Football Features

Wolves 1-2 Spurs: Mourinho ends Nuno’s unbeaten run – but stability search goes on

By Chris Smith

Published: 16:12, 15 December 2019

Tottenham Hotspur made a huge statement in the race for fourth place with a 2-1 win over Wolves on Sunday. 

The Lilywhites took the lead at Molineux after just eight minutes via a fine Lucas Moura strike but in reality, struggled to get to grips with their impressive hosts.

Wolves’ fine play and hard work were rewarded when Adama Traore hammered home from outside the area in the 67th minute, but the otherwise terrible Jan Vertonghen handed Spurs an unlikely win in the 91st minute.

It was another brilliant day of Premier League drama, but who were the winners and losers?

Winner: Lucas Moura 

Moura’s time at Spurs under Mauricio Pochettino was certainly strange, going from Champions League heroics to 10-minute cameos on a seemingly week-to-week basis. However, since Mourinho arrived, it’s been a totally different story.

The Brazilian netted the opening goal on Sunday in fine style, drifting into the box before working the ball onto his right foot and slamming it home into the roof of Rui Patricio’s net.

That was Lucas’ third strike in just five Premier League matches under Mourinho, after only managing one in 10 this season under Pochettino. He looks like a man rejuvenated and given his high standing among Spurs fans, that can only be a good thing moving forward.

Loser: Nuno Espirito Santo

Wolves were really, really good here and a 2-1 defeat is incredibly harsh.

Nuno’s men got in behind the Spurs defence time and again, dominating possession, breaking with speed and causing havoc for the likes of Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez. When Traore grabbed the equaliser, the hosts’ long unbeaten run looked certain to be extended to 12 games.

Vertonghen’s late winner ended all of that and, furthermore, lifts Spurs above Wolves and into fifth place in the table. Wolves have dropped to eighth in what could turn out to be an incredibly damaging defeat in the race for European football.

Nuno will likely tell you unbeaten runs and statistics of that sort don’t matter too much to him but he will be kidding nobody. This one will hurt.

Premier League Table - Gameweek 17

Winner: Adama Traore

Traore is doing a brilliant job in shedding that “all pace, no end product” moniker.

The 23-year-old has put in some wonderful performances in recent weeks, terrorising full-backs, creating chances and looking constantly on the edge of producing something brilliant. Sunday was no exception to that.

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Traore’s battle with Vertonghen was a complete mismatch from minute one, with the Belgian totally unable to cope with the winger’s pace, trickery or directness.

Time and again, Traore beat his man, got in behind and caused havoc for Spurs and was finally rewarded with a wonderful strike from outside the area to draw Wolves level. After scoring just one Premier League goal all season in 2018/19, he already has three this time around.

Loser: Manchester United (and Chelsea)

Chelsea’s shock defeat at home to Bournemouth on Saturday and Manchester United’s flat draw at home to Everton on Sunday presented Spurs with a massive opportunity, even if they were blissfully unaware of the latter.

For a while, it looked like Spurs had blown it, conceding the equaliser to Traore and, at times, being totally dominated by Wolves.

But Vertonghen’s stoppage-time winner handed Mourinho’s men a priceless win, putting them in fifth on 26 points, one ahead of Man United and just three behind Chelsea.

The top three look like they could pull away from the rest but below that, it’s going to get incredibly tight. This could be one of those wins Mourinho looks back on as absolutely key at the end of the season.

Winner: Jan Vertonghen

As mentioned, Vertonghen never got to grips with Traore and in reality, never stood a chance.

The Belgium international is heading into his thirties and has never really been a natural at full-back, so for Mourinho to task him with that role against one of the fastest human beings on the planet really was a puzzler. He set his player up to lose.

But then he scored the winner in stoppage time with a wonderfully executed header into Patricio’s bottom corner, sending Spurs’ following into delirium in the dying moments of the game.

Is Vertonghen a better option at left-back than Danny Rose? Absolutely not on the evidence of Sunday afternoon, but all is forgiven for now.

Loser: Davinson Sanchez

Spurs had a torrid time defensively and at the heart of a number of their mistakes was Colombian centre-back, Sanchez.

The former Ajax man has obvious talent at his disposal but does admittedly look like he could implode at any moment. That was on full display at Molineux.

Whether it was poor positioning, selling teammates short with under-cooked passes or getting totally outdone one-on-one, Sanchez didn’t really get much right.

Sure, he recovered well to block a few shots, but that was only as a result of his mistakes in the first place.

Mourinho has a lot of work to do on that Spurs defence – Sanchez’s form is of critical priority in this regard.

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