Den­don­cker sinks Villa to boost Wolves’ Euro bid

Arab News - - Sport News - AFP Birm­ing­ham

Wolves stepped up their bid to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons League as Le­an­der Den­don­cker sealed a 1-0 win at As­ton Villa that lifted them into 5th place in the Premier League on Satur­day.

Nuno Espirito Santo’s side made it three suc­ces­sive vic­to­ries since the Premier League restart thanks to Den­don­cker’s clin­i­cal fin­ish in the sec­ond half.

Wolves have yet to con­cede a goal fol­low­ing the coro­n­avirus hia­tus and are now just 2 points be­hind 4th-placed Chelsea and three ahead of 6th-placed Manch­ester United. Both Chelsea and United have a game in hand on Wolves due to their FA Cup in­volve­ment this week­end. But with 5th place po­ten­tially of­fer­ing Cham­pi­ons League qual­i­fi­ca­tion if sec­ond placed Manch­ester City’s Euro­pean ban is up­held, Nuno’s men are firmly in con­tention to play in the con­ti­nent’s elite club com­pe­ti­tion for the first time in 60 years.

Wolves are un­beaten in eight league games and have won three suc­ces­sive top-flight away matches for the first time since 1980. In con­trast, their strug­gling mid­lands ri­vals Villa are with­out a win in 8th league games and re­main rooted in the rel­e­ga­tion zone on goal dif­fer­ence.

Sec­ond bot­tom Villa have now played a game more than the teams around them and have just six matches left.

With fix­tures against Liver­pool and Manch­ester United up next, Dean Smith’s team are in se­ri­ous dan­ger of an im­me­di­ate re­turn to the Cham­pi­onship.

Smith had com­plained about the fix­ture sched­ule that saw his team play­ing for the fourth time in 11 days. His fears were con­firmed when de­fender Matt Tar­gett limped off with a leg in­jury af­ter 10 min­utes. Wolves were on top and Joao

Moutinho’s free kick was flicked goal­ward by Raul Jimenez, but Or­jan Ny­land was well placed to save.

Matt Do­herty led an­other threat­en­ing Wolves raid, the wing-back burst­ing into the Villa area to shoot into the side-net­ting.

Villa cap­tain Jack Gre­al­ish was be­ing de­ployed in a cen­tral mid­field role rather than his usual wider po­si­tion and he tested Rui Pa­tri­cio with a low strike from the edge of the area.

Ny­land had got away with a hor­ren­dous mis­take in Villa’s first game of the Premier League restart when he car­ried the ball into his own net against Sh­effield United, only for Hawk-Eye to fail to award the goal. Luck was on Ny­land’s side again when he threw the ball straight to Diogo Jota late in the first half, but the Wolves for­ward shot hur­riedly over the bar with just the blun­der­ing keeper to beat.

Dou­glas Luiz was nar­rowly off tar­get from long-range as Villa tried to change the mo­men­tum in the sec­ond half.

But Nuno sent on Adama Traore af­ter the break and the elec­tric winger im­me­di­ately made an im­pact. Danc­ing through the Villa mid­field, Traore found Jimenez and his rak­ing pass reached Jonny, who teed up Den­don­cker on the edge of the area.

AP

Wolver­hamp­ton Raul Jimenez and As­ton Villa’s Kort­ney Hause, right, dur­ing their match in Birm­ing­ham on Satur­day.

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