Crystal Palace 3 (Street 7, Rich-Baghuelou 36, Omilabu 100) Wolves 2 (Corbeanu 47, 76)
Theo Corbeanu’s brace was not enough to see Wolves take their place in the Premier League 2 Division 2 play-off final, as the under-23s fell to Crystal Palace in extra-time following a thrilling semi-final contest at Selhurst Park.
Despite going two goals down in the first-half, Corbeanu hit two sweet strikes from the left in the second period to get his side back level, but Palace hit a third late on to progress into the final and a chance of promotion to Division 1, while ending Wolves’ 2020/21 campaign.
The first opportunity of the match fell the way of the hosts, who came inches away from taking the lead within the opening 10 minutes.
A clever ball over the top found Rob Street lurking behind the Wolves defence, and the Palace striker lifted the ball over the onrushing Jackson Smith in the old gold’s goal, but Pascal Estrada was able to get back and stop the ball from crossing the goalline.
However, it didn’t take long for the Eagles to strike the first blow of the evening, as from the resulting corner, Jay Rich-Baghuelou found the head of Street who made no mistake when he jumped highest in the area and planted his header beyond Smith.
Wolves were appealing for a penalty just minutes later when Owen Hesketh’s shot from the edge of the Palace penalty area appeared to strike the arm of Palace defender Lewis Hobbs in the box, but the referee waved play-on.
The visitors came closest through the head of Jack Scott, which the young Northern Irishman bringing a good save out of Palace keeper Oliver Webber, as the right-back got up well from a Luke Cundle free-kick which was directed into the box, but Webber was equal to his effort to palm his header around the upright.
Scott was creating Wolves’ best moments of the first-half, as good work by Cundle and Hesketh saw the under-21 international found in space on the edge of the host’s box, but his effort was deflected wide of the post. Taylor Perry then had a shot from 12 yards out blocked behind for a corner as the visitors grew into the game.
Webber had to be at his best to deny Cundle from distance, as the midfielder almost directed his dipping free-kick into the top corner, but the Palace stopped was able to get his fingertips to the ball as he pushed it over the crossbar at full stretch. Moments later it was Smith’s turn to be hero in the Wolves goal as he made a smart double stop to deny James Taylor one-on-one and then Jesurun Rak-Sakyi from point-blank range.
But there was nothing Smith could do just seconds later as Rich-Baghuelou picked up the ball 18 yards out from goal and slotted a low drive into the bottom left corner, despite being surrounded by gold and black shirts.
With it all to do in the second-half, Wolves halved the deficit just 60 seconds after the restart, as Corbeanu celebrated his 19th birthday with a stunning strike to get a goal back for his side.
Having made his senior Premier League debut on Sunday afternoon against Tottenham Hotspur, the Canadian used his pace to cut in from the left before launching an excellent effort from 20 yards out which flew beyond the reach of Webber and into the top corner of the net.
As Wolves looked for the equalising goal as the half wore on, both sides were limited to little in the way of chances, but Corbeanu doubled his tally for the evening with another impressive effort. Scott’s cross into the box was only half cleared by the Palace defence to the edge of the area, and with his first touch, the winger curled an unstoppable low shot inside the far post.
There was to be no hat-trick for the birthday boy as Corbeanu had to be replaced by Cyriaque Mayounga with just minutes of the 90 remaining after the Canadian went down under an innocuous challenge on the wing.
Full-time: Palace 2-2 Wolves
The legs of both sets of players began to tire throughout extra-time, but it was Chem Campbell, fresh off the bench at the end of the 90 minutes who had the best chance to put Wolves ahead for the first time in the match, but he could only drag his shot wide from the edge of the box.
Wolves were left to rue that chance as Palace regained the lead at the other end. Eagles substitute David Omilabu was played in between the Wolves defence before slipping the ball under the legs of Smith from close range.
The visitors were pushing for their second equaliser of the evening but were struggling to break down a dogged Palace defence. However, twice in quick succession Scott tried his luck, firstly sending a header towards goal after latching onto a Cundle free-kick, but he was unable to keep his effort from missing narrowly over the crossbar. The right-back then brought a decent diving save from Webber as he drilled a shot towards the bottom left corner.
Wolves came inches away from getting back on level terms as Rafa Nya played a ball across the face of the Palace six-yard box but Campbell, racing in at the far post, was unable to stretch enough to turn the ball home.
Despite launching attack after attack into the Palace box, it was not enough for James Collins’ young side, whose season came to an end in play-off defeat.
Extra-time: Palace 3-2 Wolves
Palace: Webber, Russell (Hannam 67), Hobbs, M. Boateng, O’Brien, Rich-Baghuelou, D. Boateng, Taylor, Spence (Omilabu 82), Rak-Sakyi (Gordon 82), Street.
Unused subs: Whitworth, Trialist.
Wolves: Smith, Scott, Estrada, Richards, Matheson (Nya 46), Hong Wan, Cundle, Perry, Hesketh, Corbeanu (Mayounga 88), Carty (Campbell 91).
Unused subs: Young, Hodnett.