Teenage defender Rayan Ait-Nouri marked his Wolves debut with a goal as the Midlands club beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Molineux on Friday to move up into third place in the Premier League.
Victory put Wolves level on points with the leading Merseyside duo of Everton and reigning champions Liverpool ahead of the bulk of this weekend’s fixtures.
France Under-21 left-back Ait-Nouri joined Wolves on a season-long loan – with an option to buy – from Ligue 1 Angers this month. It took him just 18 minutes to open the scoring with a first-time shot.
Portuguese winger Daniel Podence doubled Wolves’ lead nine minutes later, when he turned in Pedro Neto’s cross from close range.
“For Rayan Ait-Nouri I am really pleased because it is the first game and what a better start can he have?” Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo told the BBC. “He is 19 with a lot of things to improve. He has to get so many things on board and that’s the work.”
Wolves almost had a third goal before half-time as Nelson Semedo and Leander Dendoncker went close with long-range efforts.
“I think we were good but we should play better,” added Nuno. “We started well. We had a good team in front of us. At the end of the first half we slowed down our pressure and Palace had chances.”
Meanwhile Nuno said being deprived of their passionate fans, with spectators barred from grounds because of British government Covid-19 protocols, made home games tough for Wolves.
“It’s all about the performance, the table is not important,” he insisted. “The work is important. Playing without fans requires a lot of focus, we haven’t the edge of Molineux.”
VAR denied Palace a penalty when Palace’s Patrick van Aanholt was found to be offside, before being fouled by Willy Boly. Palace’s defeat was made worse when when Luka Milivojevic was sent off late on following a VAR review of his challenge on Wolves substitute Joao Moutinho.
Defeat left the south London side ninth in the table, with Palace manager Roy Hodgson unconvinced by Milivojevic’s dismissal.
“I’m not disappointed with how the players played for most of the game,” said Hodgson. “But I’m disappointed with that opening 20-minute spell.”
The former England manager added: “I spoke to the referee about the red card. I made my views clear. I don’t think it was a red card. It was a fair challenge.”