Report | Everton 0-1 Wolves

Everton 0 Wolves 1 (Kalajdzic 88)

Wolves picked up their first win of the 2023/24 Premier League season as Sasa Kalajdzic made an instant impact off the bench against Everton to head home his first goal for the Old Gold late on at Goodison Park.

Both teams had spent the proceeding 87 minutes in a ding-dong battle where the goalkeepers were tested but it looked like there wouldn’t be a deciding goal. But the six foot seven Austrian, only just on as a late substitute got up high inside the box to divert Pedro Neto’s cross into the net and give Gary O’Neil his opening win as Wolves head coach.

The first-half at Goodison Park was a very scrappy affair, which was probably to be expected with both teams coming into the game looking for their first points of the new 2023/24 Premier League season.

It would have been the Toffees who went into the break the happier of the two sides however, having had the best of the limited opportunities that were few and far between them.

Arnaut Danjuma would have felt aggrieved not to have put his side ahead during the opening 45 minutes, as he twice fired wide of Jose Sa’s woodwork. The forward was then denied by the Wolves goalkeeper, who palmed an effort onto the post before it fortunately bounced back into the gloves of the Portuguese. However, the offside flag was then raised against the Everton man.

The hosts tried to catch Wolves out on the break every time the red shirts of the Black Country men saw their own attacks break down, but their biggest opportunity came from a set-piece.

A corner was only half cleared by Wolves and the ball was put back into the box, taking a delfection on its way to Sa’s goal who could only parry it as far as James Tarkowski, but the defender lashed his shot into the side netting from a great position and with the goal gaping.

Wolves’ best opportunities came with 10 minutes of the half remaining. Hee Chan Hwang and Hugo Bueno – making their first starts of the season – combined well down the left before a cross found its way to Joao Gomes who saw his powerful shot blocked, before Pedro Neto couldn’t keep his effort from flying over Jordan Pickford’s crossbar off the rebound.

Half-time | Everton 0-0 Wolves

Despite O’Neil replacing Hwang with Rayan Ait-Nouri at the break, not much changes in terms of the flow of the game following the break, as Everton continued to lay siege to the Wolves goal.

Three times Sa had to come to his side’s rescue, to punch away a corner, before palming the rebound away and then catching hold of the ball after Jarrad Branthwaite tried to direct his header on target.

The visitors did have the ball in the back of the net 10 minutes after the restart, but the offside flag denied Fabio Silva his first of the season. The striker diverted Bueno’s cross into the far corner, but he had made his run slightly too early to get the wrong side of the Everton defence.

The game was beginning to stretch from end to end as the second half progressed. Moments after Silva put a good chance wide of the post, Everton raced forward and tested the Wolves defence, with Maximilian Kilman having to concede a corner to stop Lewis Dobbin’s dangerous cross.

Both goalkeepers were having to show their class to make two stunning stops to keep the scores down. Firstly, Pickford readjusted brilliantly to palm a Neto free-kick which took several deflections from crossing the goal line, before Sa somehow managed to push Abdoulaye Doucoure’s header from point blank range over his own crossbar with an acrobatic piece of goalkeeping.

With 15 minutes to go, it was Everton’s turn to have a goal disallowed by the assistant referee, as Doucoure was picked out in the Wolves box before turning the ball low under Sa, but the flag was raised against the midfielder to the relief of all in visiting red.

Yet with the clock ticking down, Wolves found a way past Pickford. Neto was played in down the right and whipped a cross straight onto the head of substitute Kalajdzic who rose high in the box to flick the ball into the far corner of the net and beyond Pickford.

Wolves were put under pressure in the closing stages of the match, but the players dug deep to hold on to their first three points of the season.

Full-time | Everton 0-1 Wolves

Everton | Pickford, Patterson, Branthwaite, Tarkowski, Young, Gueye (Keane 90), Onana, Doucoure, Garner, Dobbin (Chermiti 66), Danjuma (Cannon 90).

Unused subs | Virginia, Lonergan, Mykolenko, Godfrey, Maupay, Onyango.

Wolves | Sa, Semedo, Dawson, Kilman, Bueno (Toti 85), Lemina, J. Gomes, Neto, Cunha (Kalajdzic 85), Hwang (Ait-Nouri 46), Silva (Sarabia 73).

Unused subs | Bentley, Doherty, Jonny, Traore, Hodge.

Referee | Craig Pawson