Wolves (2), Aston Villa (1) – Villa Continue to Struggle

That our Villans played better on Saturday at Molineux than they did two weeks prior at Villa Park against Arsenal, says more about Villans’ psyche and less about the caliber of the opposition.  At 2-0 behind the Wolves, they raised their game in the 2nd half, scored one goal and came close to scoring another.

In the midst of a losing streak, there is a tendency to miss the evidence that the team played well enough to win and that wholesale changes are not required. 

So, let’s get the excuses out of the way – or what I would call explanations.  Gerrard, it is reported, planned to pair Ings with Ollie Watkins only for Danny to be preoccupied with the birth of a child.  That gave Bailey the opportunity that he failed to exploit.  Ings would have been a vastly superior choice.

Chambers has shown more composure than Ezri Konsa, and better ball distribution and, likely, would not have slipped ahead of Wolves’ first goal. Lucas Digne came off in the 13th minute with our team unnerved by the early Wolves’ goal, making a comeback much more difficult (Digne was also less likely to score the own goal).   Finally, plugging in McGinn to the holding midfield role created the hole that Wolves exploited on both goals.

Of course, Ashley Young went on to make a major contribution to the team’s performance while McGinn was Villa’s most energetic and influential player overall.  Unfortunately, we were already 2-0 down.

From the kickoff, our Villans were the better team.  In the early going Mings was very forceful and kept the ball in the Wolves half while Matty Cash bundled into the Wolves penalty area and the home team had to scramble the ball clear.

That all changed when McGinn saw an opening to step through at the halfway line to launch another attack, except that he lost his footing and the ball.  The latter was dispatched to Moutinho who immediately eyed Podence racing down the inside left channel toward the Villa penalty area.

Konsa was alert to the threat and backpedaled furiously only to realize that he had a play on the pass.  Villa’s usually stellar defender turned to deal with the ball only for his feet to slip from under him.  That left Podence a clear route to goal and the ball at his feet.

Of course, Tyrone Mings is not an England international for nothing.  He raced over and slid, blocking Podence who was forced to veer to his right.  That change allowed McGinn to, remarkably, catch up with the play, and Podence’s shot rebounded off our super-Scot.  The ball came to Fabio Silva but his shot was blocked by Digne.  This time the rebound took the ball to the right where Jonny was waiting.  With great composure, the Spanish wingback lashed a shot into the left top corner with Martinez racing across his line.  Emi did not have a chance.  Wolves 1, Aston Villa 0 in the 7th minute. Our Villans were behind again.

Just a minute later, Mings was a little casual chasing a ball back on the right wing only for Silva to pick his pocket.  The next thing, Tyrone was chasing the Portuguese 19-year-old toward his own net.  Mings must have considered the bad angle and kept his cool. He did not attempt a tackle from behind (like he did against Mo Salah earlier in the season) and Martinez beat away the fierce drive for a corner.

More desperate Villa defending followed as Wolves tried to build on their lead.  An excellent saving tackle by Konsa on the left to bail-out his skipper stood out.  Then Digne got taken to the cleaners by Trincão only for this other talented Portuguese player to show too much of the ball to the pursuing Digne who swept the orb away before more damage.

Shortly after, in the 19th minute, Digne went down, and Ashley Young had to come on as his substitute.  The pause had the effect of cooling off the Wolves’ players. Meanwhile, Morgan Sanson, who was picked over Luiz, but playing the inside-right position, started to get traction and Villa were back in the game.

In the 24th minute, a quick turn by Ramsey completely fooled Coady who was drawn into a yellow-card infraction.  Coutinho took the freekick from distance, but it was high.

Then, when Sanson curved a cross into the penalty area, Watkins faded away from the ball while Sanson’s intent was for Ollie to come to the ball.  The instability of the squad, exacerbated by injuries, showed.

Again, in the 30th minute, a bit of McGinn magic almost led to a goal.  Our tenacious Scot anticipated a Wolves pass, intercepted and fed Bailey.  The Jamaican international found space to run into and, from 25 yards, lashed a perfect strike with his right foot that Sa, the Wolves keeper, had to dive to his left and thrust out a strong right hand to push the ball over the bar.

Soon after, a McGinn freekick found the head of Mings at the far post but Tyrone’s effort on goal went wide. 

Then, with Villa having most of the play, Wolves had a breakaway with Marçal taking off down the left wing and zipping a hopeful cross for Trincão to meet at the far post.  Ashley Young was struggling to stay with the youngster and keep an eye on the ball at the same time.  He slipped and inadvertently directed the cross onto the underside of the crossbar and into the Villa net.  Wolves 2, Aston Villa 0 in the 36th minute.

The second goal knocked the stuffing out of our Villans, and we limped into halftime.  In fact, we limped into the second half.  While Mings did have an opportunity just before the break from a corner only for his header to bounce off Boly.  That led to a break for Wolves down the right wing and excellent passing that should have been converted into a goal by Dendoncker.  His weak left-footed shot went well wide.

It was Ashley Young who almost got Villa back into the game in the second half.  First, he fed Ollie on the edge of the penalty and our slippery striker averted tackles by Moutinho and Coady, only for Kilman to slide over to block his shot.

Then Young channeled a great pass beyond Boly in the inside-left channel and Watkins had the Ivorian beat, as well as Coady.  All he had to do was slide the ball between Sa’s outstretched left leg and the post.  Easy to say, but much easier to slide wide of the post which is what Ollie did.  At 57 minutes, that would have given our Villans lots of time to turn the game around.

A minute later an incisive pass by Coutinho would have freed Watkins for another one-on-one with Sa, only the defense stepped forward in tandem and caught him offside.

In the 70th minute Coutinho was muscled off the ball by a couple of Wolves players in midfield and stopped, waiting for the freekick.  Darren England, the referee, felt otherwise and waved play on.  Moutinho carried the ball toward a back-pedaling Villa defense before unleashing a shot that was blocked by Konsa only to fall conveniently to Hwang, who had just come on for the worse-for-wear Podence.  The South Korean shaped to shoot and Cash bit, rounded Matty and rolled the ball wide of Martinez with his left foot, only to see his shot skim the wrong side of the post.

Carrying a grudge, Coutinho almost got his revenge a minute later.  When Marcal got caught in possession trying to carry out against a high press, our Brazilian wizard jumped on the loose ball carried it into the penalty area and let go a stinging shot that looked destined to bulge the back of the net, only for Sa to make a second brilliant diving save in the game.

Then Ollie set-up Ramsey on the edge of area, only for Jacob to complete an unhappy outing for our Academy graduate by skying his shot high over the bar.

Soon after Gerrard substituted Douglas Luiz for Sanson and Buendia for Coutinho.  Then, Bailey took too much time clearing the ball from the Villa penalty area and that led to Neto, who had come on for Trincão, to gain possession in the area.  Buendia saw the danger and managed to get a foot in the way of a quick shot, only for it to create top-spin and a moment of concern for Martinez.

Chances seemed to be coming thick and fast with Martinez creating one for Wolves.  Emi tried to chip a pass over a high press, only for Silva to backpedal, gather the ball and drive forward while brushing off Luiz, and hit a great shot that Martinez had to acrobatically save.

Finally, Buendia started to influence the game and he slid an excellent pass through for Watkins.  This time, Sa had more defenders around and Ollie had no alternative other than a first-time shot.  Another save for Sa, but Wolves were not clear yet as our Villans buzzed around. 

It was Buendia who threaded another pass into the area, this time to Ramsey, but a tackle saw the ball bounce to the keeper only for Watkins to jump in to intercept from the side.  Sa did not give way and Ollie tumbled over Sa.

To most people’s surprise, referee Englander pointed at the penalty spot.  Perhaps because there were only five minutes left in the game and they had a 2-0 lead, Wolves’ players’ remonstrations were mooted.

That Ollie’s kick bounced in, off the post, only added to the stress that Villa fans were feeling and continued as they tried to will an equaliser.  In fact, it almost worked.  Deep in overtime a desperate shot from a bouncing ball by McGinn with his right foot appeared to be way off the mark only for its backspin to keep it in play and, furthermore, to provide Matty Cash with an uncontested shot at goal.

Sa raced off his line and deflected Cash’s shot behind for a corner.  No heroics this time for Matty.

A third loss in a row. Yikes.

Wolves: Sá,Kilman, Boly, Coady, Jonny, Dendoncker, Moutinho, Marçal, Trincão (Neto 75′), Podence (Hwang 68′), Silva (Chiquinho 91′).

Unused Subs: Ruddy, Cundle, Toti, Saïss, Semedo, Aït-Nouri.

Aston Villa: Martinez, Konsa, Digne (Young 13′), Cash, Mings, McGinn, Ramsey, Coutinho (Buendía 74′), Sanson (Luiz 72′), Watkins, Bailey.

Unused Subs: Olsen, Sinisalo, Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam, Traoré, Chambers.

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