Wolves forced to battle hard for a point at Brighton
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side have now gone unbeaten for 11 games
Diogo Jota of Wolverhampton Wanderers celebrates with teammates after his goal during the Premier League draw with Brighton. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
It has been almost 60 years since Wolves last went 11 matches unbeaten in the top flight, under their legendary manager Stan Cullis, and they had Diogo Jota to thanks for emulating that record after the Portugal forward’s two goals earned a hard-fought point on the south coast.
After dominating the opening half an hour of this contest that saw Jota give the visitors a deserved lead, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side found themselves trailing to two goals in the space of two minutes from Neal Maupay and Davy Pröpper and apparently heading for a first defeat since mid-September.
Yet it is a testament to the battling qualities instilled by their much-admired manager that Wolves equalised almost immediately through Jota before holding off a second-half onslaught from Graham Potter’s industrious Brighton team to move back up to sixth spot. Both teams came into this match buoyed by victory in midweek, with Brighton’s only change to the side which turned over Arsenal at the Emirates on Thursday seeing record signing Leandro Trossard replace the injured Aaron Connolly. That meant a change in formation to counter Wolves’s tried and tested system, with Trossard and Pascal Gross providing support to Maupay in attack.
With 24 hours more to recover after Wednesday’s win over West Ham Nuno named an unchanged side as he attempted to end a remarkably bad run of results against these opponents that had seen Wolves fail to score in their last four meetings.
Yet the patchy early-season form that saw the Portuguese’s side fail to win any of their first six matches, as they struggled to cope with the demands of the Europa League, is now a distant memory. Their rapid rise up the table since then thanks to an unbeaten run that stretches back to the 5-2 thumping at home to Chelsea on 14 September is testament to the quality Wolves possess in all areas, though they could easily have found themselves behind inside the first 60 seconds here had Lewis Dunk’s header from a Gross corner hit the target.
From that point, however, the visitors’ midfield pairing of Rúben Neves and João Moutinho seized control. The latter’s powerful bending shot from the edge of the area somehow missed the far post before Mat Ryan did brilliantly to deny a Romain Saiss header after a dinked cross by Raul Jimenez.
But there was nothing he could do to prevent Jota’s first goal just before the half-hour mark. After finding Jimenez following a driving run from the left flank, the Portugal forward was on hand to tap home his return ball to the far post to give Wolves a deserved lead. Yet having spurned a chance to make it 2-0 shortly afterwards, Jota must have watched on in disbelief as somehow Brighton found themselves ahead within five minutes of his miss.
A long ball from Dale Stephens from deep in his own half picked out Maupay’s clever run and the French striker somehow sneaked his brilliant first-time shot past the dive of Rui Patricio.
Less than two minutes later, a twisting run down the left from Trossard allowed him to find Pröpper’s head to make it 2-1. It could have been even worse for Wolves had Aaron Mooy’s effort gone the other side of the post but instead they were level on the stroke of half-time after Pröpper’s errant pass was seized on by Jonny Otto and Jota made no mistake with a smart finish.
After such a frantic end to the half, a more structured pattern of play emerged after the break that saw Brighton dominating possession and territory. The Wolves bench felt they should have had a penalty following a rare foray forward when Dunk bravely attempted to head the ball on the ground in an attempt to deny Jota his hat-trick, with VAR ruling that there was no case to answer for handball.
Potter threw on Glenn Murray and Iran forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh in a move that indicated his desire to secure all three points and the Wolves defence almost gifted Stephens the winning goal after sloppily giving the ball away as they attempted to play out from the back.
Aside from a couple of Adama Traoré bursts that saw both Dunk and Dan Burn shown yellow cards for bringing down the fleet-footed winger, Wolves struggled to create another opportunity until their substitute Neto just failed to get his shot away in the dying minutes but they will be happy to head home with a share of the spoils. – Guardian