Southampton 1 Wolves 2 - Report
Ten man Wolves hit back from going behind and the controversial dismissal of Mario Lemina to hit back and claim a famous victory thanks to new boy Joao Gomes against Southampton at St Mary’s Stadium.
A dramatic couple of first half minutes saw Carlos Alcaraz fire home for Saints before Lemina, booked early in the game, was shown a second yellow for dissent.
It seemed a harsh decision by referee Jarred Gillett, not least as Lemina’s team-mates Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho were voicing their feelings much closer to the referee when the card was shown.
A fantastic save from Jose Sa kept Wolves in the game in the second half and it proved crucial as a spell of forward pressure featuring substitutes Diego Costa and Adama Traore resulted in a Jan Bednarek own goal.
Then, debutant Gomes, who had come off the bench with 20 minutes to go, wrote his own script with a clinical finish to seal all three points for Julen Lopetegui’s side.
Wolves made one change from the team which had beaten Liverpool 3-0 last weekend, the injured Hwang Hee Chan replaced by Joao Moutinho.
That prompted a change of formation with Wolves adopting more of a 4-2-3-1, Moutinho in the centre of a trio of Pablo Sarabia and Matheus Nunes supporting Mathias Cunha in attack.
The big team news arrived on the bench, with the first appearance in the matchday squad for January signing Gomes, and the welcome return of Pedro Neto, absent with an ankle injury since the defeat at West Ham last October which proved Bruno Lage’s last game in charge.
Costa also returned to the bench, with Daniel Podence missing out through injury and Joe Hodge also dropping out of the 19.
Southampton’s recent run of form has promoted uncertainty around the future of boss Nathan Jones but the home crowd got right behind their team from the off.
And after an early Ruben Neves shot had been blocked Saints had a really good chance with barely 100 seconds on the clock.
Kamaldeen Sulemana broke down the right and his low cross was met by Romain Perraud at the back post to hit a shot which Craig Dawson did well to block just in front of the goal-line.
Wolves then settled into a decent passing rhythm and won a corner from which the ball was cleared and Lemina – back at his former club - was booked for a foul on Alcaraz.
A soft free kick decision given against Cunha gave James Ward-Prowse an opportunity to flex his set piece muscles but Bednarek was unable to make a clean connection and his header drifted harmlessly wide.
Wolves were looking comfortable and confident in possession but it was on the break that Saints were carrying a threat with Sulemana looking dangerous.
This time he burst past Nelson Semedo down the Southampton left before his pullback was cleared by Neves at the expense of a corner which Wolves dealt with.
With 20 minutes on the clock, it was Sulemana involved again but his shot from distance was watched by Sa as it drifted past the post.
Referee Jarred Gillett wasn’t showing too much leniency and the yellow card was out again midway through the half for Semedo following a challenge on Perraud.
From the resulting free kick Southampton took the lead.
After a couple of aerial challenges the ball was sent back into the box and after Alcaraz’s attempt had rebounded straight back to him, his low right foot follow-up beat Sa and found the net via the inside of the post.
And then, just a couple of minutes later, things got even worse for Wolves when Lemina was shown a second yellow card and sent off.
Wolves had been disgruntled with non-award of a foul leading up to the Southampton goal and it appeared Lemina continued those protests and found himself seeing red on his return to his former stomping ground.
The visitors were now clearly rattled and Rayan Ait-Nouri was the next to go into the book for a foul.
Wolves tried to regain a semblance of control and a couple of pinpoint passes from Dawson and Moutinho played in Cunha down the right hand side.
The Brazilian did well to hold off the defender and tried his luck from an acute angle with his powerful effort going over the bar.
There was plenty of ironic applause from the Wolves fans in the 35th minute as the first Southampton player was booked, Ward-Prowse seeing yellow for pulling back Matheus.
Referee Gillett continued to show no hesitancy in reaching for his cards and Ainsley Maitland-Niles was next into the notebook for a foul on Cunha.
Wolves were indebted to another timely block, this time from Maximilian Kilman, as Bednarek let fly after another set piece fell kindly in the box.
But having reshuffled following the red card with Neves dropping into the Lemina role deeper in midfield and Nunes becoming less advanced, there was still a discipline about Wolves and a desire to press forward to get back into the game.
Julen Lopetegui made two changes at half time to try and help Wolves mount a second half comeback with Adama Traore and Hugo Bueno replacing Ait-Nouri and Moutinho.
Sarabia tried his luck with a powerful half volley shortly after the interval which was deflected wide of the target.
Cunha then received a talking-to rather than a card from the referee for a foul challenge which could perhaps have been an approach equally well suited to the first half of the game.
It was Sa to the rescue in the 55th minute after Kilman underhit a backpass which left Sulemana bearing down on goal. He tried to go around the Wolves keeper but Sa read his intention and was able to parry the ball away.
The home fans were screaming for a penalty shortly afterwards as Dawson tussled with Paul Onuachu but referee Gillett was having none of it and waved away any appeals.
Spaces were now opening up in the Wolves half – understandably as they were very much going for an equaliser – and Ward-Prowse drilled in a cross which Sulemana headed wide.
As the hour mark approached Lopetegui made another change with Costa entering the fray at the expense of Cunha.
Southampton won a free kick in prime Ward-Prowse territory but the midfielder – whether deliberately or otherwise – played the ball along the ground leaving it easy for Wolves to clear.
As the game moved into the 70th minute there was a feeling that Southampton, perhaps understandably, were starting to feel the pressure a bit, as Wolves enjoyed a decent spell of possession.
Traore almost got in a couple of times down the right and eventually the ball broke for Semedo whose low drive flashed wide of the target.
Gomes was then sent on for his Wolves debut, replacing Matheus.
And the arrival of fresh Wolves momentum and real panic in the Saints defence saw Wolves draw level in the 72nd minute.
Bueno’s cross was the catalyst and after Costa’s shot had been blocked, Traore got something on the ball and the Saints defence were, somehow, unable to stop it crossing the line with Bednarek getting the final touch.
It was a chaotic and calamitous own goal, but Wolves weren’t for caring, and came after they had been able to build up a head of steam against a fragile Saints back-line.
There still looked like more chances to be had for the ten men as Costa was sent clear down the right and crossed for Sarabia who shot wide, albeit the offside flag then went up.
Southampton had responded to the Wolves equalise with a flurry of substitutions and Lopetegui made his final change six minutes from time with Jonny replacing Semedo.
Sulemana was still going strong as the home side’s most potent outlet and cut inside menacingly before firing well wide of Sa’s right hand post with five minutes remaining.
But the best was still to come as debutant Gomes sent the away end into raptures with just four minutes remaining.
The midfielder’s initial shot was blocked but, after the ball came back to him, he steadied himself before despatching a clinicial shot into the corner.
As the referee signalled for six minutes of added time Southampton had another opportunity with a free kick just outside the penalty area.
But instead of going for goal, Ward-Prowse tried an intricate routine with a ball across the box allowing Wolves to clear to the obvious anger of a furious home crowd.
Saints then won a corner in the fourth minute of added time and the ball dropped for Lyanco but he skewed his effort wide.
That was the last action of note leaving a Wolves side which had shown plenty of character and attacking intent able to celebrate in front of the delighted away fans.
GOAL 24 Alcaraz breaks the deadlock with a low shot which finds the net via the inside of the post.
RED CARD 27 Lemina sees red after picking up a second booking for dissent.
GOAL 72 Wolves are back level after a chaotic equaliser which ends with Bednarek putting the ball into his own net.
GOAL 87 Free Joao Gomes! The debutant takes advantage as the ball comes back to him to tuck expertly into the corner of the net to send the away end into delirium.
Southampton: Bazunu, Bree (Edozie 73), Maitland-Niles, Bednarek, Salisu, Perraud (Lyanco 74); Lavia (S. Armstrong 89), Ward-Prowse, Alcaraz (Aribo 79); Sulemana, Onuachu (Adams 74).
Subs not used: Caballero, A. Armstrong, Mara, Walcott.
Wolves: Sa, Semedo (Jonny 84), Dawson, Kilman, Ait-Nouri (Bueno 45); Lemina, Neves; Sarabia, Moutinho (Traore 45), Nunes (Gomes 70); Cunha (Costa 58).
Subs not used: Bentley, Collins, Neto, Jimenez.