Wolves 1 (Neves 14) Everton 2 (Iwobi 6, Keane 77)
Wolves continue to look for their first Premier League win of 2021 as Ruben Neves’ goal was not enough to stop his side from falling to defeat at the hands of Everton.
The Portuguese had got Wolves back on level terms when he smashed a volleyed effort into the back of the net just seven minutes after Wolves had fallen behind when Alex Iwobi found space 20 yards out from goal and guided the ball into the net. Despite their positive play, the hosts did not get the rewards at Molineux, as Michael Keane’s header in the closing stages of the game sealed the win for the Toffees.
Two experimental line-ups went head to head from the first whistle, but it was the visitors to Molineux who took an early lead.
After neat build-up by Everton, the side advanced up the pitch before Lucas Digne, playing out of position on the left wing, played the ball backwards into acres of space in between the Wolves midfield and defence, but the unmarked Iwobi found the gap and side-footed his effort into the bottom left corner of Rui Patricio’s goal, via a deflection.
Wolves were not to sit back after falling behind as they searched for an equaliser, and it came through an unlikely source, as Neves notched his first open play goal from inside the penalty area in his gold and black career.
Following good play down Wolves’ left, Rayan Ait-Nouri found space in behind Abdoulaye Doucoure, and having raced to the byline, whipped in a dangerous cross across goal and into the centre of the box for Neves to fire home a controlled volley.
In an end-to-end first-half, Wolves and Everton both had chances to take the lead, with Fabio Silva being denied by Jordan Pickford, as the visiting keeper got down well to stop the Portuguese striker who had got a half-volley away inside the area from Pedro Neto’s cross, before Iwobi found himself one-on-one with Patricio, but fired straight at the Wolves stopper.
As the half wore on, Wolves grew in confidence and had the better of the chances, as Neves hit fly from distance to pull a save from Pickford, before Neto was unable to pick Silva out in the middle from a cross, while a powerful ball into the box from Nelson Semedo flashed past all in gold and black as well as blue shirts.
The final opportunity of the half fell to Leander Dendoncker as he was found just outside the Everton penalty area by the impressive Ait-Nouri, but the Belgian sliced his effort and the ball went harmlessly wide of Pickford’s upright.
Half-time: Wolves 1 Everton 1
The second period began with a lengthy stoppage of play while Neto received treatment having been cynically hacked down by Doucoure as the Portuguese had raced towards the Everton penalty area.
After the Everton man had picked up a yellow card for the foul, Wolves tried to take the lead from the resulting free-kick, as Joao Moutinho lifted the ball into the Everton box, but Dendoncker was unable to trouble Pickford from his headed effort which looped over the crossbar and into the empty South Bank.
It was almost two for Neves, but the second time was more of what has come to be expected by the midfielder as he produced a ‘Derby-esque’ effort to flick the ball up with the outside of his boot before hitting a near-perfect volley from 25 yards which narrowly dipped wide of the left upright.
Despite the hosts having the better of the second-half chances, it was the visitors who retook the lead with less than 15 minutes remaining. Having cleared away an initial corner, Wolves were pegged back immediately as Andre Gomes’ cross found the head of Keane inside the area who leapt highest and loop a header over Patricio and inside the far post.
Wolves pressed to get back on level terms once again, and came inches away from getting their rewards when Neves stepped up to a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area, and having beaten the wall, the ball just didn’t dip enough as it clipped the top of the Everton crossbar with Pickford beaten.
The hosts continued to push into the five minutes of added time, but their efforts were in vain as Dendoncker flashed a header wide of the post to see Everton take the three points.
Full-time: Wolves 1 Everton 2
Wolves: Patricio, Semedo, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri, Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho (Vitinha 86), Gibbs-White (Hoever 64), Neto, Silva (Cutrone 78).
Unused subs: Ruddy, Lonwijk, Kilman, Richards, Shabani, Corbeanu.
Everton: Pickford, Holgate, Digne, Godfrey, Keane, Mina, Doucoure, Davies (Gomes 64), Sigurdsson, Iwobi (Richarlison 76), Rodriguez (Coleman 86).
Unused subs: Olsen, Kenny, Nkounkou, Bernard, Gordon, Tosun.
Referee: Martin Atkinson