In their first Premier League fixture for six years Wolves drew wth Everton 2-2 coming from behind twice thanks to goals from Ruben Neves and Raul Jimenez.
As the players walked out onto the pitch at Molineux for the opening weekend of the Premier League season they were greeted with a spectacular wall of fire, flags and fireworks. That level of noise has not been heard at Molineux for sometime as Wolves fans celebrate their return to the top-flight.
The game lived up to it’s billing. Over sixty-million pounds had been spent in the transfer window developing this team, so expectations were high, as Wolves looked to push on from their promotion winning season.
However Everton are an excellent side, far better opposition than anything Wolves played last season. Two players (Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison) in the Toffees starting line-up cost fifty-million pounds each, and they will struggle to make the top six this season such is the talent in one of the best leagues in the world.
In many ways this result was a reality check for Wolves. Everton closed space down quickly with Wolves best outlets last season, their wing backs, finding it difficult to get consistent crosses into the box. Similarly, Costa and Jota found it difficult all game to break the lines between Everton’s defence and midfield, with Schneiderlin and Gueye effectively protecting their defence.
Wolves success last season was built on an incredible defensive resilience. Connor Coady and Wily Boly were an important part of that success. However there were characteristic defensive errors from them both.
This was on show for Everton’s opener with Wily Boly unable to clear his lines from an Everton free kick. This lead to Richarlison poking home past Patricio.
The game then hinged on a refereeing decision. Phil Jagielka lunged into a tackle after mis-controlling from Diogo Jota’s pressure. Studs up, he was shown a straight red which looked harsh but Wolves didn’t care. Everton were forced to play fifty minutes down to ten men.
Wolves equalised from the subsequent free-kick in some style. If their defensive fragility was a concern the quality of Ruben Neves was not as he announced himself on the Premier League with another outside of the box stunner.
Right on the edge of the area he was able to wrong foot the England number one Jordan Pickford and fire the ball into the top corner. Aiming for a space no bigger than a dinner plate. The goal coming just a minute before half-time allowed Wolves to go into the break with some momentum.
Despite going down to ten men Everton were resilient and had several chances to go ahead. At times if was not obvious that Wolves had the superior numbers such was the quality and organisation of Everton.
It wasn’t a surprise then when Everton took the lead again with another defensive error when Richarlison was not tracked into the box by Neves. He was able to then finish smartly down to Patricio’s right after some good interplay from Everton.
This was not Wolves’ best performance, their were defensive errors, and their passing was not as slick as the Molineux faithful has come to expect from last season. They did however, as Nuno said after the game, show a great deal of character.
This was on show in the eightieth minute when a Neves cross was buried into the bottom corner by Raul Jimenez moving away from his marker. This was Jimenez’s first goal in a Wolves shirt, who had an overall excellent game, working hard, holding up play and taking his goal superbly.
All the Wolves new signings equipped themselves on their debuts and with four new signings in the first eleven, and with two not fit enough yet to feature, their must be more to come from this side the more they play together.
Many of the players in Wolves starting line-up have never played in the Premier League before with only Ryan Bennet (62) and Matt Doherty (1) having played at this level. It will take time for Wolves to adapt, which can only come with more games under their belt, which no amount of pre-season friendly’s can prepare you for.
Everton are a solid top ten team in the Premier League. They are organised and have quality going forward, particularly with Richarlison who had a great game. The fact however that they will find it difficult to break into the top six this season shows the level of quality that is found in this league.
Wolves have shown the character to compete with a top ten side in the Premier League, but with two previous champions to play in the next two fixtures Wolves will need to adapt and improve quickly cutting out defensive errors to achieve their lofty ambitions in this league.