Wolves 1-0 Millwall Five Things: controlled display

Jota celebrates a screamer – wolves.co.uk

Diogo Jota’s stunning first half strike rewarded Wolves’ controlled performance with a 1-0 victory over Millwall. Here’s five key discussion points from the match.

Neves’ switches of play

Wolves’ performance was kicked into life by a 3rd minute move, or more specifically, by Ruben Neves. The ex-Porto midfielder sprayed the ball out wide, before Matt Doherty crossed for the advancing Neves to head over the bar. His effortless switches of play became a recurring theme while Romain Saiss offered similar technical quality as well as grit and bravery. The duo bossed the midfield in the first half as Millwall’s Shaun Williams and George Saville lacked the power and discipline to operate effectively as a double-pivot.

Jota’s jubilation

After Byron Webster rushed out of his centre-back position prematurely, there was space in behind that Diogo Jota exploited with some style. After a quick one-two with Leo Bonatini, he charged forward and released a rocket of a shot that Jordan Archer could not stop. Wolves dominated the middle third thereafter with some wonderful football, but could have been a little more ruthless in advanced areas with their final ball and finishing.

Millwall improved

In the first half, Steve Morison and Lee Gregory did not press with any of the gusto we have seen from them in League One. The lack of belief up top tasked the away side’s ‘back-eight’ with a damage limitation exercise and it was down largely to the work of Archer, Webster and Shaun Hutchinson that they weren’t out of the contest. For the first 20 minutes of the second half, Millwall battled harder and had a couple of half-chances: Morison headed over from James Meredith’s 54th minute cross before Jed Wallace dragged a 61st minute shot wide of the far post.

O’Brien’s red hurt Millwall

Aiden O’Brien had not had the best game for the visitors – it seemed surprising that a League One calibre striker by trade was playing on the left wing in a tough Championship game. However, there were no excuses for his ill-judged 64th minute challenge on Doherty when the 23-year-old was already booked. Wolves thereafter kept the ball even more freely than they had before the red. Saiss was denied from close-range by Archer on 89 minutes before Webster, Williams and Conor McLaughlin combined to keep out follow-up efforts. Their heroics meant a nervy ending for the hosts and important work for John Ruddy, who saved substitute Fred Onyedinma’s header and Williams’ long-range effort.

In summary

Despite the late drama, this was a tough afternoon for Millwall. It was one that highlighted the challenges an honest but old-fashioned side faces in making its way in a wealthy, modernizing division. Wolves right now are leading that modernization, on and off the pitch. If Saiss and Neves can continue to boss midfields – and forwards can be a little more clinical in the final third – they will be a hard team to stop.