Wolverhampton Wanderers scored the first Molineux goals of the Bruno Lage era last night, but they were again on the wrong side of a tight result.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s Tottenham Hotspur claimed a 3-2 penalty shoot-out win over Wolves after the game had ended 2-2 in normal time.
Wolves fought back from 2-0 down with goals from Leander Dendoncker and Daniel Podence drawing them level before the drama from 12 yards.
Ruben Neves, Dendoncker and Conor Coady missed for Wolves, with the captain’s effort striking the crossbar to confirm Spurs’ win.
Here are our findings from an eventful 90 minutes plus penalties…
Two reliable performers fail to deliver
It’s very rare indeed for Coady and Neves to look so uneasy.
Irrespective of what happened in the penalty shoot-out, because the very best players have crumbled from 12 yards, Coady and Neves were uncharacteristically sloppy versus Spurs.
It must be said that Coady was thrown in after the injury to Yerson Mosquera and he was asked to play in an unfamiliar right-sided centre-back position to begin with, which certainly didn’t help.
But the one thing you associate with Coady is the ability to organise and Wolves were all over the place in the first half.
Coady was far too easily beaten in a 50/50 challenge by Ndombele for Spurs’ first goal and he stepped up to allow Kane in for the second on a night to forget for Wolves’ captain.
Precise and crisp passing is what you expect from Neves but there was nothing of the sort.
In the space of 15 first half seconds Neves gifted Spurs the ball twice and the second misplaced pass led to Kane making it 2-0.
He didn’t really improve much after half-time and it was typical of his performance that the usually reliable penalty taker Neves produced the worst effort of the shoot-out.
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Lage has some decisions to make
A number of players have given Lage food for thought ahead of Southampton on Sunday, not least Belgian midfielder Dendoncker.
Dendoncker scored and assisted Podence for Wolves’ second before missing the fourth penalty in the shoot-out. Penalty miss aside, this was an excellent night for Dendoncker – particularly given how poorly Neves played alongside him.
Whether it’s alongside Neves or instead of him, Dendoncker has given Lage a decision to make.
The same can be said for Podence, but it’s a little bit trickier to fit him into the starting XI in Lage’s current 3-4-3 system. Francisco Trincao is the player most at risk, but whether Lage would drop the on-loan Barcelona man so early into his Wolves career remains to be seen.
A simpler choice for Lage surely comes at centre-back after Willy Boly came through 90 minutes unscathed. If the Ivorian is fit, he is the best defender at the club and must come into the team.
Wing-backs Ki-Jana Hoever and Rayan Ait-Nouri also impressed on a night where Wolves’ fringe players did their chances of Premier League minutes no harm at all.
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Mosquera’s rotten luck
Everyone inside Molineux was excited to witness the debut of Mosquera, the Colombian centre-back who won lots of admirers in pre-season.
On paper the 20-year-old looks the perfect fit for the position on the right side of Lage’s defence, but we’re still waiting to judge him in a competitive environment.
It looks as though Mosquera has suffered another muscular problem in his leg, just weeks after returning to training following a hamstring injury.
At a time when there are question marks over all of Wolves’ centre-backs, it’s a shame Mosquera hasn’t been able to stake his claim.
Fabio Silva isn’t winning Lage over
Lage substituted Fabio Silva at half-time and it’s clear the club-record signing hasn’t yet won the new head coach over.
Silva has been a hot topic in Lage’s press conferences since he succeeded Nuno in the summer. Although Lage doesn’t want to pile on any unnecessary pressure, he has been keen to stress that Silva and the club’s other youngsters need to start producing now – ‘don’t take too long’ is the phrase the Wolves boss has used.
At the end of last season Jeff Shi took it upon himself to own the £35million transfer which brought Silva to Wolves in 2020, so he’s desperate for Lage to get the best out of the 19-year-old.
That in itself is creating a problem for Lage, who is better served using Hwang Hee-chan as deputy to Raul Jimenez at this moment in time.
There is lots of potential within Silva, but the question remains whether that alone was worth the £35m outlay, especially when Wolves refused to pay that kind of fee for far more proven performers in the transfer window just gone.
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