- First half ends goalless with little action for either side
- Ait-Nouri shown yellow card for foul that could easily have been a red
- Willian Jose scores as Sheffield United caught on the counter for one of the first times in the match
- Sheffield United relegated
S heffield United were relegated from the Premier League with six games remaining and with barely a whimper at Molineux.
It's been a long season for the Steel City club, bolted to the bottom of the division from almost the start of the season, but they were finally put out of their misery by Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Cruelly, but perhaps typically from a side who have desperately struggled at both ends of the pitch this season, the decisive goal from the opposition came just as Sheffield had squandered their best chance of the game.
Willian Jose, the Brazilian striker on loan at Wolverhampton from Real Sociedad, wasn't bothered about such details as he made it lucky 13, scoring his first goal in English football at the 13th attempt.
Jose's goal in the 59th minute punctured Sheffield's defence but not their resistance. Strangely, it seemed to fire them with an urgency as they attacked the Wolves goal in a valiant attempt to stave off the inevitable. But in the end, that's just what it was.
Sheffield's demise is the joint earliest relegation from the Premier League, along with Huddersfield in 2018-19, Derby in 2007-08 and Ipswich in 1994-95.
I f Sheffield United were seeking inspiration off the pitch for some leadership off the park, it wasn't going to come from the boardroom after the decision of chairman Prince Musaad Bin Khalid Al Saud to resign from his role at the club for 'personal reasons', announced on Friday night.
Prince Musaad had been the youngest chairman in the Premier League when he was appointed in September 2019 but his youthful enthusiasm has been unable to prevent a slide to relegation.
Sheffield United, with eight losses in their last nine Premier League outings, started as if defeat was something of an inevitability.
Predictably, Wolves looked the more threatening side, but it was all pretty tame stuff as both teams lacked quality in a first half that you would struggle to want to cross the road to watch.
The only goalmouth action was a flick by Wolves defender Willy Boly headed off the line by Oliver Norwood when Willian Jose chested down Rayan Aït-Nouri's corner.
Daniel Podence sent a rising half volley a foot over the bar after Adama Traoré headed down a chip from Joao Moutinho.
A miscued backpass from Ethan Ampadu let in Podence, but the Sheffield centre back recovered well to crowd him out before the winger squared to Traoré, who helped it on to Aït-Nouri for a shot patted down by Aaron Ramsdale.
Sheffield's only threat of the opening 45 minutes was a long-range drive from captain John Fleck that flew narrowly over Rui Patricio's bar, midway through the half.
But typically of a team that have found goals so hard to come by, there was little threat from the Yorkshiremen.
T he poor quality was summed up by an opening that fell to Aït-Nouri, but his powerful cross easily evaded three team-mates in the box.
United had the first opening of the second period with a free hit by the unmarked Enda Stevens inside the box, but Nelson Semedo blocked.
Immediately, Wolves punished them by scoring on the break.
It was a lovely move too. Podence brought the ball out of defence in the right back position before finding Leander Dendoncker for a first-time pass to Traoré, who burst forward, beating John Egan for pace before crossing low from the tight for Jose to turn home ahead of Ampadu.
Sheffield responded with a sustained bout of possession which finally produced the faintest of tip overs from goalkeeper Rui Patricio from Stevens's fierce drive.
Oliver Norwood then forced a smothering stop from Patricio but the effort would have been ruled out for offside.
In the end, just like all season, it wasn't enough for Sheffield United.
W olves win a game that did not deserve a Saturday night slot and Sheff Utd are relegated. That’s it. Done. See ya!
90 mins+3 – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
T raore has one more chance to break away, runs two v two with Silva behind the rest of the Sheff Utd defence and then hits a shot from 20 yards which he will never ever score. Why. Why would he shoot there? Into a defender’s legs? It makes no sense at all and is incredibly frustraing. Silva was waiting in position for a low cross too.
90 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
A lovely early pass from Boly sends Traore away and in behind the defence… but his effort on goal is awful. He’s so close to being a brilliant player.
87 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
T raore drives through the middle at speed, draws defenders towards him and then slips in Silva to his right… but the striker hits it half stride rather than wait a tiny half second before getting power on it. Hmmm. He should be able to score that, or at least get it on target, with a lot less difficulty than that.
84 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
B ig save by Ramsdale, who blocks at close range as Wolves put a free-kick into the area. Sheff Utd break from that but Baldock hits a dreadful pass towards Burke’s path, giving him no chance of getting on the end of it. He then shouts at Burke as though it’s his fault. I bet he’s fun in the pub.
81 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
N ORWOOOOOOOOOOOOOD shoots and it’s saved well as Mousset gets in behind and cuts a low cross to the 18 yard line. Mousset was offside anyway.
79 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
B urke is trying to be Sheff Utd’s version of Traore, taking a defender on one v one and beating him on the outside with his acceleration before clipping a cross in.
76 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
M ousset and Burke on for Osborn and Brewster. Wolves then replace Willian Jose with Fabio Silva, who is already clearly a very good player. He’ll be important next season.
73 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
W olves finding ways to break quickly, using the pace of Semedo and Traore on the right. Sheff Utd doing well to shut them down and recover.
70 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
O OOOHHHHH lovely from Stevens! He receives the ball on the half turn on the edge of the box, beats a defender with a brilliant first touch on the spin, then launches a powerful shot towards goal which is turned behind.
67 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
S heff Utd in total control of the ball but Wolves are just waiting to counter-attack them. They don’t even mind that Sheff U have had more possession in this half, even though they’re at home.
64 mins – Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
I f Sheff Utd had anything to play for there’s every chance that Wolves would go on to score a second and a third now. The game is set up for them to counter-attack and utilise Traore’s pace, which needs space, which isn’t available in a packed defence playing against a team keeping the ball the whole time. There’s method behind Santo’s approach. It’s just not particularly thrilling.
W illian Jose scores! The first time Sheffield United are caught trying to attack in the entire match.
Wolves 1 Sheff Utd 0
This is brilliant from Traore, who obviously goes past the defender on the outside before drilling a low pass into the area to set up a tap in. Great wing play.
58 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
A CHANCE! At last someone has a chance to score and it’s Sheffield United, who work the ball up the right wing quickly, cut it back and a shot on the edge of the area is blocked. But now Wolves are on the counter…
56 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
T he referee has been very lenient tonight, keen not to show yellow cards unless absolutely neccessary. The problem with that is in a game where both teams are just trying to stop the other counter-attacking, nothing ends up happening because there are so many tactical early fouls.
53 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
S heff Utd enjoying a spell of attacking possession. Wolves happy to oblige.
51 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
I t’s not just about the formation, it’s the entire system. How they build play, how they transition, how they defend, how many bodies get forward in attack, how they get the ball in the box. Everything. It’s all so slow and laboured… until eventually a counter-attack opportunity opens up and they break with a couple of players.
48 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
W olves going sideways, backwards, sideways. If ever there were a time to work on the 4-3-3 shape that Santo has experimented with this season, it is this game.
Ait-Nouri should be off
T he consenus in the Sky Sports studio is that Ait-Nouri should have been sent off for his tackle on Brewster. I can see why they say that. He’s planted his foot on Brewster’s ankle but only really because he’s trying to get his body around the ball to protect it and Brewster has stretched in to reach the 50/50. For that reason I agree with the referees that it’s a yellow card.
T his is not the best game of football I’ve seen. Wolves are the better team but they don’t want to score… so it’s just two teams cancelling each other out.
43 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
S aiss gets away with being easily robbed in possession in his own box and for some reason the referee thinks there’s a foul. It’s a ridiculous decision. The boy has just fallen over under pressure. Sheff Utd had a chance there.
40 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
C ould really do with Wolves trying to actually attack here. They’ve been woeful. Boring.
38 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
B rewster and Ait Nouri hurt each other in a 50/50 and it looks a little bit like the Wolves player goes over the ball. He could be in trouble here. The referee shows a yellow but Var takes a long look… and decides it’s a yellow after all. Brewster is booked for his reaction.
35 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
A mpadu keeps making clumsy fouls and had received a ‘final warning’ a few minutes ago… before making another now and getting away with a final, final warning.
34 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
W olves have Sheff Utd disorganised at the back, the ball is laid back to Traore as Podence jumps onto an Ampadu mistake… but he takes too many touches, waits a bit too long, and by the time he shifts onto his left to shoot he needs to produce a worldy of a shot to score. Straight at the goalie. Wolves getting closer though.
31 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
S heff Utd have the ball for a bit, Wolves then have the ball for a bit. Moutinho looks for Traore with a long forward pass, he heads it back and Podence tries to win goal of the month with a volley on the angle from the outside of the area. Over the bar.
28 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
I ‘ll be honest, folks. It’s not the blockbuster match we all thought it would be.
27 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
B rewster takes a shot from 25 yards but can’t get any power on it. He must just be desperate to make some sort of impact on the game, or the team. I think a year in the Championship in a team which plays through the middle rather than crosses in from wide constantly could help him out a lot.
24 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
F leck decides to have a dig from 30 yards and doesn’t catch it badly. He also doesn’t get it on target. Lots of power, no real placement.
21 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
W olves corner, curled into the box, and Boly has just tried this reactive backheel flick thing as the ball bounces to get an improvised shot to loop over the goalkeeper and into the net… and were there not a defender on the line behind him, that would have been a very cool goal. People still say cool, don’t they. They do.
19 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
T raore has figured out that he has the beating of Enda Stevens. I suspect Stevens knew it before the game.
17 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
S heff Utd loading the wide areas so they can get the ball in the box… but Wolves have heaps of defenders back to deal with it and do so. Then they try and break.
14 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
T raore has a wee check of the shoulder to make sure it’s come out again. That’s been a problem for him all season, to the point that staff at Wolves have started covering him in lube to make him too slippery to catch. I’m not making this up.
12 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
W olves already showing why this 3-4-3 system makes for dull games. When they get forward there are too few attackers in positions to really cause any problems and without options, the opposition defence can get behind the ball and make it even harder.
And it’ll be much harder if Adama Traore falls to the floor from the sky like he just did again. He’s just landed on his head… but seems to be OK.
9 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
W olves now more in control of the game and playing some nice quick passes around the pitch. Sheff Utd get behind the ball.
6 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
S emedo breaks from a Sheff Utd corner and has a team of pink shirts chasing him. This time he isn’t able to make anything happen that worries that defence but that’s what Wolves will look to do all game long if they can. The fear of how quickly they break might make the Sheff Utd defence drop deeper.
3 mins – Wolves 0 Sheff Utd 0
S heff Utd attacking from the start, pressing high to try and keep Wolves trapped in their won third. That’s basically what Wolves want them to do as it allows those counter-attacks that lead to a large number of their goals.
Here come the players
S everal of Wolves’ players come out pointing to the sky, presumably talking to some higher being – a god perhaps – to ask for support in this game. I like the idea that a god would let your team win but deny an opponent, who is also praying to the same god. How devious.
Sheff Utd chairman resigns
I hadn’t seen this story from last night but Sheffield United announced yesterday that chairman Prince Musaad Bin Khalid Al Saud was standing down for personal reasons.
How will we remember Sheff Utd?
W ill they bounce back up next season? I’m not sure. The togetherness and momentum that Chris Wilder built has dissipated with the manager’s exit. Based on what we saw at Hibs, Paul Heckinbottom might not be the solution, and so Sheff Utd need to decide what sort of head coach they want, how they want to play and if it’s different to how Wilder set them up, and if that is the case, will need to sign a lot of different players to go that route.
Sheff Utd were terrible for most of the season but have at least rediscovered some of what made them so difficult last season. It can’t be coincidental that their form fell off a cliff when fans were denied access to stadiums.
Wolves and the coronavirus
W illy Boly is back today after going through a self-isolation period but Ruben Neves is absent because of a positive test.
T his is what the teams look like for tonight’s game:
I think that’s a 3-4-1-2 for Wolves and a 3-5-2 for Sheff Utd.
Saturday Night Live Football
I t’s time! The big game of the night, the weekend, the month… possibly ever. It’s Wolves, who have nothing to play for, against Sheffield United, who are only not already playing Championship football because of fixtures and maths. That should mean both teams have nothing to lose and can put on a real show of attacking football! Great news.
Well, it would be if it weren’t for Wolves hardly being the most entertaining of teams to watch this season – certainly for the neutral – and Sheff Utd being pretty bad for most of it. Chris Wilder isn’t even there anymore.
So what is there to look forward to? The acceleration and cannonball running of Adama Traore, of course! Or the chance that wonderkid Fabio Silva scores a hat-trick and confirms his position as the future of Portuguese football, a title which may actually now belong to Pedro Neto, who is injured. So he won’t even be there.
But wait! We have Fantasy Football Hero John Lundstram to enjoy… and so much more. Uhhhh like John Egan: the defender of a thousand uses.
All I ask is that both teams try really hard to score as many goals as possible and don’t just sit waiting to counter-attack each other. We don’t need that on a Saturday night.
At this point I’d usually copy and paste some words from an interview one of the managers has provided but there is absolutely nothing of note from either of them. Nuno tends to keep things muted, Heckinbottom just says football things you’d expect. Nothing wrong with either’s approach but I think you’ve probably read their pre-match words about 10000 times in different forms by similar people.
If you want some proof, here is Nuno Espirito Santo:
"We have to find solutions, we have to compete well, so we trust the squad we have available now.
"This is how we operate, game by game, the good things that we did against Fulham, we must try to repeat, and at the same time there was a lot of mistakes in the game that we must analyse and improve. It was a good game, and important moment for us, that we have to take on from there.”
[The other team is good, we want to win, we want to improve] x repeat.
Kick off is at 8:15pm live on Sky Sports. Alternatively, you can read along here.
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