Sheff United 0 Wolves 2 (Jimenez 3, Saiss 6)
A rip-roaring start to the new campaign at Bramall Lane saw Wolves put the wheels in motion for a successful 2020/21, as Raul Jimenez and Romain Saiss left Sheffield United shellshocked and without a response.
A counterattack typical of Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves got the ball rolling after just three minutes, as Daniel Podence charged down the left and set up Jimenez to side-foot home in impressive fashion.
Just three minutes later and the ultra-effective Wolves wrapped up the three points. A set piece was the method this time and saw Pedro Neto swing in for Saiss, who adjusted in the air, lent back and thumped a header beyond the desperate dive of Aaron Ramsdale.
That was that for Wolves, who remained organised and difficult to break down thereafter. Both sides struck the woodwork after the break, John Fleck with a crisp effort for the Blades, and Saiss, looking for his second, when Ramsdale turned his shot onto the post.
However, it was the ideal beginning for Nuno’s Wolves, who started as they mean to go on during the fresh Premier League campaign.
It may have been a new season at Bramall Lane, but it took just a matter of minutes for Wolves to begin telling the same old story. Two goals in the opening six minutes left Nuno Espirito Santo in dreamland and put his side in the ascendancy.
Podence was the creator on the counterattack down the left, producing a smart turn and showing John Lundstram a clean pair of heels, before looking up and picking out Jimenez in the middle, and the Mexican made a difficult finish look easy, side-footing into the top corner after just three minutes.
Having scored the majority of their goals in the second-half last season, Wolves were making amends in spectacular fashion in South Yorkshire and doubled their lead three minutes later. This time Neto’s corner was slightly behind Saiss, but the defender arched his back and produced a thumping header beyond the flying dive of Ramsdale.
Between the two goals, Jimenez had also stung the palms of the Blades goalkeeper, latching on to a Adama Traore cross, and the Mexican was a nuisance throughout, even running the flanks and setting up Neto before the half was out, but the Portuguese was unable to trap the ball and lost possession.
The opening 45 minutes were the perfect way to open up the campaign, with Conor Coady typically organised and vocal at the back, marshalling his team impressively in front of the onlooking England manager Gareth Southgate.
Half-time: Sheff United 0 Wolves 2
Wolves had starved the Blades of opportunities before the break, but it was a different story after it, as the hosts went in search of a route back into the contest. Enda Stevens had already sliced wide by the time John Fleck struck the foot of the post, before George Baldock’s drilled rebound was cleared for a corner.
The close calls kept on coming, this time at the other end however, as Joao Moutinho’s corner found the head of Saiss, but the Moroccan’s effort this time dropped narrowly wide of Ramsdale’s goal.
Remarkably, Saiss was in the thick of the attacking action on 70 minutes too. This time providing the left side of a three-pronged counterattack with Jimenez and Traore – the former slipped him in, but Saiss’ powerful effort was turned onto the post by Ramsdale and Jimenez couldn’t react quickly enough, hitting the rebound wide.
Traore found himself in the attacking position due to the earlier change, which saw Oskar Buur replace Neto and saw the Spaniard pushed forward into a more familiar attacking position, while Ruben Neves replaced Podence for the final 15 minutes.
Both changes freed Traore, who produced an incredible piece of skill to keep the ball in play on the left wing before having a wicked shot deflected behind for a corner. From the following set piece, Moutinho curled in for Jimenez, who got ahead of his man, but watched his header come back off the post.
Marcal had been impressive on his debut, not giving the Blades an inch throughout, and Vitinha joined him in making his debut in the closing stages, playing the final five minutes in place of Moutinho, who’d set up Podence for the first goal with a sumptuous pass in the opening stages, as Wolves saw out the victory.
Full-time: Sheff United 0 Wolves 2
Sheff Utd: Ramsdale, Baldock, Basham, O’Connell (McGoldrick 75), Egan, Stevens, Norwood (Berge 76), Lundstram, Fleck, Shap, McBurnie.
Unused subs: Foderingham, Jagielka, Ampadu, Osborn, Burke.
Wolves: Patricio, Traore, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Marcal, Moutinho (Vitinha 86), Dendoncker, Neto (Buur 69), Podence (Neves 76), Jimenez.
Unused subs: Ruddy, Vinagre, Jota, Silva.