Tag Archives: Wolves

Espanyol make Europa League exit despite win over Wolves

Jonathan Calleri’s hat-trick clinched a 3-2 victory for Espanyol over Wolves in this Europa League second-leg encounter, but the damage had already been done in their 4-0 defeat at Molineux.

Away goals from Adama Traore and Matt Doherty killed off the tie, making it 3-6 on aggregate to the Premier League side and leaving Espanyol to focus on their fight against relegation from La Liga. They are currently rock bottom in the table, five points from safety.

The Barcelona-based club marked a return to the European stage after 12 years this season by topping their Europa qualifying group with 11 points from a possible 18, creating confidence for the round of 32 knockout phase.

However, the dreams of the 1,200 ‘pericos’ who travelled to England for the first leg against Wolves were dashed as Diego Jota scored three times and Ruben Neves also found the net to create a seemingly unassailable lead in the tie.

Feisty encounter

Abelardo Fernandez’s team were, though, given hope on home soil by Calleri’s opener just past the quarter-hour mark, only to see the visitors reply through the dangerous Traore in the 22nd minute.

Calleri, on loan from Deportivo Maldonado, restored Espanyol’s lead from the spot in the 57th minute after Max Kilman raised his boot his on David Lopez.

In a feisty encounter which saw six yellow cards, Wolves were able to sit back, with their hosts having 63% possession and double the number of passes.

But pressing forward left Espanyol vulnerable on the counter, and Doherty duly made it 2-2 from Daniel Podence’s cross with 11 minutes remaining. Calleri’s winner came via a header in the first minute of added time.

Afterwards, Abelardo said he took heart from Espanyol’s fighting display, adding: “Today the fans have seen again the team they want.”

Flying Fulham see off stuttering Wolves

Fulham underlined their promotion credentials with a 2-0 win over Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers at Craven Cottage.

The hosts extended their home winning streak to eight games and are unbeaten in the league in 2018, closing to within a point of fourth-placed Derby County.

Rising star Ryan Sessegnon scored their first in the 38th minute, being in the right place at the right time yet again, and the second came from Aleksandar Mitrović in the 71st minute with some lovely individual brilliance to cap off a well-contested match.

Wolves managed just two shots on target and have dropped 12 points in their past eight games in all competitions, winning just three.

Slaviša Jokanović recalled Tomas Kalas, Floyd Ayite and Ryan Fredricks, which proved to be a good choice by the Fulham boss as Fredricks makes a crucial block from Helder Costa’s shot four minutes in, with Wolves quick out of the blocks.

The visitors did not have it all their own way early on, though, as good link-up play between Tom Cairney and Matt Target saw the ball end up at the feet of Sessegnon, who cut in to shoot but was crowded out by the Wolves rearguard.

In the 13th minute a shot from Cairney deflecting directly into the path of Mitrovic who managed to chip it over goalkeeper John Ruddy only to see his effort cleared by Wolves captain Conor Coady.

Increased pace

With play going back and forth in an open and fairly even first half-hour, the game was there for the taking, and it was Sessegnon who stepped up to the plate.

After a bad clearance from Ryan Bennett, Stefan Johansen and Mitrovic worked together once more to get the ball into the Wolves box, and a sloppy hold by Ruddy allowed Sessegnon to tap in for his 13th goal this season.

Wolves came out for the second half even more fired up than before, and the first booking of the contest came in the 48th minute after an obvious pull-back by Targett on the counter-attacking Costa.

Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo added attacking impetus in the 64th minute, with Diogo Jota and Morgan Gibbs-White coming on for Costa and Alfred N’Diaye, while Sheyi Ojo replaced Ayite for the hosts.

The changes were to no avail for the visitors, however, as Fulham doubled their lead seven minutes later. Mitrovic electrified the home fans on a bitterly cold evening with a shot from 25 yards out that went straight into the bottom corner.

A minute later, Johansen nearly made it 3-0 with an effort which narrowly skimmed past the post.

Five minutes from time, Wolves missed a golden opportunity when, with an open goal in front of him, Jota scooped the ball over the bar from five yards out.

With only two minutes of stoppage time added, Fulham’s fans celebrated in the freezing temperatures as their team sealed victory over the table-topping West Midlands outfit and kept up their own push for promotion to the top flight.

Time for more clubs to take the FA Cup seriously again

Weakened teams, poor attendances, crazy kick-off times – all featured in the FA Cup third round earlier this month, and threaten to dent its status and traditions once again as we head into the fourth round. 

Perhaps this weekend’s ties will see more clubs deciding to take football’s oldest knockout competition a bit more seriously?

Yet the temptation is clearly there for many managers to rotate, giving fringe players a chance to show what they can do, and saving their stars from fatigue and injuries, whilst keeping their main focus on maintaining their league position.

This weekend presents opportunities for Brentford, Wolves, Wigan and Wycombe to produce major upsets as they face Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs respectively.

Championship side Wolves look to have a decent chance against Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp fielded a vastly changed team at home against Plymouth in the third round and paid the price as the League Two outfit earned themselves a replay, which they only lost 1-0.

Clear sign

Brentford will also be looking to spring a surprise against the Premier League’s pace-setters, and their players will be fired up to do well at Stamford Bridge.

Like Wolves, the Bees occupy the relative safety of mid-table, so if we don’t see anything from them apart from first-choice XIs giving 100% commitment to win their ties then it really will be a clear sign that the FA Cup is no longer what it was it was.

“Howe’s caution was understandable to some extent, but what is the point in having top players if you are not going to push for success with them?”

Bournemouth did their best in the last round to prove this, making 11 changes for their trip to Millwall and failing to even register a shot on target as they went down 3-0 to the League One team.

With the Cherries not threatened by relegation from the top flight, boss Eddie Howe was widely criticised for not given the Cup his best shot. Surely it was worth taking a risk?

Howe admitted: “In hindsight with the result, yes, but though I haven’t been forced, my hands are tied a little bit. We are so stretched, the Premier League is such a demanding league, we feel we need our best players available for selection.”

Mediocre

His caution was, therefore, understandable to some extent. But what is the point in having top players if you are not going to push for success with them?

Bournemouth have Jack Wilshere on loan from Arsenal for the season; why not use his abilities whilst you have him to push for success in the Cup?

Despite all the criticism Bournemouth received, it is a given that this weekend we will see another top-flight team make a similar amount of changes.

Perhaps it will lead to another upset. But what fans of smaller clubs really want to see is their team beating the best an opponent has to offer, not a mediocre second XI whose names are all greeted with a derisory ‘Who?’ when the line-ups are announced.

Maybe the FA should start handing out fines for clubs who make wholesale changes for Cup ties, though this would be tricky to regulate and enforce. Perhaps the prize money on offer should be boosted? It’s currently dwarfed by the riches available in the Premier League – even for finishing bottom of the table.

Financial benefits

But if the big clubs (or any club for that matter) want to field weakened teams in the Cup, they can, so perhaps when it happens the smaller ones should really go for it?

“Will the magic of the Cup still be the same if those upsets really don’t count for much in the scheme of things?”

Of course, no-one can blame Plymouth for seeing a draw at Anfield as the best-possible outcome; half the gate money, plus a full house and the TV cameras at Home Park for the replay. That’s serious money for a League Two club who flirted with going out of business not so long ago.

But part of me still thinks even the likes of Argyle could, in the circumstances, have really taken the game to Liverpool’s assortment of fringe players and kids.

Yes, they earned around £1m from the two ties, but it would have been good to see them muster more than a single shot on target at Anfield to add their admirable defensive display.

Plain unlucky

In the replay, an early goal from Lucas forced Plymouth to start playing, and start playing is exactly what they did, taking the game to the Reds and coming within inches of a stunning equaliser from Jake Jervis with a 12-yard scissor-kick.

Okay, so they still didn’t manage many attempts on goal, but still a lot more than they did at Anfield, where an inexperienced Liverpool side were there for the taking.

Again I don’t want to criticise them too much, and others will argue that they got their tactics spot on because Liverpool do struggle against defensive outfits as we’ve seen in the Premier League. At the end of the day, maybe they were just plain unlucky to lose out.

But let’s hope we see more clubs taking the FA Cup seriously this weekend. If they don’t, the ‘shock’ results will keep coming. But will the magic of the Cup still be the same if those upsets really don’t count for much in the scheme of things?

Elephant Sport midweek Championship Podcast

Elephant Sport midweek Championship Podcast

Aaron Paul, Shan Gambling and Dan Racheter take a light hearted yet informative look at the goings-on in the EFL Championship, reviewing the weekend’s games, looking ahead to tonight’s fixtures (18/10/16) and exploring some of the league’s top news stories.

In this week’s podcast: Mick McCarthy and job security at Ipswich; Fulham’s much-needed win; Neil Warnock’s arrival at Cardiff, with an upturn in fortunes for Marouane Chamakh.

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