Wolves 0 Aston Villa 1 (El Ghazi PEN 90)
An injury time penalty from Anwar El Ghazi snatched Aston Villa a dramatic victory at Molineux, in a contest which saw Wolves enjoy the lion’s share of possession and strike the upright, before both sides finished with ten men.
On his first Premier League start, Fabio Silva hit the post, while Emiliano Martinez made a string of strong saves to deny the likes of Daniel Podence and Leander Dendoncker, before Douglas Luiz saw red for the visitors.
Then, as the game entered injury time, Nelson Semedo’s clumsy foul on John McGinn allowed El Ghazi to strike the decisive blow from the spot, before Joao Moutinho received his marking orders himself in the dying embers of the game.
Always a mouth-watering fixture on the calendar, but in the absence of Molineux’s raucous atmosphere, proceedings took a while to warm up. Villa’s trio of yellow cards in the opening half hour suggested Wolves were causing problems, but Martinez remained untested, even when Pedro Neto’s vicious free-kick looks goalbound, as his defenders got in the way before him.
With Silva starting, Podence was given a freer role behind the youngster and was finding pockets of space to hurt the visitors. First, after good work by Neto, Podence’s left-footed strike was deflected behind by Tyrone Mings, before the Portuguese tested Martinez with his right moments later, but the goalkeeper was equal to the effort.
In the closing stages of the half, Wolves were finding their groove, with Dendoncker calling Martinez into action again and Podence watching his deflected strike drop wide. Then, with the final action of the half, a devilish delivery from Moutinho was glanced goalwards by Silva, but Conor Coady couldn’t stretch enough at the back post to convert.
Half-time: Wolves 0 Aston Villa 0
The tight nature of the contest continued after the break, with efforts aplenty, as Luiz hit a crisp effort just wide of the upright and Adama Traore let fly with a low strike which Martinez handled well.
In Neto, Wolves had an outlet which remained threatening, and once he cut in on his left foot and let fly, Martinez flew across his goal and breathed a sight of relief as it sailed just wide. As for Villa, Ollie Watkins called Rui Patricio into action at his near post, with the Portuguese producing the required save.
Up top for Wolves, Silva had worked tirelessly, and when his one big chance arrived, he was hugely unlucky. Podence was the creator, charging through the middle and slipping the forward through, and Silva’s effort looked to be heading in, only for the ball to bounce back off the post. That chance spurred Wolves on and both Romain Saiss and Semedo forced Martinez into routine saves soon after.
The Villa stopper was by far the busier as the contest reached a climax, next pushing away Dendoncker’s volley, following a Neto rabona cross, although the Belgian would have disappointed, particularly as Ruben Neves replaced him seconds later.
With 11 bookings between the two teams in a fiery affair, it was little surprise when two eventually combined for a red at the first man responsible was Luiz, jumping in late on Podence and receiving his marching orders with fives minutes remaining.
However, that was just the start of the drama. When McGinn turned Semedo, the defender looked in trouble and once he hauled down the Scot, Mike Dean pointed to the spot. El Ghazi made no mistake from the spot, sending Patricio the wrong way to seal the point the points.
There was little time for Wolves to react, but still time for Moutinho was receive his first red in old gold colours for a second yellow card, summing up a frustrating afternoon, which had promised to be much brighter.
Full-time: Wolves 0 Aston Villa 1
Wolves: Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Marcal, Moutinho, Dendoncker (Neves 80), Traore, Podence, Neto, Silva.
Unused subs: Ruddy, Ait-Nouri, Boly, Otasowie, Kilman, Vitinha.
Villa: Martinez, Cash, Konsa, Mings, Targett, Luiz, McGinn, Ramsey (Nakamba 90), Grealish, Traore (El Ghazi 74), Watkins.
Unused subs: Steer, Hause, Guilbert, El Mohamady, Hourihane.