Wolverhampton Wanderers ended their recent run of poor results in spectacular fashion on Wednesday by coming from behind to beat Chelsea at Molineux. Diogo Jota scored the winning goal for Wolves, who were praised by their delighted Portuguese manager Nuno Espírito Santo after the match.
Meanwhile, another draw for Manchester United at Old Trafford against Arsenal has done little to help José Mourinho’s side in their hopes of a top four finish, but there was some positive news at the Theatre of Dreams as Diogo Dalot made his full Premier League debut for the Red Devils.
Wolves came into their home match with Chelsea having picked up just one point from their previous six Premier League matches. Former Porto boss Nuno was without suspended midfielder Rúben Neves, but still selected four Portuguese players in his line-up, with Rui Patrício, Rúben Vinagre, João Moutinho and Diogo Jota making the team.
Nuno’s men have endured some bad luck during their recent poor run of results, and fortune seemed to be against them again when Wolves defender Conor Coady deflected a shot from Ruben Loftus-Cheek past Patrício in the first half. However, Mexican striker Raul Jimenez equalised on the hour and Portuguese winger Jota scored what proved to be the winner just a few minutes later to give the West Midlands club a huge three points.
“I think it was a very good performance,” Nuno said after the game. “In the first half, even though we are losing, I think the organisation and staying with the game was important. We tried to limit the chances of Chelsea. We didn’t have many chances, but we were organised.
“The belief of the boys was incredible. We had desire to go in front. Their reaction was nice to see, it was an enjoyable game. I think it was fantastic work from the boys, they worked really hard and it is the only way you can play these teams.
“The moment that we got the draw, everybody felt in Molineux that we could do it. Our fans, the way we became so noisy and push the team, and the players the way they run so hard and achieved such a deserved goal.”
Nuno introduced Portuguese duo Hélder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro, but there is no doubt that this match was Jota’s moment. The former Paços de Ferreira and Porto winger was instrumental during Wolves’ promotion campaign last term, but Jota, who turned 22 the day before the game, has had to wait for his first Premier League goal.
“It’s a relief for me,” Jota told the club’s channel. “I am a forward and I like to score. Of course when that doesn’t happen, I am not happy. So fortunately for us I could score and give us the lead in that moment and the victory in the end. So we are very happy.
“We have been struggling, which has been hard for the players to work hard during the week and not get the victories. We worked hard, focused on the plan but we have been unlucky at times and we weren’t getting the results. But today with a good performance we achieve the victory.”
Speaking about the atmosphere during Wolves’ recovery, Jota says the players felt the support of the home crowd. “It’s the best place in the world to be when you’re playing at home, with all the people supporting and bouncing. It makes it easier for us, which is why we always ask for their support.”
“There are things I cannot get from them” - Mourinho
There was a full midweek fixture list in the Premier League this week, and for José Mourinho’s Manchester United it resulted in another draw for the struggling English giants. United drew for the third league match in a row and are now four league games without a victory, having twice come from behind to hold Arsenal 2-2 at Old Trafford thanks to goals from Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard.
After the match, Mourinho again drew attention with his post-match interview, praising his team but also provoking discussion with further comments about his players. “The result is not the result we want, but what can you say? Fantastic spirit, fantastic commitment, great intensity, great dynamic, happiness to give absolutely everything, people exhausted at the end of the game, lots of players in difficult circumstances,” said the former Porto coach.
“It's a positive sign [that the players sacrificed themselves], but there are things I cannot get from them and I cannot say much more than this. But they showed a big soul, everybody gave everything. That is for sure and it is a positive feeling. I cannot tell you much more. I prefer just to say that I am happy with the soul, the commitment, the bravery. I'm really happy with that.”
The match saw Diogo Dalot handed his first league start for United, having been introduced as a substitute for his Premier League debut at the weekend. The 19-year-old summer arrival from Porto played the full ninety minutes at right-back, and spoke to the club’s TV Channel after the match to reflect on his Old Trafford debut.
“I would be happier if we had won the game but I’m very happy to have played my first 90 minutes in Premier League football and am looking forward to more, ”Diogo said.
“For me it was a big achievement [to play against Arsenal]. I needed to adapt, considering the team I’m now playing in, the coach I am playing for and the league I am playing in, but I think my game can adapt. I can get my game together here and settle down. With the help of my team-mates, the coach and the fans, I think I will be improving a lot here.
“José Mourinho brings all his experience and knowledge of the game to us all, not just me. He is one of the best coaches ever and for me it is a dream come true to be alongside him and to learn from him. For me it is very good.
“I feel ready now for a run in the side and as long as the coach needs me, I will be ready for him.”
By Sean Gillen