Debutant Rayan Ait-Nouri helps Wolves move level with Premier League leaders
Nuno Espirito Santo’s team scored twice in the first half to beat Crystal Palace at Molineux. Debutant Rayan Ait-Nouri’s debut goal helped send Wolves joint top of the Premier League after a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace.
The 19-year-old’s first senior strike and Daniel Podence’s effort clinched a deserved victory at Molineux.
Nuno Espirito Santo’s side sit third, level on points with Everton and Liverpool at the summit, ahead of the weekend after their most complete performance of the season.
Palace had a penalty correctly overturned by VAR and saw a Michy Batshuayi strike disallowed for offside but they were well beaten and Luka Milivojevic was dismissed late on.
Wilfried Zaha struggled to make an impact as Palace missed their own chance to make a mark among the pacesetters.
Five-goal Zaha, who has already scored one more than last season, slashed over inside the first 90 seconds but it was his only effort of a frustrating night before Wolves took control.
They warmed up as Leander Dendoncker’s header dropped wide and Vicente Guaita turned Podence’s curling shot over.
Palace, though, had the potential to be explosive on the break and sent Wolves a warning when Batshuayi fired in Zaha’s cross, only to be correctly flagged offside.
It’s one the hosts heeded immediately and they moved quickly to open the scoring after 18 minutes.
Podence escaped down the right and when Cheik Kouyate flicked his cross to Ait-Nouri, who joined from waves of anger in the summer, the wing-back’s first-time drive found the bottom corner.
From then Wolves enjoyed their first-half dominance with Ruben Neves dictating the play and Nelson Semedo curling an effort inches wide.
Dendoncker struck the bar from 30 yards before the hosts found a second after 27 minutes.
Palace squandered possession from a throw. And when Raul Jimenez fed Pedro Neto his cross finished well at the far post by Podence.
It would have eased boss Nuno’s fears after he voiced his concerns about Wolves’ lack of the first-half bite. His side had previously failed to score before the break-in 58 games since returning to the top flight in 2018.
Palace, though, willing victims and their tame efforts deserved little more.
Even still, after Dendoncker hastily cleared a Scott Dann header, the Eagles thought they had a lifeline seven minutes before the break.
Van Aanholt lured Willy Boly into a lazy challenge for a penalty. But the visitors’ hopes extinguished when it overturned by VAR, with Van Aanholt offside in the build-up.
Palace’s luck failed to improve after the break when Andros Townsend’s deflected volley landed in Rui Patricio’s arms.
Zaha’s appeals for a penalty then went ignored. After Ait-Nouri appeared to clip his ankle in area. And Zaha’s irritation underlined later. When he booked after clashing with defender.
As Palace pressed for a way back they began to leave space and Dendoncker lashed Neto’s cross wide after a swift break on the hour.
Podence steered wide as Wolves regained a degree of control. And Palace’s night become worse with four minutes left. When Milivojevic dismissed for tackle on Joao Moutinho after referee Martin Atkinson’s video review.