Southampton 3 Wolves 1 – Report and pictures
Poor defensive errors cost Wolves as they suffered a 3-1 defeat at Southampton.
Nathan Redmond fired Southampton into the lead inside just 90 seconds from a Josh Sims cross. Wolves equalised through a Willy Boly header on 28 minutes but Redmond restored Saints' lead just two minutes later.
Raul Jimenez wasted a great chance after the break and a minute later Southampton went 3-1 up when Shane Long prodded home with Adama Traore keeping him onside.
Rui Patricio made a couple of fine saves to keep the score down as Saints deservedly ran out winners.
It must be incredibly difficult to rouse a team after a blow as crushing as last weekend.
But whatever happened to Wolves six days ago, there was no excuse for this defensive capitulation, writes Tim Spiers at St Mary's.
Nuno Espirito Santo's team will have desperately wanted to immediately bounce back from their semi-final nightmare.
Instead they contrived to produce arguably the worst defensive display since the Portuguese head coach rolled into town in the summer of 2017.
Southampton scored three but it should have been far more. Wolves dithered, they hesitated, they gave the ball away, they didn't keep their shape or discipline. They played like strangers at the back.
Their defensive performance, as with their succumbing to Watford last weekend, was most un-Wolves-like under Nuno.
There were numerous culprits and an excessive number of individual mistakes.
Going forward wasn't as much of an issue – in the first half they responded to conceding an unforgivable early goal, just as they had at Burnley, with a bright attacking display that hinted they could score a few goals themselves.
Attack was the best form of defence and Wolves enjoyed 70 per cent possession overall, but once Saints had restored their lead on the half hour they could afford to sit deep and soak it all up.
The problems were at the other end – and Wolves got exactly what they deserved.
It continued their poor record against struggling sides. Against the current bottom five they've played eight, won two and lost five.
A Wembley hangover? Maybe, but Wolves haven't won away from home in the league since February 2 and this defeat shared hallmarks with losses at Burnley and Cardiff.
It would be such a shame if their season petered out from here. It's been a magical campaign – and Nuno had five games left to oversee the conclusion it deserves.
Nuno kept faith with the same outfield team that had succumbed to Watford at Wembley, with Rui Patricio replacing John Ruddy in goal being the only change from last Sunday.
Southampton had Danny Ings available again after he was ineligible to face parent club Liverpool last time out. He was the lone man up front with Charlie Austin and Shane Long on the bench.
The Saints came into the game in decent form with three wins in their past five, which had seen them climb five points clear of the relegation zone.
For Wolves, then, the game was reminiscent of their last away trip to Burnley, facing a struggling team arguably in a false position.
However they took that notion a little too literally. As at Turf Moor they fell asleep at the back and conceded inside 90 seconds.
Josh Sims got in behind Willy Boly and Jonny Castro Otto down the right and was able to pick out Nathan Redmond with a low ball into the six-yard box – he nipped in ahead of a dithering Romain Saiss to slam home with a minute and a half on the clock. It was a desperately poor goal to concede.
Wolves were shell-shocked and the obvious accusation was they were suffering a Wembley hangover.
However, after 10 minutes they got a foothold in the game and started to impress going forward. Matt Doherty's trademark barging run into the box saw the ball break for Ruben Neves, who sent a deflected long-ranger just wide. From the resulting corner Joao Moutinho, not for the last time, brilliantly whipped the ball into the box and Leander Dendoncker planted a powerful 12-yard header inches past the post.
Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez have been in superb form in recent weeks, netting eight of Wolves' past nine goals, and they continued in that manner here, combining to great effect and troubling the Saints back-line.
Jota raced towards the box, holding off the challenge of three players but couldn't cross for his partner. Then the Portuguese forward played to the Mexican whose shot from 18-yards was held by Angus Gunn.
Dendoncker then saw a close range effort blocked after great work from Jonny Castro Otto. It was all Wolves – a deserved equaliser soon followed.
The trusty right boot of Moutinho bent a corner towards Willy Boly who, under pressure, planted a perfect header into the corner for his second goal of the campaign.
That should have been the foundation for Wolves to take charge. Instead they capitulated.
Redmond equalised inside two minutes, latching on to a defence splitting pass and being kept onside by Conor Coady, before dinking cutely over Patricio for his second of the game.
Wolves were rocked. Ruben Neves misplaced a basic pass in his own third and the impressive Sims fired across goal from a good position.
The after yet another poor pass Sims was played in again, this time all on his own, but fired past the advancing Patricio and wide. It could have should have been at least 3-1 – Wolves were all over the shop at the back in what was their worst defensive display of the season.
Going forward they looked capable of causing Southampton problems, especially through Jimenez and Jota, meaning attack was very much the best form of defence.
That was certainly the attitude they took at the start of the second half, coming out with attacking intentions and looking for a brisk equaliser.
Jota nearly provided it when he took Otto's pass 12 yards out, but he could only fire over the bar on the turn.
Wolves huffed and puffed with plenty of pressure and a couple of corners, but they weren't blowing the Saints door down. Nuno called for Adama Traore, with Doherty the man withdrawn on the hour mark.
The Spaniard made an instant impact, sprinting past two defenders and sending over a decent cross, which was cleared. He repeated the trick two minutes later to win a corner – it was all Wolves, albeit without creating a clear-cut opportunity.
That arrived on 69 minutes – but Jimenez blew his lines. A corner was nodded back into the six-yard box – a defender merely helped it on to the boot of Jimenez, who had a free volley from just eight yards, but his effort was shanked so far wide it went out for a throw.
That was the chance Wolves had craved. And a minute later Southampton made them pay for spurning it.
A corner wasn't cleared properly and was prodded goalwards where substitute Shane Long, criminally being kept onside by a motionless Traore who was two or three yards deeper than his team mates, beat Patricio.
Wolves' defensive struggles had cost them all afternoon and the incompetence continued. Maya Yoshisa was left alone in the box but Patrico pulled off an excellent save. Then Boly criminally failed to clear his lines, leading to Vestergaard trying to round the keeper before Wolves scrambled clear. Otto let a corner bounce off him and roll goalwards, Saiss was booked for a poor foul...they were all at it.
The closing stages were a procession. A week in Marbella awaits – let's hope it's just what Wolves need.
02 - Goal! Southampton capitalise on some woeful Wolves defending to take an early lead. Sims gets in behind Boly too easily and plays a low cross to Redmond, who gets across Saiss to poke home. Very sloppy.
28 - GOAL!! Boly atones for his part in the opener by levelling for Wolves. Moutinho comes up with a typically excellent delivery from a corner, and the Frenchman powerfully heads into the top corner.
30 - Goal! Sloppiness at the back costs Nuno's team for a second time as the Saints swiftly regain the advantage. Redmond beats the offside trap to latch onto a through-ball and lobs over Patricio for his second.
69 - What a miss from Wolves! Yoshida makes a mess of an attempted headed clearance, allowing Jimenez to hit it on the volley from 10 yards. His strike, though, sails out for a throw-in.
71 - Goal! The theme of lazy defending from Nuno's men continues as former Albion striker Long, off the bench, adds a third. Traore loses concentration and plays the Irishman onside as he taps in.
73 - Wolves are falling apart at the seams. Yoshida looks to get on the scoresheet but is denied by Patricio at point-blank range. Top work from the Portuguese preventing further embarrassment.
Southampton (5-4-1): Gunn; Valery (Stephens, 84), Yoshida, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Bertrand; Sims (Romeu, 61), Ward-Prowse, Hojbjerg (c), Redmond; Ings (Long, 61)
Subs not used: McCarthy (gk), Targett, Armstrong, Austin
Goals: Redmond (2, 30), Long (71)
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio; Saiss, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty (Traore, 60), Dendoncker, Neves (Gibbs-White, 70), Moutinho, Otto; Jimenez, Jota (Costa, 87)
Subs not used: Ruddy (gk), Bennett, Vinagre, Cavaleiro
Goal: Boly (28)
Referee: Jonathan Moss (West Yorkshire)
8th (47 points from 33 matches)
Wolves are back at Molineux next Saturday when they welcome Brighton, kick off 3pm.