Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Derby County Six Things: Neves wonder-show

The brilliant Ruben Neves – wolves.co.uk

A special night at Molineux staged not just one of the best teams English football’s second-tier has ever seen, Wolverhampton Wanderers, it also saw one of the best players, Ruben Neves, score one of the best goals. The midfielder added to Diogo Jota’s opener in a 2-0 victory over Derby County: here’s six things from the game.

Misleading first-minute

Derby’s best minute of the entire game was arguably the first. They pushed six men into the opposing half within seconds of kick-off as right-back Andre Wisdom won a corner, which was played short for Andreas Weimann to fire narrowly over. That brief period hinted at a fearless pressing display from the Rams, but sustaining intensity instead proved problematic, with six starting players in their 30s. Holding midfielders Joe Ledley and Tom Huddlestone dropped back at the first hint of slick interplay from the hosts, who needed little time to assert their dominance.

Centre-back trends

In two or three years, Championship centre-backs could be judged by their passing as strongly as central midfielders are; that trend has been initiated by Wolves, more specifically Conor Coady and Willy Boly. The latter played through Diogo Jota, who showed great movement on six minutes before dinking the ball over Scott Carson, who might have been braver but wasn’t helped by his defenders. Curtis Davies’ off-the-ball press on Benik Afobe scuppered Alex Pearce and Chris Baird’s attempts to play offside, with the latter only running back until the situation was irretrievable.

Wolves control

Whenever Baird closed down Ivan Cavaleiro, Wolves needed merely a quick triangular passing exchange to exploit the gap; the Portuguese winger’s 19th minute cross found Afobe, who nodded over the bar. Because of moments like that, Derby often refrained from closing down and thus the Wolves man in possession always had teammates in space. Neves also had room to shoot when he wanted to; the ex-Porto man’s sweet long-range effort, parried by Carson, was a sign of what was to come.

Neves seen anything like it

The day after Jack Grealish’s stunning winner for Aston Villa, Neves provided yet another reminder of the quality in the Championship. When one of Barry Douglas’ many excellent corners into the danger-zone was half-cleared by Baird, Derby naively delayed their attempts to pressurize the midfield genius. He kicked the ball up in the air with swagger akin to that of a kid playing headers and volleys, before unleashing a wonderful shot akin to that of very few players in world football. As the ball looped beyond the helpless Carson and into the left-hand corner, the whole of Molineux witnessed a fittingly extraordinary goal from a consistently delightful footballer.

One-dimensional Derby

Wolves and Neves’ brilliance should only partly explain defeat for Derby; baring bright runs from Lawrence which handed Matt Doherty the occasional piece of defensive work, they looked short of ideas. The downside to having two old holding midfielders and defensive full-backs was that nobody outside the attacking quartet showed any proactivity with the ball, or inventive movement without it. Neves and Romain Saiss – who made some excellent interceptions – were determined to keep tight distances to manage the game superbly. The Rams, who have previously done sponsorship deals with new uk casinos, will hope their current sponsorship deal gives them funds to invest in the summer, regardless of whether they go up via the play-offs. Since the turn of the year, Rowett’s side have looked a little short of the standards the Premier League demands.

Wanderers on the brink

Wolves chairman Jeff Shi said in March that, if the club go up, they will cancel plans of a party in Las Vegas in favour of a promotional post-season tour of China. The players will instead have to do their gambling on www.hugecasinos.co.uk; and it would take a brave man to bet against them impressing in the top flight next season. Mathematical confirmation of their return after a six-year absence requires only victory against Birmingham on Sunday – and that’s if Saturday’s results don’t complete their work for them.