neves, by a country mile. Majestic.
A Watford fan commented outside the ground that he was the best player he’s ever seen at Vicarage Road.
It would have been nice for Neves to ping one in from thirty yards, but an own goal from thirty inches was celebrated just the same. It feels like it has been a long time coming, getting another from equally close range, capped another good Wolves performance which thankfully this time brought some reward.
Our new “up and at ‘em” approach was again in full view right from the kick off. Our two wingbacks were almost exclusively in the attacking half during the opening 45 minutes. We moved the ball accurately most of the time with Neves and Coady in particular finding their passing range.
The half ended, like all Wolves games have for years, without us scoring. The omens were good however as Traore continued his form and looked poised to get an assist at any moment. He was a handful on the left, linking up with Marcal while Trincao showed a good touch, and movement, working in combination with Semedo.
Any assists from a corner was unlikely as we wasted them all in that opening half. Regularly finding a cross into their box, avoiding the first man and their tall guys, should not be beyond our capability.
In defence the area of concern was our left side. Marcal, Saiss and Moutinho found themselves struggling to stem the flow of possession and too many crosses found their way into our box. We saw the same scenario at Leicester.
Putting the final touch to our positive possession continued to be a problem. We had few clear cut chances but there was one, in the last minute of the half, that Semedo might have put away.
Traore and Trincao switched wings at the break, presumably to make the game more interesting for Danny Rose. He spent most of the half running backwards as MOTM Traore dribbled past up to four players at a time. It did mean Trincao had less of an impact however and was replaced after an hour.
Once again our level of fitness needs to be applauded. It was hot and humid throughout but we kept going and looked quicker and sharper all over the pitch as the game wore on. Jimenez and Semedo having the two best chances which they should have scored.
After what has felt like hours and hours we finally saw the net bulge right in front of us. A cross, from a corner! into the right area created the opening goal then neat footwork from Podence presented another close range effort that Hwang dispatched to his, and our, immense delight.
Obviously there are areas for improvement. In front of goal clearly, we could also move the ball quicker at times, with vertical passes instead of horizontal. A route one ball for Traore for example. We need more from Jimenez too. Off the ball he is very static and it is hard to play a pass to him when he is like that. In the box he has to be more of a goal threat too.
Away points, goals, impact substitutes – plenty of reasons to be cheerful, as ably demonstrated in the away end over the final twenty minutes. Surely this makes it the sporting story of the weekend! To us at least.
No sane Wolves fan would have been pressing any panic buttons at this embryonic stage, but the winning result still comes as an emphatic relief.
The Sheffield United syndrome of congratulating yourself on performance and promising that positive outcomes will inevitably follow was always a bogus excuse for prolonged failure. Before they knew it, this misplaced complacency had careered out of control and Wolves have mercifully nipped any similar nonsense in the bud.
Just the same, we were all fretting somewhat when Nelson Somedo twice brilliantly played in first by Trincao and then by Jimenez couldn’t settle the nerves by applying the finishing touch. The fact that Somedo deserved credit for impressively bombing forward to take up such dangerous positions wasn’t fully appreciated amidst the intense frustration.
We seemed utterly incapable of consummating the arrangement and were immensely indebted to Watford for their act of generous surrogacy. The own goal was as inexplicable as our goal drought; grotesque from a Watford perspective, manna from heaven from our point of view.
Liberated at last, Wolves proceeded to cruise home and aided by a fine switch from Jimenez and a touch of flair from Podence, Hwang becalmed in the Bundesliga was on the mark in double quick time over here. Simple as that; what was all the fuss about!
Of course, this league is anything but simple but in the short term at least, how good it feels to have redressed the balance somewhat after the tribulations of our first three performances.
The first clean sheet of the campaign is additionally positive; the first half wasn’t without blemish and Watford had two clear opportunities to go in front but overall, as the possession statistics prove, Wolves were generally in control. So far this season, we have appeared much calmer as a defensive unit; the chaotic level of panic which abounded during the latter stages of last year, when any set piece or cross seemed to instigate collective havoc has for the time being at least, thankfully abated.
A lot of credit for this should go to Max Kilman; inexperienced he may be but up to now he has been inspirational; a defensive rock who reads the game so well. He has inspired a level of solidarity that had previously deserted us. He will endure further ups and downs, but right now, his reliability is indispensable.
This result is tremendously satisfying and a real boost to confidence but in reality only a small step forward. Never the less, a good weekend!
Finally! A goal in the league and our first three points of the season. Much deserved, we could have scored a few more with some better finishing.
Typical that our first goal in the league was an own goal after having over 60 shots but we’ll take it all day. We were by far the better team and deserved winners in the end.
Ruben Neves was outstanding, as he has been so far this season. Trincao is a certified baller and he’s only going to keep improving. Max Kilman absolutely solid once again, proving to be our best defender currently. Both wing backs had very good games too, albeit Semedo missing two huge chances.
Podence and Hwang looked the part when they came on. Hwang was very aggressive as soon as he came on, willing to press and was in the right place at the right time for his goal, something we have definitely lacked in recent times. Podence could be a serious player under Lage, he looked excellent against Forest and made an instant impact in this game, brilliant patience and trickery in the build up to the second goal.
The players have adapted fantastically to Lage’s style and were so enjoyable to watch. If we keep doing what we’re doing and avoid injuries to key player, we could be a serious force this season. Everything points in the right direction, we just need to hope the majority of the squad can stay fit and we don’t get burnout from having a small squad, especially with the lack of bodies in midfield.
Hopefully getting those goals and the win will give us a big confidence boost going into the next few games. We have some really winnable games coming up and if we take advantage of that, we’ll only be looking upwards at the table.