The Wolves were able to defeat a weakened Brighton team thanks to a swift goal from Mario Lemina.

Estimated read time 5 min read

If given the opportunity for an FA Cup quarter-final at home against a Championship team and a spot in the top half of the Premier League, what reaction would Wolves supporters have had in August? Most likely a perplexed expression.

However, the first half-year of Gary O’Neil’s leadership has not brought about a struggle for avoiding relegation, but rather a sense of hope and progress that was similar to Nuno Espírito Santo’s successful tenure.

Mario Lemina, who embodies the passion and determination that resonates throughout Molineux, scored the decisive goal in just two minutes as Brighton’s significant injury concerns rendered their 72% possession meaningless. They will have to settle for striving to win the Europa League instead.

During the 96th minute, Brighton’s goalkeeper Jason Steele had an opportunity to score off a corner kick, but when the ball came to him from Lewis Dunk’s header, he hastily took the shot and missed from three yards away.

The Wolves achieved their fourth consecutive victory, although it wasn’t a pretty game. Similar to their win against Sheffield United on Sunday, they managed to secure the win with just one goal.

O’Neil, appointed on the eve of the Premier League season, will not dampen Wolves fans dreaming of a Wembley semi-final place as they secured a home tie with Coventry. “I’m sure the fans will be dreaming about Wembley,” he said, “and I’ll be planning how to beat Coventry.

“Coventry is a strong team that I have frequently observed in the Championship. Despite being the perceived favorites, our own team knows that we cannot underestimate them. Many are assuming an easy win for us, but we cannot afford to be anything less than 100% prepared.”

Brighton was missing nine players, but Roberto De Zerbi mentioned that Evan Ferguson, Joel Veltman, and Tariq Lamptey may return for the match against Fulham on Saturday. The team did not play as well as they did when O’Neil was first in charge and won 4-1 at Molineux, but De Zerbi was satisfied with the performance of the young and makeshift squad. He stated, “The future of Brighton was on display today. They may not be quite ready to compete at this level and in this competition, but we are still managing to match our performance from last season despite facing numerous challenges.”

Brighton’s Jason Steele, up for a corner, just fails to get on the end of Lewis Dunk’s header in a frantic finish.

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Despite needing to preserve Pedro Neto and Pablo Sarabia for the beginning of the game, the Wolves had a great start.

Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, playing in the forward position, evaded Jan Paul van Hecke and made rapid progress down the left side. His cross was fumbled by Jason Steele, allowing Lemina to react faster to the loose ball than Pervis Estupiñán. Although he was still on the ground, Lemina managed to powerfully strike the ball into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.

Brighton has won on three previous occasions at this location and continued to control the game thereafter. The team’s defenders, Igor Julio and Van Hecke, frequently participated in attacking maneuvers while Wolves remained on the defensive. Unfortunately, their forward Facundo Buonanotte failed to score from a promising opportunity in the first half, heading wide from Estupiñán’s delivery from the left wing.

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Unfortunately, Wolves had the opportunity to increase their lead, however, Santiago Bueno failed to properly direct Tommy Doyle’s free-kick despite having a clear view of the goal. Later, when Julio made a weak back-pass, Steele had to make a last-minute tackle to stop Bellegarde from taking advantage.

Brighton increased their efforts by substituting Danny Welbeck and changing their formation to a back four. Despite their continued domination, even after Neto and Sarabia were brought in, Wolves seemed more threatening on the counterattack. Neto was close to breaking free for a chance at scoring a second goal on multiple occasions, but was held back by either a delayed pass or a defensive recovery.

Hwang Hee-chan suffered a minor hamstring injury, according to O’Neil, which may prevent him from playing in the upcoming match against Newcastle. The Wolves’ head coach stated, “I would be surprised if he is able to play on Saturday.” He plans to spend the next few days deciding who will fill the No 9 position on his whiteboard.

In preparation for their Europa League matchup against Roma next week, Brighton utilized all five substitutions and focused on ball possession to keep their energy levels under control. This approach was definitely preferable to constantly chasing after the ball.

The fans at Molineux were well aware of the situation: Brighton could possess the ball as long as they secured a spot in the quarter-finals. As Brighton fought for the tying goal, the chant of “Gary O’Neill’s barmy army” echoed throughout the stadium in the final moments.


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