Wolves continued their charge for a Premier League top-four finish as Leander Dendoncker’s second-half strike earned them victory at under-pressure Aston Villa.
The visitors, surprisingly, only managed two efforts on goal but they made it count with their second when the Belgium midfielder made a foray forward before striking low past Orjan Nyland.
It is now three wins out of three following the restart and Nuno Espirito Santo’s side are fifth on 52 points with Chelsea, above them on 54, in their sights.
As for Dean Smith’s men, they remain in 19th with 27 points. A draw could have lifted them out of the bottom three, which was as much as they looked like achieving at Villa Park.
Jack Grealish’s first-half low driven effort was their only shot on target.
Wolves march on
Even when the most potent pair do not combine for a goal, they still manage to influence the outcome.
The partnership of Adama Traore and Raul Jimenez has provided 10 goals in the league this season, but for the only goal at Villa Park, their mere presence together had a impact.
Four Villa players surrounded the pair on the left side of the pitch before Jimenez dug out a ball into the area which resulted in Dendoncker’s strike. Traore had only been on the pitch for two minutes at that stage with Nuno electing to rest the Spaniard, taking into account the busy schedule.
The only other clear opportunity for Nuno’s men came when the ball fell to Diogo Jota who elected power instead of accuracy after the ball slipped out of Nyland’s hand as he attempted to find a team-mate.
As an attacking force the visitors were not at their most threatening but a solid defensive display, led by the impressive Willy Boly, meant they did not have to change gears.
Worrying signs from ineffective Villa
Smith will not need reminding that time is running out. With Liverpool and then Manchester United on the horizon, Villa’s position could fast become that little bit more precarious.
It has been a season of taking one step forward and two steps back for the promoted side. Following the boost from earning a deserved point at St James’ Park in midweek, they perhaps should have taken the initiative against a Wolves side not at their most cavalier.
Villa had enough of the possession around the area, but their movement was ponderous at times and the Wolves back line easily dealt with the tame deliveries.
Understandably, they looked to Grealish – their conductor in attack and top scorer with nine goals – to create opportunities, and he impressed again. There was one dazzling moment of skill in the first half when he tip-toed past challenges on the left before winning a corner, and he also tested the palms of Rui Patricio with a low, firm shot.
In the build-up to this match, Smith said that his side needed to be more clinical, but they did not appear to heed those words. Neither of the strike-force of Mbwana Samatta and Keinan Davis got much service nor did they look like much of a threat.
Grealish cannot get them out of this position alone – his team-mates need to urgently step up.
Another shutout for Wolves – the stats
- Wolves have completed a league double over Villa for the first time since the 1962-63 campaign.
- Wolves are unbeaten in Premier League games this season that have been level at half-time (W4 D8 L0), the only side with such an unbeaten record in the division.
- Villa have scored just two goals in their past six Premier League games, failing to score in four of those matches. The Villans only failed to find the net in five of their first 26 league games this season.
- Wolves have kept four successive clean sheets in the top-flight for the first time since the 1981-82 season (five shutouts between October-November 1981).
- Villa have conceded more Premier League goals than any other side in 2020 so far (24), with their only clean sheet coming against Sheffield United in the first game of the restart.
- Some 33 of Wolves’ 45 Premier League goals this season have come in the second half (73%); the highest ratio of any team in the competition this season.
- There were just three shots on target between Villa and Wolves. Three of the past four instances of three shots on target or fewer in a Premier League game have involved Wolves (Wolves v Bournemouth – two, Bournemouth v Crystal Palace – three, Wolves v Brighton – two).
Villa face champions Liverpool away next Sunday (16:30 BST) while Wolves are at home to Arsenal on Saturday (17:30 BST).