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Wolves up to fifth after Cutrone and Dendoncker sink West Ham | Football


The last time Wolves went 10 top-flight games unbeaten, early in 1972, they went on to reach the final of the Uefa Cup and finish ninth in the league. Emulating that campaign remains a possibility but, for now, Nuno Espírito Santo’s men can enjoy the more immediate reward of their first day off in three weeks.

Goals from Leander Dendoncker and Patrick Cutrone allowed this resilient Wolves team to see off the challenge of West Ham United and return to fifth place in the Premier League so persuading their head coach to give them a rare rest in this month of eight games.

After their 28th game of a season in which they have reached the knockout stages of the Europa League with a game to spare, Nuno admitted rest and recuperation were among the factors behind their remarkable run. “It is hard work,” he said. “The way they prepare themselves to compete, the way they rest, and their ambitions to improve.

“Tomorrow, because they’ve gone 21 days without a day off, I’m giving that to the boys because they deserve it but they know that the main point of the day off is to rest, to recover because we have to go again and again and again. It’s a very long season and I’m very happy… because we decided to be this way, [with a] small squad and everybody helping each other.”

After their laudable victory at Chelsea, West Ham were allowed to dominate possession at times but in the absence of Michail Antonio, not risked after a recent hamstring injury, they failed to find the penetration or the urgency to trouble the Wolves defence unduly.

West Ham started the brighter at Molineux where a rambunctious atmosphere was tribute to Wolves’ ambitions these days. From João Moutinho’s corner into the six-yard area midway through the first half, Dendoncker got ahead of his marker to stab the ball into the bottom corner of the net for his first league goal of the season.

“The big mistake for me was we conceded again from set pieces,” Manuel Pellegrini said. “It was a very close game but we have lost eight to ten goals from set pieces this season. We’ll see what we must do but that goal allowed Wolverhampton to manage the pace of the game.”

West Ham actually went close to equalising soon after the opener, Rui Patrício stretching to the maximum to turn aside a superb 18-yard shot from Pablo Fornals.

West Ham’s 4-2-3-1 formation gave them plenty of scope to find spaces behind Wolves’ midfield pairing but on the counter-attack, the home side continue to look so potent. Adama Traoré frequently got in down the right wing while Diogo Jota continued to drive into the penalty area to come close to regaining his scoring touch.

Jonny Otto was clean through on goal as he stretched to reach a right-wing cross from Raúl Jiménez, who had been sent away by Rúben Neves behind West Ham’s high back line. But David Martin saved his effort bravely and the visitors soon had their best chance of the night.

Felipe Anderson dispatched a sumptuous crossfield pass to coincide with the run from deep of Robert Snodgrass who had so much time he controlled the ball twice in between looking up at Patrício. Unfortunately his second touch was poor and the Wolves goalkeeper saved. Snodgrass, needing treatment, was promptly substituted.

Insult was added to injury four minutes from time as Cutrone dispatched a neat shot into the bottom corner after Jonny had fed Neto to tee up his fellow substitute. It allowed Wolves to breathe and prepare for the luxury of a day off.

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