AY­ALA’S GIFT MAKES LEO FEEL RIGHT AT HOME...

New-boy Bona­tini quick to set­tle

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By John Wragg

FROM Brazil, via Por­tu­gal and Saudi Ara­bia, to Wolver­hamp­ton is a long and bizarre jour­ney.

Leo Bona­tini only com­pleted the trip on Mon­day but still got man­ager Nuno Espir­ito Santo’s era at Wolves off to a suc­cess­ful start.

The newWolves boss, known as Nuno, knew about Brazil­ian Bona­tini from his Por­tuguese days and has taken a bit of a gam­ble bring­ing him from Al Hi­lal in Saudi Ara­bia on a sea­son’s loan.

Bona­tini, 23, is so short of match prac­tice that Nuno could only give him less than an hour’s play­ing time, but he took a gift and Wolves have lift-off to the sea­son .

Bona­tini should thank Boro de­fender Daniel Ay­ala for his 33rd­minute goal. You need a bit of help on your home de­but and Ay­ala was gen­er­ous to a fault.

The game was dull, no one risk­ing any­thing, peo­ple still get­ting to know each other, when Ay­ala tried a pass from just out­side his penalty area.

No pres­sure, no dan­ger, and what did Ay­ala do? He played the ball straight to Bona­tini.

Bona­tini might have taken a mo­ment to make sure Ay­ala wasn’t one of his team-mates. Ay­ala was in a Boro shirt, wasn’t he? It was all a bit new. Wolves had seven mak­ing their de­buts, Mid­dles­brough six, easy to get con­fused.

Any­way, Bona­tini got on with it. What’s that English say­ing about gift horses in the mouth? He moved for­ward a few steps, looked up, took on keeper Dar­ren Ran­dolph one-to-one and left footed the ball past him.

So easy. And it was enough to beat dis­ap­point­ing Boro.

Mid­dles­brough are look­ing for an in­stant re­turn to the Premier League af­ter last sea­son’s rel­e­ga­tion, but won’t get it like this.

For all the big money spent they were tooth­less and had one de­cent chance when £15m Britt As­som­ba­longa charged at the Wolves goal and keeper John Ruddy got the ball away.

Some said Ruddy was out­side the area when he handed the ball clear, but Boro boss Garry Monk didn’t make a fuss.

Monk has big­ger wor­ries as his ex­pen­sive team takes time to gel while the points tick away in early sea­son.

“It’s not the re­sult we would have wanted,” ad­mit­ted Monk. “This was a dif­fi­cult sea­son opener. Wolves were the bet­ter team in the first half. We made too many sim­ple mis­takes with the ball.

“But we upped our level of ur­gency in the sec­ond half and we had the game’s best chances so I don’t think we de­served to lose. We should have had a goal or two out of those chances.

“On an­other day we would have taken one or two of those and come away with at least a point.

“We are not go­ing to get down about los­ing our first game. We have not even scratched the sur­face with the for­ward play­ers yet. They do need time. They will get bet­ter and bet­ter.

“We have shown how dan­ger­ous we can be as a team with­out be­ing at our best. They are new play­ers, gelling to­gether.”

Wolves, who are on their third man­ager in a year and with two false dawns be­hind them, are in the same boat with a new staff get­ting to know each other. But they have the ben­e­fit of this win as a boost.

“It was a tough game, but a good game” said Nuno. “It was a very good first half when we con­trolled the game and we did not suf­fer too much in the sec­ond half when Mid­dles­brough played well.

“They were good but we were or­gan­ised as a de­fence at the right mo­ments.”

It all helped Nuno, who is more used to Cham­pi­ons League foot­ball with Porto than an af­ter­noon in the Black Coun­try, make a good im­pres­sion.

“Thank you for the sup­port of the fans,” he said. “We are pleased with the team, the boys worked well. Thank you all.”

NO WAY: Wolves keeper John Ruddy de­nies Britt As­som­ba­longa of Mid­dles­brough

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ALL NEW: Leo Bona­tini scores his first goal for Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers and, inset, fans mark an­other big-money ar­rival, Ruben Neves

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