Wolves 2 (Jonny 7, Young OG 36) Aston Villa 1 (Watkins 86)
A rocket from Jonny and an own goal from Aston Villa defender Ashley Young gave Wolves a crucial win in a full-blooded West Midlands clash at Molineux, despite Ollie Watkins’ late penalty.
Jonny scored his second goal in as many games following his strike against Leeds United on his 100th old gold appearance before the international break when he fired home to open the scoring after two quickfire Wolves efforts had been blocked by the Aston Villa defence.
After several opportunities to add a second to their tally, Wolves finally doubled their lead as the first-half drew to a close, but it wasn’t through a player wearing a gold shirt. Instead, it was the veteran Young who headed Marcal’s cross into his own net under pressure from Francisco Trincao.
Following multiple missed opportunities by the lively Watkins, he finally found the back of the net after winning and scoring a penalty. With Wolves’ advantage cut in half, Villa piled on the pressure as the game came to a close, and tempers overboiled, but they couldn’t find a last-gasp equaliser, meaning all three points stayed in Wolverhampton.
Despite very early possession going in Villa’s favour, it was Wolves who took the lead through wing-back Jonny with seven minutes on the clock. Midfielder John McGinn, fresh from scoring for Scotland on international duty, slipped on the halfway line which gifted the ball to Joao Moutinho, and the Portugal international drove at the heart of the Villa defence before he clipped a ball towards Daniel Podence on the left flank.
Another Villa slip, this time from Ezri Konsa, ensured the ball reached Podence, but his shot was excellently blocked by McGinn, who had recovered from his earlier mistake. Fabio Silva’s effort just seconds later was also blocked, but Jonny, arriving at the back post, struck a powerful half-volley past Emiliano Martinez to give Wolves the lead at the third time of asking.
Wolves could have doubled their lead soon afterwards, as Silva beat Tyrone Mings to a ball in behind, but his shot was saved well by Martinez.
Bruno Lage’s side were keen to add to their advantage as quickly as possible, and piled on the pressure to keep Aston Villa penned inside their own half. Leander Dendoncker and Marcal both saw their crosses dealt with by a claret and blue shirt, before Trincao suffered a similar fate after he neatly turned Jacob Ramsey inside the box and Silva’s subsequent shot was blocked at close range.
This wave of intensity buoyed the Molineux crowd, but Aston Villa soon turned the tide after a quarter of an hour had passed. Phillipe Coutinho’s calls for a penalty after physical defending from Willy Boly were dismissed by Darren England, and the Brazilian went close with a free-kick following Conor Coady’s late challenge on Ramsey soon after.
Leon Bailey was then denied by a fingertip save from Jose Sa, with the Jamaican’s effort destined for the top corner before Sa’s intervention. Villa continued to up the ante with plenty of set pieces, but couldn’t break down a resilient Wolves backline who were content to soak up pressure and hit the away side on the counter-attack.
That style of play resulted in the second goal. Marcal delivered an inviting cross from the left that was narrowly missed by the boot of Francisco Trincao but headed into his own net by first-half substitute Ashley Young. The 36-year-old misjudged his header, which bounced off the crossbar and past Martinez in the Villa goal to give Wolves a 2-0 lead before half-time.
Trincao had the chance to add a third following a mazy dribble from Silva, but he took too long to shoot and Young made a last ditch recovery challenge to deny the winger. Just moments later Trincao didn’t make the same mistake, as he fired off a wicked long-range effort that was parried away by Martinez.
With the game into first-half stoppage time, Wolves had one last chance to add to their advantage but Dendoncker’s left-footed shot was sliced wide of the target after a quick counter-attack that included both Trincao and Podence.
Just moments later, Wolves had yet another chance with Villa leaving plenty of space behind their backline as the half drew to a close. This time it was Silva who was found down the left, but his pulled-back cross, which looked to be heading for Dendoncker’s feet, couldn’t be controlled by Trincao on the stretch.
Half-time | Wolves 2-0 Aston Villa
It was Wolves who had the first attempt of the second-half, as Trincao jumped highest at the back post but couldn’t keep his looping header down, but it was Villa who gained momentum from this.
Ollie Watkins had a shot blocked following neat interplay by the English forward, and the rebound was cleared by Boly before a Villa shirt could capitalise. Coutinho then tried his luck again cutting in off the left, but his curling effort sailed over the bar, with Sa untroubled, and this was just the start of Villa’s pressure.
A golden chance soon fell Villa’s way, but Watkins was unable to find the target with only Sa to beat. A long ball forward by Young found his striker as Sa retreated towards his goal-line, but he couldn’t find the target from inside the penalty area as he dragged his effort wide of the far post.
Wolves had an almost identical effort not long after, as substitute Hee Chan Hwang had an effort inches away from finding the bottom corner. Coutinho lost possession in midfield and after dancing feet from Moutinho to jink past Mings, Hwang turned Matty Cash inside the box, but his shot narrowly missed the target.
On-loan Barcelona attacker Coutinho continued to demand the ball and drove through the Wolves defence, but saw his powerful strike pushed out for a corner by Sa. This woke Wolves up and a cross from Neto was inadvertently deflected onto the roof of the net by Emiliano Buendia, with Martinez left helpless, before Silva struck a sweet curling effort that needed to be tipped over by Martinez.
However, with Wolves seemingly in control Villa were given a lifeline after Sa was adjudged to have fouled Watkins inside the box by the referee just moments after the Englishman had missed another one-on-one between the pair. Watkins himself stepped up to take the spot-kick and his effort clipped the post before it crossed the line to half Wolves’ advantage as the game entered the final stages.
Villa then upped the urgency with an equaliser at the forefront of their minds, but a succession of late set pieces were dealt with by the Wolves backline, and they couldn’t find a second goal.
Full-time | Wolves 2-1 Aston Villa
Wolves | Sa, Jonny, Kilman, Coady, Boly, Marcal, Moutinho, Dendoncker; Trincao (Neto 74), Podence (Hwang 68), Silva (Chiquinho 90).
Unused subs | Ruddy, Ait-Nouri, Semedo, Toti, Saiss, Cundle.
Aston Villa | Martinez, Cash, Mings, Konsa, Digne (Young 13), Sanson (Luiz 72), McGinn, Ramsey, Coutinho (Buendia 74), Bailey, Watkins.
Unused subs | Olsen, Sinisalo, Traore, Chambers, Chukwuemeka, Iroegbunam.
By Cameron Smith