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Nuno proud of Wolves comeback; Hasenhuttl fumes at VAR

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It is safe to say that the managers of Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers had contrasting emotions after the dramatic 3-2 victory for the visitors at St Mary’s on Saturday.

Saints led 2-0 at half time but a stunning second half comeback, led by Mexico’s Raul Jimenez who scored twice, grabbed Wolves all three points.

With his squad banged up and missing Ruben Vinagre, Willy Boly and Diogo Jota among others, Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was beaming at the final whistle after a lengthy celebration with the Wolves fans in the away end.

“It was amazing, the second half,” Santo smiled. “They [the players] realized the first half was not good. They reacted very well. I am very proud of the players and I was proud even in the first half because I am very aware of how we were doing things. Let’s keep on going.”

As for Southampton’s perspective, Ralph Hasenhuttl was not a happy man.

But not because of how his team played. He was fuming at the officials and VAR due to the decision to award a penalty kick to Wolves for their second goal. Referee Darren England didn’t award a penalty kick as Jonny went down in the box under contact from Cedric and then Jack Stephens but VAR intervened and awarded the spot kick.

“For me it is absolutely not a clear wrong decision. I think the referee was right in that moment,” Hasenhuttl fumed. “Cedric was in front of him and it wasn’t a clear wrong decision, in my opinion. The referee was right. I don’t know why they overruled in that moment. I cannot understand it. I really can’t. Cedric was in front of the ball so he [Jonny] had no chance to get to the ball. You can give it, yes, but it is not a clear wrong. I heard that VAR was overruling when it is clearly wrong. For me, it was not clearly wrong. This is what I cannot understand.”

Cedric’s nudge on Jonny probably wasn’t a foul and although Stephens didn’t make contact, his challenge was reckless. Hasenhuttl is perhaps looking to detract a little of the attention away from his players who crumbled after leading 2-0.

In truth, that lead was flattering in a pretty even game that Wolves had dominated early, and although Southampton’s incredible run of form (six wins in nine PL games before this) is over, they are still six points above the relegation zone.

This was a big moment in the season for both teams. Had Saints won they’d have been level with Wolves but a massive comeback victory now propels Nuno’s boys up to sixth and in with a chance of a top four finish.

That will surely persuade their owners to spend money in the final days of the January transfer window as their tired and stretched squad will also have to cope with the latter stages of the Europa League in the coming months.

Reports: Wolves targeting January deal for Hwang

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According to reports in both England and Germany, Wolves are looking to sign FC Salzburg forward Hee-Chan Hwang in the January transfer window and have made moves to complete a deal.

The Sky Sports report, released Saturday, states that the club is after Hwang on a deal of around $30 million. A deal would mean that the Austrian club would lose the third member of its attacking trio, after Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamoto both agreed to deals seeing them leave the club.

The Hamburger Morgenpost, meanwhile, reports that there are “many indications” that a deal will be agreed upon between the two clubs for the aforementioned fee.

A 23-year-old South Korean international, Hwang has been fabulous this season for Red Bull Salzburg, scoring nine goals and assisting 12 others across Austrian Bundesliga and Champions League play. He joined the club from fellow Austrian side FC Liefering in 2015, and went out on loan last season at Hamburg SV, although he struggled to stay fit during that spell. He returned to Austria a new player, breaking out this year alongside Haaland and Minamino, who have completed deals to Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool respectively.

According to the Sky Sports report, there is still interest in Hwang from Germany, Spain and Italy, meaning a deal with Wolves is not yet imminent, but the Premier League side seems to be the frontrunner at this stage. Should he move to Monlieux, Hwang would join an improving Wolves attack that includes Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, and Diogo Jota. Nuno’s side has lost two of its last four, but scoring goals has not been the problem, with 10 strikes over their last six games, although they were blanked by Liverpool the last time out.

Edgy Liverpool beat Wolves

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Liverpool beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 on Sunday at Anfield but it was far from routine for the Premier League leaders.

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Amid VAR drama in the first half which saw Sadio Mane’s goal ruled legit by video technology then chalking off what looked like an equalizer from Wolves’ Neto, the game was tight and tense as Wolves spurned several decent chances in the second half.

With the win Liverpool are now 50 games unbeaten at home in the Premier League and they lead second-place Leicester City by 13 points and also have a game in hand. Wolves sit in seventh place on 30 points.


3 things we learned

1. Reds grind it out as PL title procession begins: Liverpool are just a winning machine. They have won 17-straight games at home, they are 50 unbeaten in the PL at Anfield and they have lost just one of their last 36 PL games and none this season. Klopp’s side have been workmanlike during many games this season and they’ve shaken off the tag as the great entertainers. They can still do that but they can also grind out wins with ease. That is why they are 13 points clear at the halfway point and why their title procession has already begun.

2. Wolves livid but VAR followed the rules: Nuno Espirito Santo was booked, Wolves’ players fell to their knees and fans watching across the globe vented their anger at VAR. But, under the current laws of the game, the video technology worked well. That will not be a popular opinion but after 24 hours which has seen so many tight offside calls chalking off goals, it happened agains as Neto looked to have equalized right on half time. A tweak to the offside law is needed by IFAB otherwise we will have these tight offside calls for the rest of the time we have VAR.

3. Memorable 2019 for Liverpool: They won their sixth European title and are runaway leaders in the Premier League. 2019 has been kind to Liverpool even if they were pipped to the 2018-19 title. Many thought Klopp’s side would be demoralized by losing out on the title by one point last season but they’ve been utterly dominant in the last 12 months, losing just once in the PL, winning the UCL and they look set to smash several records on their way to winning the PL this season.

Man of the Match: Neto – He was absolutely everywhere, scored a superb goal which was ruled out and gave Alexander-Arnold a torrid outing. Superb display from the Portuguese teenager.


Liverpool started brightly as Trent Alexander-Arnold had a shot from the edge of the box which was blocked, then his cross found Salah who slotted just over the bar.

Salah then had a shot bravely blocked as Liverpool had plenty of the ball but Wolves were a threat on the break.

The hosts continued to huff and puff as Mane caused problems and Roberto Firmino nodded wide, as Wolves’ defense was just about holding firm.

Right on half time Liverpool took the lead as Mane finished off a flick from Adam Lallana. However, the goal was initially ruled off for handball on the pitch but VAR was used to overturn the decision as Lallana flicked it on with his shoulder instead of his arm.

Wolves thought they had equalized right on half time but Neto’s goal was ruled out by VAR for a marginal offside in the build up by Jonny Otto, as the visitors were livid and the hosts delighted, as Liverpool led 1-0 at the break.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Georginio Wijnaldum then had a header from a promising position deflected over as Liverpool started the second half well.

Wolves grew into the second half as Adama Traore came off the bench and Diogo Jota caught Virgil Van Dijk in possession but his shot was deflected wide as the hosts built up a head of steam.

As the game opened up Liverpool had plenty of chances to wrap it up on the break but Wolves dug deep to stay in the game as long as they could.

Substitute Raul Jimenez saw his effort deflected over by Joe Gomez as Liverpool were pinned back late on but Joao Moutinho, Romain Saiss and Ruben Vinagre all smashed over from good positions and Traore was denied by a superb block.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Wolves

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Wolverhampton Wanderers look preserve their good form – most recently showcased against Manchester City – when they visit Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday (Watch Live at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Sunday’s bout will see both clubs meet for the first time this season.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

With an instant-classic, 3-2 comeback win against City on Thursday, Wolves sit fifth on the table, while Liverpool – as we all know – are unbeaten and on pace to break the all-time most points record (100) set in 2018.

With four games in two days, are either side set to make drastic changes to their side? With the chance to leapfrog Chelsea with a win, it’s unlikely Wolves will, although it’s likelier Liverpool will elect to make a change or two.


Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT —  Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Fabinho (hamstring), Joel Matip (knee), Nathaniel Clyne (ACL), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (ankle)

Wolves: OUT — Willy Boly (ankle), Morgan Gibbs-White (back)


Probable lineups

Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, van Dijk, Robertson; Lallana, Milner, Wijnaldum; Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Wolves: Rui Patricio; Dendoncker, Coady, Saiss; Doherty, Neves, Joao Moutinho, Vinagre; Traore, Jimenez, Jota.


What they’re saying 

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on how dangerous Wolves will be: “Very – very, unfortunately. I really think the job Nuno is doing there is incredible with all the Europa League stress. I think at the beginning of the season they realized a little bit, ‘Oh, that’s different’. But now they are settled completely there, they are there again, Jimenez and Jota are scoring again. They had to change a little bit the last line to last year; Bennett and Boly are not playing consistently so they had to change that, but they have good options there. Traore finally found his manager, who found a position for him – he started as a wing-back and now he can even play in the front three. An exceptional player, as a kid he was already exceptional when he played for Barca I think, probably the quickest player in the league. So, a lot of really good things there and that makes it really difficult to play against them, of course. But it should be difficult against us as well, that’s the plan.”

Traore on Wolves’ thrilling comeback against Manchester City: “This team is amazing. We fight until the end, whatever the situation. That’s what we did today and I’m so happy for the team. Every one of us has worked so hard, we believed we could get this result.”

“Liverpool are a great team and are many points in front. We will fight to give our best.”


Prediction

13 points clear of Leicester City and with a jam-packed schedule ahead, it’s expected for Klopp and company to go into Sunday’s game with bit of a free-and-easy attitude. That said, an inspired Wolves will still remain outweighed by the Reds’ chemistry and excessive firepower, but the bout should still be an authentic showdown. Liverpool, 2-1.

Late second-half surge powers Wolves past Man City

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Adama Traore, Raul Jimenez, and Matt Doherty scored second-half goals as Wolverhampton Wanderers edged Manchester City 3-2 at Molineux Stadium, sending Nuno Espirito Santo‘s Wolves to fifth on the table.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Despite going down 2-0 in the 50th minute, an inspired Wolves side managed to rally a comeback against a 10-man City with Traore and Jimenez each contributing a goal and assist.

With the win Wolves move on to 30 points, while City stay on 38 points – 14 points behind league leaders Liverpool.

Espirito Santo’s Wolves are only the second team to win both league bouts against Pep Guardiola‘s City – the first dates back to their 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Oct. 6.

3 things we learned

1. Nuno Espirito Santo’s second-half substitutions were spot on: Both of Wolves’ last two goals came after the Portuguese manager restructured the left side of the field. Between the the 73rd and 79th minute, Diogo Jota and Jonny Castro left the field for Ruben Vinagre and Pedro Neto. Shortly after the changes were made, the home side’s attack was oozing with confidence, dominating possession and arriving at City’s goal from all angles. Eventually, Jimenez, Traore, and Doherty were able to find space within the new-look attack and contribute to game’s final score.

2. Manchester City’s December has been substandard: December has been an unusually poor month for Manchester City. Following the defeat, Guardiola’s side has now dropped six points – the other three against Manchester United. With Liverpool up 14 points, this is a stab on City’s chances of a three peat. 

3. Jimenez-Traore duo is paying dividends and more: Each attacker scored and assisted once on Friday against City. In there 2-0 victory over the defending champions in October, both were just as influential. With the January transfer window around the corner, the objective will probably be maintaining both players and building around them.

Man of the Match: Adama Traore –  With a goal and an assist, Traore was the heartbeat of Wolverhampton Wanderers on Friday night.


The first half was filled with plenty of drama, with Ederson being issued a red card and Raheem Sterling converting from the spot on his second attempt after an encroachment call from VAR.

Even though City were playing with 10 men, the visitor’s started the second half with poise and confidence, controlling the match’s possession and tempo.

In the 50th minute, Sterling’s delicate chip over Rui Patricio – his second goal of the match – all but sealed three points for the defending champions.

What should havre been a low-blow for Wolves turned out to be additional motivation to go for the unlikely win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

In the 54th minute, Traore’s low-driven, sizzling shot unearthed the “there is a chance” attitude that one could sense in every Wolves player and supporter inside the stadium.

With the clock counting down the final 10 minutes of regular time and the hosts knocking on City’s doors, Jimenez converted his 21st goal of the season, finishing Traore’s recovery and hustle inside the opponent’s box.

Matt Doherty sealed the comeback for Wolves, finishing his solo run with a close-range strike inside the box.