Theo Walcott rolled back years with his first Southampton goal in 15 years but was denied a victory as Pedro Neto won the Wolves’ 1-1 draw at Molineux.
Walcott turned Che Adams square 13 minutes after half-time to give the Saints a lead that would have taken them within a point of leaders Tottenham and Liverpool.
They owed Alex McCarthy good work to keep Wolves at bay until that point, but with 15 minutes to go the goalkeeper could do nothing to keep Neto from beating it after Raul Jimenez hit base the post.
Minutes before that goal, Walcott should have doubled his tally and Southampton’s lead after more fine support from Adams but rolled his effort wide with only Rui Patricio to beat.
Wolves: Patricio (7), Semedo (6), Boly (6), Kilman (5), Ait-Nouri (6), Moutinho (6), Neves (6), Dendoncker (6), Traore (6), Podence (7 ), Jimenez (7).
Substitute: Neto (7), Vitinha (irrelevant).
Southampton: McCarthy (7), Walker-Peters (6), Vestergaard (7), Bednarek (6), Bertrand (6), Romeu (6), Ward-Prowse (6), Armstrong (6), Walcott (7), Djenepo (6), Adams (8).
Substitute: Long (6), Diallo (irrelevant).
Man of the match: Che Adams
Instead, Wolves’ point moved them into the top half above Arsenal and Manchester United, and up to ninth.
How Saints won a well-deserved point at Molineux
The final match of the weekend saw Wolves line up without Conor Coady for the first time in the Premier League since the start of 2018/19. The impact of his absence was such that Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo set up his team with four backs in a rare change from their regular three-man defense.
Little did the change in shape stop his side in the opening minutes, with Nelson Semedo and Leander Dendoncker quickly testing McCarthy in a row before Walcott, whose professional appearance against Wolves in August 2005, fired straight at Patricio from a tight angle.
Stuart Armstrong then fired a little wide of Adams’ slide rule pass on, before McCarthy provided more acrobatics to pull Daniel Podence’s landing header off a free kick.
- Wolves have named the Premier League linebacker without Conor Coady for the first time since their promotion in 2018.
- Danny Ings remained absent for Southampton, who welcomed Ryan Bertrand back from injury.
Goalmouth’s action was largely lacking before half-time but Wolves have made a habit of improving after the break, and seven minutes into the second period McCarthy again denied Podence from Portugal’s near-post-drive drive .
Walcott would soon provide a moment of real Saints nostalgia when Adams beat Max Kilman on the second attempt of the byline to find Everton’s loanee, left with a simple finish in the far post for his first goal in Southampton in 5,434 days, since scoring in an FA Cup victory over MK Dons in January 2006.
He could have made himself a likely matchwinner when Adams defeated the Wolves defense and set it off with a great pass, but he lost his nerve at the crucial moment and fired wide Patricio’s right post.
That failure would come back to bite Southampton within minutes as Wolves level up. After Jimenez had time to turn and shoot McCarthy left helplessly as the ball bounced off the bottom of his far post before Neto, who had come forward only five minutes earlier, equalized for the hosts.
The goalkeeper got Neto’s best from the Wolves’ next attack, with Kyle Walker-Peters breathing a sigh of relief after being robbed of the ball, only to bail McCarthy thanks to a smart save with his feet, in the final chance of noting in a draw.
What the management said
Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo: “It was a good game, a very intense game, with a high tempo from both teams.
“In the first half we wanted to play better, but Southampton are a very good team, they played very well, they pressed very well. In the second half we responded very well to their goal , we wanted to go for it, to create chances, and we were very aggressive when Southampton wanted to counter – I am happy and very proud of the boys.
“Conor (Coady) and (Romain) Saiss were unavailable, we decided to go with three midfielders and it was good. We should grow, we should find solutions, we have an identity – there is’ It’s not just about the system, but the idea we have.
“We’re fighting, we’re trying to play well, and we’re trying to be solid, and we managed that.”
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl: “I’m happy. It was a tough game for everyone. It was tactically as challenging, as a game of chess. We had a 4-3-3 game that we didn’t expect but didn’t do. problem with it, we showed how flexible we are at finding the answers, and in the last third we might not have had 100 percent conviction but in the second half we got good game control.
“You score the first goal, and think we might get the three points because of persistence and good defense, we might have a chance. But we knew it would be a long way to go , and it was a well-deserved match for both teams. You saw two teams fighting tactically at a very high level against each other, and to take a point here, I’m very happy. “
Man of the match – Che Adams
Adams has looked like a reborn player since the lock-up, and although he couldn’t add to his three strikes in his previous four games, he played a big role in Southampton’s goal and should have made another if Walcott had kept his boots on on.
Even before half-time he had made a glorious opportunity for Stuart Amstrong that went unfinished again, but the former Birmingham player has certainly turned his spell at St Mary’s around the struggles of his opening season on the south coast.
- Wolves have lost only one of their last seven home games in the Premier League (W4 D2) and only two of their last 12 in the competition at Molineux (W6 D4).
- Southampton are unbeaten in seven consecutive Premier League games (W5 D2), the latter getting longer without defeating the competition in November 2013 (a total of 8 games).
- Since the start of last season, Wolves have failed to score in the first half of 34 games in the Premier League, more than any other side.
- Conor Coady missed the Premier League game for Wolves for the first time since returning to the top flight (2018-19), having played every minute of his side’s last 84 games before tonight, the third-longest in a row participate 100% for a field player in competition history (Wayne Bridge 112, Leighton Baines 99).
- Theo Walcott’s opener to Southampton was his first league goal for the club since December 11th 2005 (v Luton Town in the Championship), 14 years and 347 days ago.
- Wolves striker Raúl Jiménez made his 85th consecutive Premier League appearance (82 starts, 3 subs), the longest running joint run in the competition (level with Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel).
- Che Adams has been directly involved in six goals in his last seven Premier League games for Southampton (3 goals, 3 assists), as many goals contributions as he did in his previous 32 appearances for the Saints.
- Two of Pedro Neto’s five Premier League goals for Wolves have come against Southampton, while only Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Steven Fletcher (five each) have netted more goals for the club in the competition than Neto (two).
Wolves travel to Arsenal in Sunday’s teatime match on Super Sunday, live on Sky Sports Premier League from 7pm; kick off at 7.15pm.
Southampton are also back on the box this Sunday when they welcome Manchester United forward Sky Sports Premier League from 1pm; kick off at 2pm.