Southampton 2-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Pedro Neto is enjoying a fine run of form with Wolverhampton Wanderers in England, and the Portuguese youngster was the catalyst for his side producing an impressive second-half comeback to win at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon.
Wolves trailed 2-0 to Southampton at half time but Neto’s goal early in the second period instigated a recovery, completed by a brace from ex-Benfica striker Raul Jimenez. The result lifted Wolves up to 6th place in the Premier League and delighted Portuguese boss Nuno Espírito Santo.
Nuno chose his starting line-up aware that a win would be welcome for his side after five matches without victory, and four of his Portuguese contingent made his starting eleven. Rui Patrício returned in goal after sitting out the midweek defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup, while João Moutinho joined Rúben Neves in midfield and Neto kept his place upfront in the continued absence of the injured Diogo Jota.
Neto has emerged into a regular figure for Wolves in recent weeks, having joined the club last summer from Lazio along with Bruno Jordão. The 19-year-old scored his first league goal for Wolves at the beginning of the month against Watford, although Neto has been equally defined in recent outings by having goals disallowed by VAR against Liverpool at Anfield and Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Neto the game-changer
The former Braga youngster appears resolute, however, and his well-taken finish on the turn against Southampton after 53 minutes was a key moment in the match. Another Portuguese, Cédric Soares, had played a crucial role in the Saints’ strong first half with an assist for the second goal scored by Shane Long, who headed in a cross from the Portugal right-back to make it 2-0.
But Wolves proved the stronger side across 90 minutes and speaking after the match Nuno expressed his satisfaction with the afternoon’s work. “The boys believed because this is the game, this is why we love football, it never finishes until the end,” he said.
“Even though we started well, the first time they went to goal, they scored. With bad defending they scored and pressed really hard and didn’t allow us to play. The reaction was good, and this is what it’s about, reacting, knowing what’s wrong. I’m very proud of them because it’s been tough, but we had character.
“What was said at half time? What I tried was to make them believe it was possible and we reacted very well. We know each other so well, we’ve been working three years now, we know when things are not OK, and we need to do something.
"Amazing second half" - Nuno
“Reacting during the competition is very difficult, because normally with this kind of game, the plan, your tasks – everything becomes harder, but it was the other way around, readjust, we knew what we had to do in the second-half and the boys did well.
“It was amazing the second-half. We realised the first-half was not good and we reacted very well. I’m very proud of the players. I was proud even in the first-half because the effort was there.
“In the first-half Southampton were much better than us. They pressed very hard. They were very organised, and the moment of pressure was very strong, they are very aggressive. In the second-half everything can change, and we saw today and it’s a fantastic win.”
Wolves’ next two games see them host Liverpool on Thursday evening at Molineux before another showdown with Manchester United – the third meeting of the sides in under a month – at Old Trafford on 1st February.
By Sean Gillen