EFL

Wolves boost European push with Fulham scalp but injury issues strike again

By Sports Desk March 09, 2024

Wolves’ bid for European football was boosted by a 2-1 victory over Fulham, but it came at the expense of more injury problems.

Jean-Ricner Bellegarde limped off with just over 10 minutes gone while Pedro Neto, who had been passed fit after feeling his hamstring last weekend, pulled up just before half-time clutching the back of his left thigh.

But the hosts made Fulham pay for missed opportunities, with Rayan Ait-Nouri scoring his first goal since December 2022 in the 52nd minute and Nelson Semedo adding a deflected second before Alex Iwobi grabbed a very late consolation.

The result lifts Gary O’Neil’s side up to eighth in the Premier League table in the week when it was revealed Wolves will open contract talks with their manager this summer.

Wolves’ strong form was halted by a 3-0 loss to Newcastle last time out while Fulham, looking to win at Molineux for the first time since 1985, were chasing a third Premier League victory in a row.

O’Neil was boosted by the availability of goalkeeper Jose Sa, who went off at half-time last weekend, but Craig Dawson was injured so Santiago Bueno came into the side along with Joao Gomes and 19-year-old striker Nathan Fraser, given a first start for the club.

Fulham’s good run meant the returning Joao Palhinha had to settle for a place on the bench.

With Wolves fans screaming for a foul on Fraser, Fulham went down the other end in the sixth minute and created the first chance of the game – Andreas Pereira’s shot from wide on the left pushed away by Sa.

A tight game was cut open in the 25th minute by an excellent through ball from Iwobi for Harry Wilson but, with only the keeper to beat, he opted to shoot with the outside of his left foot and sent his effort wide.

At the other end, a one-two between Ait-Nouri and Mario Lemina nearly put the full-back through before a heavy touch allowed Bernd Leno to block.

Fulham had their second golden opportunity in the 35th minute when a spell of pressure ended with Harrison Reed sending a ball across the goal for Tosin Adarabioyo, who saw his shot bounce off the top of the bar.

It was Fulham threatening again at the start of the second half, Wilson sending a curling shot just past the post.

But the first goal went the way of the home team, as substitute Toti seized on a weak header by Calvin Bassey from a Wolves free-kick and teed up Ait-Nouri, who had pushed further forward following Neto’s departure, for a confident finish high into the net.

Fulham boss Marco Silva sent on Willian and Tom Cairney for a disappointed-looking Reed and Pereira but their pursuit of an equaliser was leaving gaps at the back and Wolves grabbed their second in the 67th minute.

VAR took a look but Fraser, who had worked tirelessly throughout, was just onside when he ran onto Gomes’ pass. His attempted cross was blocked but Gomes back-heeled the ball to Semedo, whose shot beat Leno via a big deflection off Cairney.

Fulham came agonisingly close to pulling one back with 10 minutes to go, Sa pulling off an acrobatic save to deny substitute Palhinha and Max Kilman heading Rodrigo Muniz’s follow-up off the line, before Wolves old boy Adama Traore’s strong run and shot drew another stop from Sa.

Referee Tony Harrington then lost patience with visiting manager Silva and showed him a yellow card, adding to a frustrating afternoon that was barely improved by Iwobi’s stabbed effort with almost the last kick of the game.

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