In a game void of many goalscoring chances, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Brighton & Hove Albion played out a goalless draw.
The result doesn’t really do either side any good in their quests for European football and Premier League safety, but neither team did enough to deserve a win.
But what did we learn?
1. Fortress Molineux
Wolves fans may be disappointed with their failure to take all three points against a struggling side, given their standing in the Premier League, but there are still positives to take.
As Wolves have become known more for their quick counter-attacking, it’s easy to forget how could they can be defensively, thanks to the three-man central defence with capable wing-backs. But on Saturday they produced a strong defensive performance as a reminder, restricting Brighton to seven shots in total.
— Wolves (@Wolves) March 7, 2020
The clean sheet, Rui Patricio’s eighth of the season, was the third consecutive time Wolves have kept a visiting team out at Molineux. Following a narrow defeat to Liverpool, Leicester were held to a goalless draw with Wolves keeping Jamie Vardy particularly quiet. Norwich were the next visiting side to be kept out, in a 3-0 win for Wolves, before Brighton became the third.
It’s the first time since December 1983 that Wolves have managed to keep three consecutive top-flight clean sheets at home, when Stoke City, Everton and Norwich were denied.
2. Brighton’s 2020 woes continue
It’s only March but the consensus around the world is that 2020 is looking like being another bad year.
And, unfortunately, it’s carried onto the football pitch where Brighton are concerned. As of the first weekend of March, the Seagulls are still without a win in 2020 across all competitions, a run of 10 games now. They’re also the only Premier League side not to win this year having last tasted victory in their final game of 2019, beating Bournemouth 2-0 on December 28.
Of those 10 games in all competitions, the draw with Wolves was their sixth in total and they never really looked like threatening their hosts.
Having seven shots in total, Brighton forced Rui Patricio to make just one save, and that came inside the opening 20 minutes. That substitute Alexis Mac Allister, who played just 10 minutes, had more shots than two of Brighton’s three starting forwards is a worrying sign.
3. Raul Jimenez is human
Raul Jimenez has been brilliant in the Premier League since joining Wolves and this season has been no different. The Mexican is among the top 10 scorers this season with 13 goals and would have backed himself to add to that tally against Brighton.
But Saturday’s game was a reminder that, as good as Jimenez can be, he still is only human. As far as performances so, it wasn’t a bad one for Jimenez, in fact it was pretty good.
The Mexican was a constant threat on the Brighton back line, linking up with Diogo Jota and making a number of defence-evading runs to get onto teammates’ passes. But what let Jimenez down was his finishing.
In total, Jimenez took four shots and hit the target just once, with that shot coming in the 75th minute. His conversion wasn’t helped by Jimenez attempting a couple of spectacular volleys that would have been goal of the season contenders had they found the net and not the Molineux stands.
Perhaps Jimenez spent his goals for the week on revealing the gender of his baby.
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4. Bissouma is key to Brighton’s survival
Although they did end up gaining a point on those around them as other results in the Premier League went their way, Brighton remain very much in the fight against relegation. And while they certainly need to up their goals, Yves Bissouma will also be key to their survival.
Against Wolves on Saturday, the Malian was excellent in midfield for Brighton almost single-handedly trying to keep the opposition at bay. He played with tenacity, finding himself all over the pitch to stop Wolves attacks, making five tackles in total – a joint-high in the game alongside teammate Aaron Mooy.
Bissouma also tried to do his bit going forward on a day where Brighton’s own attacking players were toothless. The Malian midfielder completed four take-ons, against a joint match-high, had more touches than any other player and more shots than any of his team-mates.
It was a seriously impressive performance from the 23-year-old that just lacked the quality from his teammates to make a real difference.
5. The door is open
This season may just be the tightest in a long time when it comes to fighting for the Premier League’s European spots. With Manchester City winning the League Cup, the top six finishers are guaranteed a place in either the Champions League or Europa League. That could still increase to the top eight if the FA Cup winners are guaranteed European competition and Man City lose their appeal on their ban.
A win for Wolves against Brighton would have seen them draw level on points with fourth-placed Chelsea, while a two-goal victory would have seen them overtake the Blues.
But now, the door is open for the chasing back and Wolves are in danger of dropping down. Arsenal’s win over West Ham sees them just three points behind Wolves now and if both Tottenham and Manchester United win their games this weekend, they will overtake Nuno Espirito Santo’s side – who could to eighth.