Gary O’Neil rated Wolves’ 2-1 victory over Fulham as his favourite of the season given the adversity his side overcame.

With several key players already out, Wolves were forced into two first-half changes because of injuries to Jean-Ricner Bellegarde and key man Pedro Neto.

But second-half goals from full-backs Rayan Ait-Nouri and Nelson Semedo put Wolves in control before Alex Iwobi pulled one back with virtually the last kick of the game.

“Unbelievable win,” said a delighted O’Neil, whose side are up to eighth in the Premier League table.

“My favourite I think in terms of what we’ve had to deal with, the position we were in before the game, the position we found ourselves in 20-odd minutes into the game.

“To find a way to beat a Fulham team that are in a really good moment – when I got their team-sheet I realised how strong they are depth wise, unbelievable bench they had available to them.

“Obviously we’re in a different moment. We can be as strong as that but at this moment we’re not. Then mentally for the players to lose the only attacking players we have left and still be able to find a way to respond I thought was an unbelievable win.

“I’m sure they are, but the supporters should be unbelievably proud of the team that they just saw. If I’d have grown up being a Wolves fan and you asked me what I wanted my team to look like, it would have been that.”

The considerable negative was the two injuries, with Bellegarde sustaining a left knee problem in the opening minutes of the game and Neto then pulling up just before half-time holding his left hamstring.

The Portuguese winger, who missed two months of the season with a right hamstring injury, went off at half-time against Newcastle last week because of tightness in his hamstring, leaving O’Neil to rue his team selection.

“He had a really good week,” said the Wolves boss. “He had a scan that was completely clear, no muscle damage at all, he felt really good yesterday in training, felt good again today.

“That lands on me whether the decision to play him today was right. I’m just devastated for Pedro and how hard he’s worked to get back. We’re hopeful, medical don’t think it’s anything like his first one, but it’ll be a scan and we’ll go from there.

“If I had the team-sheet back again now, of course I’m not putting Pedro Neto’s name on it.”

It was a frustrating afternoon for Fulham boss Marco Silva, who saw Harry Wilson miss a one-on-one and Tosin Adarabioyo hit the bar in the first half.

“We had a chance to come to half-time leading the score clearly,” said Silva. “We didn’t start really well but after the first chance we created, from that moment we built the momentum and we started to be on the front foot.

“But the reality is the game is 95 minutes and the way we started the second half, we played too slow, losing some balls in dangerous areas that we cannot lose. And from that moment we are punished.”

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.

Wolves will discuss a new contract with Gary O’Neil in the summer.

O’Neil has done an impressive job at Molineux after taking over on the eve of the campaign when Julen Lopetugui walked out of the club due to the financial constraints he would have to work with.

A relegation battle looked on the cards, but instead, O’Neil has put them in the hunt for a top-six finish in the Premier League and reached the FA Cup quarter-finals.

 

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And sporting director Matt Hobbs says that has earned him the right to discuss a new contract.

“That’s naturally where this is going, he’s done well enough to have that conversation,” Hobbs said.

“Part of the conversation will be the plan for the club and that’s where you have to have the honest conversations about what it looks like going forward.

“That is an inevitable situation we find ourselves in this summer, for sure.

“But let’s not talk about it at the moment, let’s keep an eye on what we’re trying to do. We want to finish the season well and have the FA Cup to look forward to.

“We have more to play for with the league and the squad drive that a lot.”

Wolves have reported heavy losses but have not broken the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules (PSR).

Despite the troubling financial situation, Hobbs says there will not be a firesale in the summer, but concedes one high-profile departure is likely.

“We’re not in a position where we have to sell,” he added.

“Realistically, for me, we don’t want to sell more than two starters.

“But if big clubs come, I’ve never been the person to stand in someone’s way as long as we can reinvest in the right way to move forward.

“We showed with other players leaving last year that we’re able to move forward with three or four starters going.

“We’re always looking to improve and we have the ability to turn down big offers, but every player has their number as well.

“I’m not sure the same market is there now. I don’t see three or four £100million players going.

“For me, there’s no need and there’s no players itching to get away. They’ve bought into Gary and everyone’s on the same page.

“Essentially every summer I probably have to sell someone at a high value. The fewer I can sell to raise money, the stronger we will be as a club.

“Let’s say I want to raise £60m to invest in the next summer, if I can sell one to do that, that’s much better than selling two or three.”

Eddie Howe is hoping there is more to come from Newcastle after seeing them secure a first home win of 2024 and the 100th of his Premier League career.

The Magpies had not tasted victory at St James’ Park since they beat Fulham 3-0 on December 16, but they ended that run by beating injury-hit Wolves by the same scoreline to suggest they could finally be emerging from a difficult run.

Coming four days after they edged past Sky Best Championship Blackburn into the FA Cup quarter-finals, the win left head coach Howe in positive mood.

 

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He said: “Sometimes you just have to find a way to get over the finishing line and you know then that there are better performances ahead. I think we were in that moment today.

 

“I don’t think today was ever going to be a classic Newcastle performance, but I think it’s a building bridge closer to where we want to be.

“I thought Blackburn was very similar. We got through, that was the main thing. Today was slightly better again and I’d like to think now with the strength of the group returned that we will hopefully see continued improvement in performances.”

Newcastle were happy to sit back and try to hit the visitors on the break during the first half, and the ploy paid handsome dividends when Alexander Isak headed home after Bruno Guimaraes’ shot had been half blocked and then Anthony Gordon slotted into an empty net after goalkeeper Jose Sa had collided with team-mate Max Kilman.

Asked if the ploy had worked as he had hoped, Howe, who lost Kieran Trippier to a calf problem, added: “It was a slight tweak from our normal way of playing. We analyse our opposition, like we do always.

“There are always tweaks and little things we try to do to help us in our performance, and that was one today, to try to maybe play a slightly more transitional game.”

Wolves, who were without injured duo Hwang Hee-chan – he is expected to be sidelined for around six weeks by a hamstring injury – and Matheus Cunha and lost both Sa and Pedro Neto at half-time, gave as good as they got for long periods, but found Magpies keeper Martin Dubravka in resilient form again.

Their day was done when substitute Tino Livramento capped a good afternoon for the hosts in stoppage time with a fine solo run and finish to wrap up the win.

Head coach Gary O’Neill, however, was not convinced about the merits of Howe’s game plan.

He said: “There’s no way that Newcastle let us have a lot of the ball. We had a lot of the ball because we were really good with the ball.

“I know Eddie Howe, I know Newcastle. They press everybody, especially at home. The reason we had the ball was our quality and how good we were with it.”

O’Neil added: “I thought structurally we were the better side, had real control of the game, control of the ball, so I’m really proud of the group for what they gave today.”

Eddie Howe managed to get a tune out of his team with rock star Mark Knopfler watching as clinical Newcastle ended Wolves’ three-game winning run.

Knopfler was at St James’ Park to unveil a charity recording of the theme from Local Hero, the song to which the Magpies run out, and witnessed a 3-0 home victory – a first in the Premier League since December 16 – courtesy of Alexander Isak’s 15th goal of the season, Anthony Gordon’s 10th and substitute Tino Livramento’s first for the club.

Head coach Howe, who had spoken of his own musical ability – or more accurately, lack of it – in the run-up to the game, came up with the perfect game-plan, sucking Wolves in by allowing them possession and then hitting them on the break in devastating fashion.

The visitors rallied late in the game, but were unable to find a way past keeper Martin Dubravka in front of a crowd of 52,206 at a wintry St James’.

Pedro Neto made an early impression as the visitors attempted to capitalise on the Magpies’ recent defensive issues, and it took a well-time challenge by Fabian Schar to halt his enterprising third-minute run into the penalty area.

As torrential rain fell from slate grey skies over Tyneside, Newcastle gradually eased into their stride, and it was they who took the lead with 14 minutes gone after Schar had picked off Rayan Ait-Nouri’s pass into the box and fed Gordon.

The frontman sprinted away down the left before finding Bruno Guimaraes, whose shot deflected off defender Craig Dawson and looped up for Isak to head home at the far post.

Dan Burn might have made it 2-0 within five minutes after linking with Gordon, but he dragged his attempt harmlessly across the face of goal.

Toti headed over after Dawson had helped Pablo Sarabia’s corner back into the danger area and with Neto menacing, the visitors were very much in the game despite repeatedly finding themselves under the cosh.

However, they fell further behind 12 minutes before the break when Schar played the ball into the feet of Joe Willock, who fed Jacob Murphy to send in a low cross which keeper Jose Sa could only palm away from Isak as he collided with team-mate Max Kilman, and Gordon supplied the finishing touch.

Wolves continued to enjoy a healthy share of the possession, but were unable to do enough with it to force their way back into the game before the break.

O’Neil replaced Sa and Neto with Daniel Bentley and Nathan Fraser before the restart and Howe saw Kieran Trippier limp off within seven minutes as Livramento stepped into the breach.

It took a superb goal-line clearance by Toti to keep out Willock’s 56th-minute diving header from Burn’s cross, but Martin Dubravka was relieved to see Jeanricner Bellegarde’s attempt loop over his bar.

Dubravka found himself at the centre of the action as he dived full-length to keep out Fraser’s skidding drive and then blocked Sarabia’s shot at the far post before plucking Bellegarde’s header out of the air.

Bentley saved at substitute Miguel Almiron’s feet after Guimaraes had turned superbly and clipped the ball into his path, but it was Livramento who sealed the win in stoppage time with a fine solo run and stabbed finish from Schar’s cultured pass.

Gary O’Neil revealed Wolves’ FA Cup dream after they reached the quarter-finals with a 1-0 victory over Brighton.

Mario Lemina’s goal after just 77 seconds booked a home tie with Coventry next month, just the second time Wolves have reached the last eight since 2003.

Brighton, though, bossed the game and Facundo Buonanotte missed a fine chance before goalkeeper Jason Steele sliced a good opening wide in stoppage time.

O’Neil has underlined his desire for success in the competition and admitted he told his players the goal was to lift the trophy ahead of their third-round tie at Brentford in January.

“When we set off to travel to Brentford I remember delivering the pre-match meeting and spoke about our aim, at that moment, was to win the FA Cup,” he said.

“I know how farfetched that sounds but every win you get a step closer. We have had to give a lot to get here.

“Coventry will be a massive test, they are a good side, play good football and we will be expected to roll them over by everyone outside and that can create problems.

“Whoever we played in the quarter-final we would see it as a great chance. We’ve beat Chelsea twice and Tottenham and Man City here. We love playing here, I’m sure they (fans) will be dreaming of a semi final and I’ll be analysing Coventry.”

Wolves snatched a second-minute winner when Lemina fired in at the second attempt after Steele flapped at Jean-Ricner Bellegarde’s cross.

But the hosts never built on their lead and Brighton pushed them – without forcing Jose Sa into a meaningful save.

Wayward efforts from Simon Adingra and Jakub Moder never troubled Sa but Buonanotte should have levelled instead of heading wide just before the break.

Lewis Dunk also nodded wide before Wolves lost Hwang Hee-Chan to a hamstring injury.

O’Neil added: “Someone has to play for us and we needed to get through to the next round. I’m hopeful it’s not too serious. I’d be amazed if he plays at the weekend (at Newcastle).”

Brighton pressed for a leveller which never came but they should have taken the tie to extra time in the final minute of stoppage time.

Steele raced up for a corner and when the ball was nodded down he was left unmarked six yards out but fired wide.

Boss Roberto De Zerbi said: “We played well, we made too many mistakes – especially in the first half – to score. We created a lot of chances and we played well enough to score.

“I’m happy with the performance, the style we played, the attitude, the personality. It was very tough playing without nine injured players.

“The future of Brighton was on the pitch, a lot of young players. Maybe they are not all ready for this level but we are working well and doing great things as we are keeping the same level of last season – with a lot of problems.

“The game against Fulham is on Saturday and we have to be ready to fight.”

Mario Lemina fired Wolves into the FA Cup quarter final after a nervy 1-0 win over Brighton.

The hosts reached the last eight for just the second time in 21 years and the first time since 2019, when they made the semi-finals.

There is now a path to Wembley for O’Neil’s side, who will host Championship side Coventry in the next round, but they lived dangerously at Molineux.

Facundo Buonanotte wasted a fine opening and goalkeeper Jason Steele, up for a late corner, missed the chance to take the tie extra time.

But last season’s semi-finalists – who dominated for long spells – could not find a way back from conceding the winner after just 77 seconds.

Brighton – missing eight regular starters including Solly March, Joao Pedro, Kaoru Mitoma and James Milner – were already underdogs even before going behind early.

Jean-Ricner Bellegarde’s fine turn sent him scampering away from Jan Paul van Hecke down the left and Steele could only flap at his deflected cross.

Lemina and Pervis Estupinan arrived at the far post, with the Wolves midfielder reacting first to slide the ball in at the second attempt.

But, much like Sunday’s 1-0 Premier League win over Sheffield United, the hosts failed to build on their lead.

Brighton recovered from the shock of the early goal and, with Simon Adingra and Jakub Moder shooting off target, got a grip of the game.

There was little suggestion Wolves would add to their lead, although Steele had to be alert to clear at Bellegarde’s feet after he raced on to Igor’s weak backpass.

It was the Seagulls who created the best openings and they should have levelled seven minutes before the break when Buonanotte planted a free header wide from Estupinan’s cross.

Roberto De Zerbi clearly sensed a way back into the tie and introduced Danny Welbeck at the break, with Brighton continuing to press.

Lewis Dunk nodded wide and Wolves’ frustrations grew when they lost Hwang Hee-chan and Lemina to injury.

Yet the changes, with Pedro Neto and Pablo Sarabia called on, briefly gave the hosts much-needed zip even if they failed to add to a slender lead.

The visitors, though, regrouped again and pinned Wolves back without testing Jose Sa as the game entered its final 15 minutes.

Julio Enciso drilled wide from 25 yards, more in frustration than with a belief he would score, and Welbeck nodded over.

Steele, up for a last-gasp corner, should have taken the tie to extra time but sliced wide from six yards as Wolves squeezed through.

Sheffield United boss Chris Wilder dismissed the clash between Blades team-mates Jack Robinson and Vini Souza in the defeat at Wolves.

The pair squared up, went head-to-head and engaged in a shoving match during Sunday’s 1-0 Premier League loss at Molineux.

Pablo Sarabia’s winner condemned the visitors to a 19th defeat in 26 games and left them eight points from safety at the bottom of the table.

But, despite their plight and players’ frustrations boiling over, Wilder insisted there were no issues.

“That happens at every club up and down the country, three or four times a year,” he said. “Of course you can’t condone it, it has to stay at a level, we have a responsibility to the young kids out there playing.

“That happens behind closed doors at every level, at Man City and the bottom of League Two.

“You don’t want to see it but it does. VAR spotted it and for me, you just move on pretty quickly. They were told about their responsibilities at half-time. We talked to the boys and they are fine and cool.

“We’re a team who is learning in the Premier League, learning on the job and our opponents have been building for quite a while.

“We were competitive. We haven’t got the result but my frustration and criticism of the team are about the big moments. We had enough territory and we have to find that quality they found.

“I believe we played well enough. If you play well you have to come away with something and that’s my frustration and criticism.”

Rhian Brewster and James McAtee tested Jose Sa but the Blades’ threat faded quickly and Sarabia won it after 30 minutes.

He met Rayan Ait-Nouri’s cross with a glancing header – having escaped Yasser Larouci – which found the top corner.

Pedro Neto fired over as Wolves looked for a second, which sparked the confrontation between Robinson and Souza, with VAR opting not to send either off for violent conduct.

The ill-disciplined Blades never recovered and, while there was plenty of second-half effort, they lacked the quality to punish Wolves.

Brewster’s half-chance at the far post, with his sliding effort forcing Sa into action, was the best they created.

Sarabia shot wide for Wolves, who rose to eighth to maintain their hopes of returning to Europe next season.

Boss Gary O’Neil said: “We struggled to find the correct solutions in the second half and a lot of that is on me. That second-half performance gets us nowhere near Europe.

“The lads have done incredibly well and maybe I’m being slightly hard on today, you have no divine right to win, but the second-half performance looks a long way from a team pushing to Europe.

“I’m really pleased with the win. Up to eighth but it’s probably the worst I’m going to feel for the next hour, being eighth, because I was really disappointed with the second half.

“We had to show grit, determination and dig in. I thought the lads were excellent in sticking together.”

Sheffield United players fought amongst themselves as they slumped to another damaging Premier League defeat in a 1-0 reverse at Wolves.

Team-mates Jack Robinson and Vini Souza clashed in the first half with the ill-disciplined Blades left rooted to the bottom of the table following the narrow loss.

The pair squared up with the visitors already behind to Pablo Sarabia’s first-half header and they will need to channel any further fighting spirit into a survival bid which looks increasingly doomed.

Chris Wilder’s side are eight points from safety and another poor performance offered no hope for their chances.

In contrast, the victory was Wolves’ first top-flight win at Molineux this year and lifted the hosts to eighth as they maintain a surprise European challenge.

They are a point behind Brighton in seventh as Gary O’Neil’s men continue to impress and dismiss the predictions of a season of struggle.

Wolves, though, were not at their best at Molineux but did not have to be to beat the Blades.

It took until the 18th minute for some serious action when Rhian Brewster was left unmarked to test Jose Sa, after Craig Dawson blocked his initial effort.

The former Liverpool youngster then had a second opening five minutes later, only to shank his shot wide under pressure from Toti Gomes.

Despite bossing possession, Wolves struggled to open the visitors up and it was O’Neil’s men who conceded the chances.

James McAtee became the latest wasteful Blade when he fired straight at Sa, having escaped from Dawson on the left and United’s misses proved costly after 30 minutes.

Yet again the visitors’ soft underbelly became their greatest issue as they conceded goal number 66 of the season.

Yasser Larouci was caught napping, allowing Sarabia to arrive unchecked to meet Rayan Ait-Nouri’s inviting cross and glance a looping header into the top corner.

With it, Sheffield United cracked with Robinson and Souza pushing and trading blows after Pedro Neto shot over.

In December Wilder had called for his players to “swing some punches” in the battle against relegation – though he would not have expected them to take his words so literally.

VAR gave the pair a pass but the Blades had lost their discipline and needed half-time to regroup.

They did manage to put Wolves under mild pressure and McAtee dragged a shot wide but there was never a sense Wilder’s side would equalise.

Brewster tested Sa as United’s momentum faded and Sarabia went close to a second when he curled wide just after the hour.

A pedestrian half rarely found its groove, though, and the visitors never had Wolves on the ropes as they suffered another knockout blow in the Premier League.

Dejan Kulusevski has acknowledged Tottenham were “too open” against Wolves and insisted they must work harder to get their top-four charge back on track.

Spurs slipped to a 2-1 loss at home to the Midlands club on Saturday, which allowed Aston Villa to leapfrog them and take back fourth position, while sixth-placed Manchester United are only three points behind.

Tottenham lacked fluency against Wolves and while Kulusevski levelled 34 seconds into the second half, the visitors continued to cause Ange Postecoglou’s team problems on the break and it ultimately resulted in Joao Gomes’ second goal after a superb Pedro Neto run.

“Nothing worse than losing so very tough,” Kulusevski said.

“We had a lot of chances, we can’t score them and then not enough discipline when we lost the ball.

“They had two or three counter-attacks where we’re not good enough and they made us pay. After that it is difficult to come back again in the game.

“We were too many guys up front. Too open and not running back as hard as we should. They could score a couple and that’s not good enough.”

Tottenham have shipped chances all season and only kept five clean sheets in the Premier League, but have missed first-choice defenders Cristian Romero and Micky van de Ven for chunks of the campaign.

The absence of speedy full-backs Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie also curbed Spurs’ creativity against Wolves and they face a two-week wait to put things right as Friday’s scheduled fixture at Chelsea was postponed due to the Blues’ Carabao Cup final involvement.

Postecoglou stated hard work would get Tottenham back to the free-flowing football they produced during the opening months of the season and Kulusevski echoed his sentiments ahead of Crystal Palace’s visit on March 2.

Kulusevski added: “We are not playing good enough, especially first half. We are not playing good enough and losing too many balls, so we have to get better.

“We have two weeks to work on that and come back much better.

“We found a couple of solutions (against Wolves) so it is there and we just have to get better and practice in training.

“We are football players, we want to play a lot and two weeks is a long of time, but we have to do the journey. We have to train and get better, so we have to see it as a positive thing.”

Gary O’Neil welcomes Wolves supporters dreaming of Europe even if he is happy to play down such talk.

Wolves completed a Premier League double over Tottenham on Saturday with a 2-1 away win that moved them on to 35 points for the campaign.

It was Wolves’ fourth win from their last five matches and they are now only two points off seventh spot, which has earned Europa Conference League qualification in each of the last three seasons.

O’Neil said: “I haven’t seen the league table but I don’t really set goals in league table positions, especially with a group that I didn’t know when I joined and most of the talk at that point was around relegation!

“To switch talk from relegation to Europe is a big jump.

“I’ll keep pushing them until the final whistle at Anfield at the end of May or hopefully beyond that if we’re able to keep a cup run going.

“Yeah, I love the fans dreaming. One of my favourite parts of the job is I am not allowed to get carried away and think about things that might happen, but I love them being able to think about it.

“If we were on 22 points right now, they would be worrying about, ‘how we get our next win and are we going to stay up?’.

“The fact we’ve got to 35 already, they can talk about a title charge for all I care!

“I am delighted they are enjoying themselves and we got to share another fantastic moment with them, which was really special.

“You can see the connection between the players and the fans, but we just need to keep trying to push it and improve everything.”

Joao Gomes was the two-goal hero for Wolves and the midfielder produced his stellar display in front of Brazil head coach Dorival Junior.

“Was Joao aware of the Brazil manager being here? I’m not sure,” O’Neil admitted.

“I think you know what you’re going to get with Joao whether there is one man and his dog watching or the Brazil manager or the Real Madrid manager or whoever else might want to watch Joao.

“I hope he’s just trying to impress me! It was a good day for him.”

Tottenham will have to lick their wounds for the next fortnight after next Friday’s scheduled match with Chelsea was postponed due to their opponents’ involvement in the Carabao Cup final.

 

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Spurs will stay in England over the next two weeks and prepare for the visit of Crystal Palace on March 2 when Ange Postecoglou will hope to have Pedro Porro (muscle) and Destiny Udogie (knee) fit again.

The duo have produced 13 goal involvements between them this season, but the Spurs boss played down their absence.

Postecoglou said: “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year, we’ve certainly performed better than that when we have had injuries.

“So, I don’t think that’s the reason. Like I said our general level of performance wasn’t where it should be.”

Ange Postecoglou warned no magic wand will get Tottenham’s top-four tilt back on track after they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Wolves.

Spurs had returned to fourth position with a last-gasp victory over Brighton last weekend but were leapfrogged on Saturday by Aston Villa, who won at Fulham.

Joao Gomes headed Wolves into a deserved lead after 42 minutes and, while Dejan Kulusevski levelled 34 seconds after the restart for Tottenham, Gomes grabbed his second after an excellent solo run by Pedro Neto with 63 minutes on the clock.

It consigned the hosts to a frustrating defeat and they have now failed to score in the first half of their last five home matches.

“We will work hard, we’ve got two weeks to prepare for our next game (against Crystal Palace) and there’s no point feeling sorry for ourselves,” Postecoglou insisted.

“You take the blows and you’ve got to move on irrespective of what’s happened in the past. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready for the next game.

“There’s no tricks, it’s hard work. I’m not a magician, I’m a football manager. It’s hard work which these guys have done all year.

“Like I said, we’ve got to this point which is pretty decent on the back of some hard work and that’s what we’ll keep doing.”

Spurs were without first-choice full-backs Pedro Porro and Destiny Udogie and struggled to break Wolves down in the opening 45 minutes with home goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario making fine saves to deny Nelson Semedo and Pablo Sarabia either side of Gomes heading in a corner by Sarabia.

Tottenham came out firing after the break, like they had done in recent wins over Brentford and Brighton, with Kulusevski equalising after he dribbled past Craig Dawson and poked under Jose Sa.

Postecoglou’s team were beginning to build a head of steam but Wolves remained a threat on the break and, after Vicario denied Sarabia in the 56th minute, the visitors’ second arrived six minutes later.

Yves Bissouma lost possession after a Spurs corner and Neto carried the ball half the length of the pitch before he cut back and teed up Gomes, who slammed home for his second of the afternoon.

A raft of attacking players were thrown on by Postecoglou, but Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, Toti and Neto all squandered promising positions for Wolves before Ben Davies headed wide deep into stoppage-time for Tottenham to ensure Gary O’Neil’s side completed the double over the north London outfit.

Neto’s moment of individual brilliance was his ninth assist of the campaign but his manager issued a hands off to potential suitors after they moved on to 35 points for the season.

O’Neil said: “I still want to push him and get him as close to perfect as a wide player as we can.

“Yeah, I’ve been asked a few times this week about the summer already and I’m not interested in discussing Pedro Neto leaving the football club.

“He is a fantastic player that we spent a lot of money on, that we work very hard on and as far as I’m concerned, we don’t want to lose our best players.

“We have a long way to go yet this season and then hopefully he stays with us and we can keep pushing towards the top half of the table.”

Tottenham’s top-four hopes suffered a blow after a Joao Gomes brace fired Wolves to a deserved 2-1 away win in north London.

Spurs had claimed back fourth spot from Aston Villa with a last-gasp victory over Brighton last weekend but struggled to break down Gary O’Neil’s side.

Gomes headed Wolves ahead in the 42nd minute and, while Dejan Kulusevski levelled for Tottenham straight after half-time, Pedro Neto’s wonderful solo run settled the contest.

Neto raced half the length of the pitch before he teed up Gomes to side-foot home with 63 minutes played to earn the visitors to a fourth win from their last five matches.

There was a big contingent of South Korea fans inside the stadium with two of the nations’ best going head-to-head and Hwang Hee-chan should have scored in the fifth minute.

Wolves worked the ball out wide to Nelson Semedo, who was denied by Guglielmo Vicario and Hwang inexplicably sliced over the rebound from close range.

Spurs threatened for the first time soon after when Ben Davies fired over on the turn before the visitors created another promising opportunity but Rayan Ait-Nouri curled straight at Vicario.

The stop-start nature to the contest continued although Tottenham enjoyed a rare foray into the away penalty area with 36 minutes played only for Kulusevski to side foot well wide from James Maddison’s pass.

Wolves had frustrated the hosts’ well, while also proving a threat and made their dominance count with 42 minutes on the clock.

From Wolves’ second corner of the match Pablo Sarabia picked out Gomes, who headed into the top corner after being given too much space.

It was a deserved breakthrough but sparked a frantic finish to the half with Vicario pushing wide a curler by Sarabia, who was offside before the same player flashed an effort off target.

Ange Postecoglou’s team did test Jose Sa through Emerson Royal but it stayed 1-0 at the break.

It meant Tottenham had failed to score in the first half of five consecutive home matches, although they quickly hit their straps after half-time.

The equaliser arrived 34 seconds into the second half and it was all about Kulusevski.

Richarlison knocked the ball into the path of the Sweden international, who dribbled past Craig Dawson close to the byline before he poked under Sa for a superb sixth goal of the season.

Spurs were pushing for a second but Wolves remained dangerous, especially on the break and Vicario impressively denied Sarabia after Semedo’s cross.

Back came Tottenham with Kulusevski’s low effort excellently tipped wide by Sa before Semedo blocked another shot from the Swedish forward in the 63rd minute.

It earned the hosts another corner but they were hit with a sucker-punch after a moment of individual brilliance by Neto.

Yves Bissouma lost possession on the edge of Wolves’ penalty area and Neto carried the ball half the length of the pitch before he cut inside Emerson and teed up Gomes, who slammed home for his second of the afternoon.

Tottenham attempted to respond straight away and Maddison curled over before Postecoglou turned to his bench with Rodrigo Bentancur, Brennan Johnson and Timo Werner sent on.

Chances remained at a premium until Kulusevski picked out the unmarked Davies deep into stoppage-time but the Welsh defender headed well wide to ensure Wolves completed the double over Spurs.

Ange Postecoglou has leapt to the defence of Tottenham captain Son Heung-min over an incident during South Korea’s recent Asian Cup campaign that left the attacker with a dislocated finger.

Son’s nation exited the tournament in the semi-final stage after a 2-0 loss to Jordan, which resulted in Jurgen Klinsmann being sacked on Friday.

A report this week revealed Son dislocated his finger the day before the last-four clash after the Spurs skipper was involved in an altercation with younger members of the South Korea squad, who had allegedly left a team dinner early to play ping-pong.

Son returned to club duty last Saturday with a key role off the bench in a 2-1 victory over Brighton, where his right fingers were taped up and Postecoglou talked up his leadership.

“From what I know of the incident, and I haven’t asked too much about it, it was Sonny being Sonny. Being a leader and when you’re a leader, sometimes you get in the firing line,” Postecoglou said.

“That’s what leadership is all about. Leadership is not about being popular and trying to make everybody happy, it’s about when you see something that you don’t feel is right then you stand up for it because it’s the best thing for the group. I see that in Sonny.

“Sometimes people are mistaken about Sonny because he’s such a positive guy, who whenever you see him is smiling and everyone has a real affection for him, but he wants to win.

“He doesn’t like standards slipping and I’ve seen him do that around here. If something is not right, he will say it.

“Sometimes it is not the popular thing to do. Sometimes that puts you in the firing line with the playing group and with coaches or the club, but as a leader if you think this is the right thing to do, then you should go strongly on it.

“Sonny by nature is a nice guy. He is very polite and very respectful but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a real winner and a guy who has high standards.

“There is a real discipline you need to last this long, especially in the Premier League, and that drive to have high standards transfers to leadership. The best (leaders) are the ones who are themselves because people respect that. When you try and be somebody else people see through that.”

Son will aim to keep Spurs out in front in the race for Champions League qualification at home to Wolves and should be back in the starting XI after his cameo against Brighton.

Postecoglou has lost full-backs Pedro Porro (muscle) and Destiny Udogie (knee) to minor injuries but has boosted options in midfield and attack.

Yves Bissouma, who started Tottenham’s first eight league fixtures, is primed to make his first club start since December 15 after missing the past two months through suspension and international commitments.

Postecoglou added: “It’s fair to say with Biss, he’s probably a little bit frustrated with the way the season has gone.

“Really early on I could see the way we played really suited him. He really thrived in that responsibility in that role.

“Look, he’s ready to go. He’s had a good week of training. Looking forward with him, Rodri (Bentancur), Madders (James Maddison) is now back, Lo Celso is now available, Skippy and Pierre (Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg).

“We’re looking really strong through there. Not just to start games; the ability for us to change games. I think that’s going to be a really big part of us having a strong finish to the season.”

Ange Postecoglou says Tottenham are still a “long way” from playing the football he wants after he fended off talk he could leave at the end of the season to replace Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool.

Klopp announced last month he would depart Anfield at the conclusion of the campaign following nine years at the club.

Liverpool have reportedly placed Postecoglou on a shortlist of candidates to replace Klopp, with Bayer Leverkusen boss Xabi Alonso seemingly at the top of the pile, but the Spurs boss insists his focus is on finishing this season strongly.

“I may be on a shortlist? I don’t think I want to say anything about that because I don’t think that’s ever going to enter my brain space for what is my priorities in life and my profession right now,” Postecoglou said ahead of Saturday’s visit of Wolves.

“Well, I am (just getting started at Tottenham). Not just feel — I am. I’ve only been here seven months, so that’s self-explanatory.

“I’ve been at pains to say we’ve still got a long way to go in terms of the football we want to play, the team we want to be, the squad we want to have.

“We’ve had two positive windows, I think we’ve had a decent campaign so far, but we’ve got a long way to go.

“That’s the funny space when we talk about managers. When we’re not going well, then there’s questioning about whether we’re going to be here.

“When you’re potentially going OK, there’s still question about whether you’re going to be here. The reality of it is – most of it is out of our hands.

“I’m never worried or thought about that. I’ve got a history of 26 years of management where you can see pretty clearly what I do.

“I rely on that as my explanation as to where my thought processes are with all those kind of things.

“Right now it’s about finishing the season strong with Tottenham and making sure we’re trying to establish a really strong foundation for who we want to be in the years to come.

“That can only happen if I’m totally focused on what these last 14 games can bring for us.”

Asked if links to Liverpool were a compliment, Postecoglou added: “It depends. If it’s just people throwing up names, then who cares?

“It doesn’t matter, but at the end of the day, if I’m doing a good job then hopefully people will acknowledge that in one form or another — whatever that form is. But so-called ‘chat’, really? That’s of no interest to me.”

What Postecoglou has to deal with in the immediate future is being without both recognised full-backs for the visit of Wolves.

Pedro Porro suffered a muscle strain in training this week, while Destiny Udogie was forced off at the end of last weekend’s dramatic 2-1 win over Brighton with a minor issue.

Postecoglou is hopeful both will be back for Tottenham’s home fixture with Crystal Palace on March 2, with the club not in action next weekend due to Chelsea’s involvement in the Carabao Cup final.

Ryan Sessegnon (hamstring) has also returned to training, but Spurs’ back-up goalkeeper Fraser Forster has fractured his foot and is set for a “couple of months” on the sidelines.

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