Wolves 1 – 0 Aston Villa
Wolves 1 – 0 Aston Villa. Toti scored his first Wolves goal as Julen Lopetegui’s side beat European hopefuls Aston Villa at Molineux to banish any lingering fears of Premier League relegation.
The hard-fought victory lifts Lopetegui’s team to 40 points, 10 clear of 18th-placed Nottingham Forest, who have four games left to play.
Portuguese centre-back Toti gave Wolves the lead inside 10 minutes, sending a towering header beyond Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez via the underside of the crossbar.
The visitors dominated possession and went close to equalising in the first half through Emiliano Buendia and Ollie Watkins, before Ashley Young steered a low, curling shot past Jose Sa’s right-hand post early in the second half.
Tyrone Mings blazed Douglas Luiz’s delivery over the crossbar as Villa applied heavy pressure late on, but the hosts held firm to claim a fourth consecutive home league victory and a fourth successive clean sheet in front of their own fans.
Villa stay eighth but have now played three games more than seventh-placed Brighton, who are one point ahead and host struggling Everton on Monday.
Before the game, Lopetegui said his players would need to deliver a near-perfect performance to match an Aston Villa side enjoying a new lease of life under Unai Emery.
While the hosts’ display was far from error free, the result was the ideal antidote to last Saturday’s humbling defeat by Brighton at Amex Stadium and all but confirms their place in the top flight next season.
Wolves’ high press forced an early corner from which Toti rose above Jacob Ramsey to break the deadlock, while a combination of dogged defending and inspired goalkeeping kept Villa at bay at the other end.
The home side did have opportunities to double their lead, Matheus Cunha firing over the bar from Diego Costa’s knockdown before the former Chelsea striker shot straight at Martinez not long after half-time.
Matheus Nunes perhaps should have given Wolves a two-goal cushion from Pedro Neto’s low cross, but he failed to connect with his compatriot’s delivery.
Wolves have now registered seven wins from their nine Premier League fixtures at Molineux in 2023 – only Manchester City and Manchester United have a better record on home soil.
They last recorded four consecutive top-flight home wins in April 1975.
Aston Villa’s momentum under Emery has stalled recently, with Saturday’s defeat coming six days after a 1-0 reverse to Manchester United at Old Trafford.
However, with games against fellow European hopefuls Tottenham, Liverpool and Brighton to come, Villa’s hopes of securing continental football next season remain very much alive.
After falling behind to Wolves’ first real attack of the match, Sa produced a marvellous one-handed save to prevent a Buendia half-volley from nestling in the bottom corner.
Top scorer Watkins, who is now without a goal in four matches, powered a header straight at Sa from Ramsey’s delivery, while Craig Dawson’s last-ditch tackle prevented the lively Buendia from getting a shot away after skipping past Max Kilman.
Emery handed Bertrand Traore his first league start in 16 months at Molineux but it failed to pay off, the former Chelsea and Lyon forward surrendering possession cheaply on several occasions before being hooked at half-time for fit-again Leon Bailey.
Mings squandered the visitors’ best chance in the second half, escaping the attention of the Wolves defence but firing Luiz’s free-kick high over the bar from an excellent position.
Having scored in 20 previous league games under Emery, Villa have now failed to find the net in back-to-back fixtures under the Spaniard.
source – BBC