Glenn Murray just keeps going. Once the unexpected news came through that the striker would start here despite being knocked unconscious in a clash of heads at Newcastle last week, it was no surprise to see the 35-year-old score the game’s only goal. With a sure finish early in the second half, he claimed his sixth goal of the season and his 100th in total for Brighton. How Wolves could do with a poacher of similar quality.
The gridlock on the roads around the ground before kickoff could be explained by this match coinciding with an open day at the nearby Brighton University but when the game got going it looked like the hosts were going to get schooled by Wolves. The first half-hour was one-way traffic, all headed towards Brighton’s goal. Chris Hughton’s sheepish side could barely figure out how to get out of their own half as Wolves put on a seminar in progressive possession football. But only up to a point.
For all their clever interplay, Nuno Espírito Santo’s team could not plot a way to penetrate regularly. Matt Doherty made most inroads, the Irish wingback a frequent threat down the right. He fizzed several low passes across the face of goal and was integral to Wolves’ best chance in the first half. That came in the 33rd minute when Doherty swapped passes with Hélder Costa before performing a snappy one-two with Raúl Jiménez, darting into the box and feinting past the last defender, only to fire a low shot inches wide from 16 yards.
After that miss Doherty looked even more exasperated than he had done in the seventh minute when he ran down the right and pulled the ball back for Jonny Castro Otto, whereupon Jiménez inadvertently did the defences’ job by poking the ball off the foot of his teammate. Other than that, the closest Wolves came to a breakthrough in the first half was when Adama Traoré forced a save from Matt Ryan with a low shot from the edge of the box.
Traoré was playing because Santo altered Wolves’ starting lineup for the first time this season, introducing the £18m summer signing from Middlesbrough instead of Diogo Jota after a record nine consecutive league matches with the same starting personnel. That was presumably intended to give Wolves more punch to go with their nifty footwork. But that is not how things played out.
Wolves, as it transpired, were lucky to reach the break with the scores blank. Because despite being dominated, Brighton created the clearest opportunity of the first half, but Shane Duffy sent a towering header wide from three yards after a corner by Solly March.
Wolves failed to heed that warning and found themselves a goal down within three minutes of the resumption. This time fortune favoured Brighton, as a mis-hit shot by Bruno from outside the box wrongfooted the Wolves defence and goalkeeper and ran to Murray, who showed that his predatory instincts remained undimmed, as he swept the ball into the net from 10 yards past Rui Patrício.
Santo made a double substitution on the hour, withdrawing Jiménez and Traoré, the latter having failed to grasp his first starting opportunity.
Five minutes after those changes, João Moutinho registered Wolves’ first shot on target as Doherty put the goalkeeper in much more severe difficulty with a rasping drive in the 75th minute but Ryan tipped it wide. Then he had to make a smart block from Rúben Neves after the resultant corner was only partially cleared. In stoppage time, as the visitors piled forward, the goalkeeper excelled to turn away a close-range effort by Ryan Bennett.
Wolves huffed and puffed but could neither knock down the door nor pick the lock. That is a persistent problem for a team who have got a lot right since their return to the Premier League but only scored nine goals in their 10 matches so far.
Source: The Guardian