Report | Wolves 0-1 Norwich

Wolves 0 Norwich City 1 (McClean 45)

Wolves’ winning start to 2022 finally came to an end in the Emirates FA Cup fourth round as Norwich City were the victors in a scrappy tie at Molineux, which produced little in the way of goalmouth action.

In similar scenes to their Premier League meeting a few months previously, Wolves struggled to break down a stubborn Norwich defence, and despite Daniel Podence striking the post in a second-half where the hosts showed more of a goal threat, Kenny McLean’s header in first-half added time was enough for the Canaries to secure their place in the fifth round.

As Conor Coady led Wolves out onto the Molineux pitch, he was greeted with a giant mosaic which spanned the Steve Bull Stand, celebrating his 300th appearance in gold and black. However, the early stages of the game did not mirror the occasion, with neither team offering much in the way of clear goalmouth chances, as Grant Hanley was given a stern talking to by referee David Coote for wasting time with just 11 minutes on the clock.

Although Wolves were controlling the game in front of the home fans, it took a big stop from John Ruddy – the only change from the team which beat Brentford last time out – to save his side from going behind. A ball behind the Wolves defence caught Rayan Ait-Nouri out as he played Adam Idah onside, but the goalkeeper spread himself wide to get a strong hand on the ball.

The host’s first true test in attack came midway through the opening half, as Fabio Silva was slipped in behind the Norwich defence by strike partner Daniel Podence, but Norwich had Ben Gibson to thank as the defender was able to block Silva’s effort behind for a corner.

Wolves’ tactic appeared to be playing long-balls over the top of the Norwich defence with Silva and Leander Dendoncker racing to get on the end of them, but unfortunately for Bruno Lage’s men, their efforts appeared to be in vain as the Canaries’ backline comfortably dealt with the pressure.

The first-half needed a moment to spark it into life, and it almost came from the boot of a Norwich player, as Idah once again managed to get behind the Wolves defence and shift the ball onto his left foot, but the Irish international could only fire his shot straight at Ruddy. The gold and black shirts broke straight up the other end of the pitch, and Podence went down in the penalty area under a challenge from Hanley, but the referee was unmoved.

Inside the one added minute of first-half injury time, and with the final kick of the period, Norwich broke the deadlock. A soft foul by Maximilian Kilman on the sideline saw a free-kick whipped into the danger area and McLean flicked his looping header into the far corner and beyond Ruddy.

Half-time | Wolves 0-1 Norwich

After the first-half was played at a pedestrian pace, the second 45 minutes started brightly, as Silva tip-toed into the penalty area and flashed the ball across the face of goal, but there was nobody else in gold and black making the run into the box.

The game swung one way and then the other, as Milot Rashica hit an effort well wide of the post, before Idah almost caught Ruddy out after the keeper made a poor touch, but the Wolves man was able to regain the ball before playing calmly out of the back.

It was then Wolves’ turn to pile pressure on the goal, and somehow the ball stayed out when Nelson Semedo crossed for Podence, who attempted to roll an effort towards goal, but it came back off the base of the post. Semedo then had an effort of his own which tested Michael McGovern in the Norwich goal, while Podence found the ball at his feet inside the area, but was crowded out by green shirts before he could get his shot away.

Lage attempted to keep the pressure on Norwich by bringing Raul Jimenez off the bench, with Toti being sacrificed for the Mexican striker. The switch saw Silva move to the right-wing, and it almost paid immediate dividends as the forward was played into space after a marauding run through the Norwich midfield by Neves, but Silva’s cross towards Jimenez was comfortably snuffed out by McGovern.

As Wolves kept pushing for an equaliser, Lage changed shape once again and handed a debut for Chiquinho – who was celebrating his 22nd birthday – in place of Dendoncker, meaning the hosts were playing a 4-4-2 for the final 15 minutes of the match.

The change gave the hosts the impetus to keep attacking against a Norwich side that were happy to defend deep with a back nine men, however Wolves struggled to break down the green walls they were faced with, and were almost caught out when a quick Norwich counter-attack saw Kieran Dowell played into space in the centre of the penalty area, but Ruddy got down well to his left to palm the ball around the post.

Wolves tried everything they could to find the goal that would level up the tie – even sending Ruddy forward for a corner in the closing stages – despite Norwich finding several players in the referee’s notebook for persistent time-wasting as they attempted to eat the remaining minutes. But the tactic proved to be the correct one, as the Canaries booked their place in the hat for the fifth round.

Full-time | Wolves 0-1 Norwich

Wolves | Ruddy, Semedo, Kilman, Coady, Toti (Jimenez 64), Ait-Nouri, Neves, Moutinho, Dendoncker (Chiquinho 74), Podence, Silva.

Unused subs | Sa, Hoever, Marcal, Cundle, Campbell.

Norwich | McGovern, Byram, Gibson, Hanley, Williams, Placheta, Gilmour (Dowell 72), Lees-Melou, McLean (Normann 66), Rashica (Rowe 82), Idah (Pukki 66).

Unused subs | Gunn, Aarons, McCracken, Tzolis, Giannoulis.

Referee | David Coote