The second-ever Premier League match to take place on Christmas Eve was on show at Molineux, with both sides looking to send their fans home with an early present in the form of three points. Wolves were given a rude awakening last time out with a 3-0 defeat at West Ham United, while Mauricio Pochettino’s Chelsea arrived in the Black Country looking to follow up their Carabao Cup quarter-final victory over Newcastle with their second successive league win.
WOL: Sa; Kilman, Dawson, Toti; Semedo, Lemina, Gomes, Ait Nouri; Sarabia, Cunha, Hwang
CHE: Petrovic; Gusto, Disasi, Silva, Colwill; Gallagher, Ugochukwu; Sterling, Palmer, Jackson; Broja
Both sides started brightly at Molineux, with Joao Gomes going close following a wonderful counterattack from Gary O’Neil’s hosts, but Axel Disasi was there to clear the ball.
Disasi’s ball forward was then played forward by Raheem Sterling to Armando Broja, who cut inside twice and looked for the far corner, but Mario Lemina made the tackle to prevent what would have been a very inventive opener from the Albanian. Nicolas Jackson also tried his luck from close-range, but Nelson Semedo made the block at the back for the home side.
Chelsea’s dominance began to waver when Wolves gained the momentum through chances from Pablo Sarabia and Hwang Hee Chan, and a free kick from Raheem Sterling – who had been a stand out in this clash so far – didn’t help matters as it travelled well over the bar.
In the 32nd minute, Joao Gomes was dispossessed just outside his own box by Sterling and the England international was in one-on-one with Jose Sa, but the Wolves goalkeeper spared Gomes’s blushes as he collected the ball calmly.Embed from Getty Images
The best chance of the half for Wolves arrived with just a minute to go before the break as Hwang Hee Chan was released through on goal by Nelson Semedo, but Djordje Petrovic was there to make the save.
Up the other end, Cole Palmer had a great chance to give Chelsea the advantage at the break, but the former Manchester City man’s effort travelled just over the bar.
With the second half just 100 seconds old, Thiago Silva almost cost his side a clean sheet, as he was dispossessed by Hwang Hee Chan, who laid the ball off the Joao Gomes, whose shot was deflected wide of Petrovic’s goal. Petrovic then pulled off an incredible stop to deny Toti’s header at the far post.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 51st minute when a wonderful delivery in from the right hand corner by Pablo Sarabia found Mario Lemina, who headed home superbly past Djordje Petrovic into the far corner; a goal that saw Molineux erupt.Embed from Getty Images
Joao Gomes could have doubled his side’s lead eleven minutes later, but his shot was tame and Petrovic collected comfortably.
Christopher Nkunku, who came on for Armando Broja following the Wolves opener, almost marked his Premier League debut in style, but Toti was there to clear the ball off the line at the last minute to deny the Frenchman.
As the game entered stoppage time, Wolves finally doubled their advantage. A blistering run down the left hand side from Wolves substitute Hugo Bueno saw him curl the ball in towards Hwang Hee Chan, but the clearance from Benoit Badiashile landed at the feet of Bueno’s fellow substitute Matt Doherty, who slotted home from close range.
In the 96th minute, however, Christopher Nkunku scored for the first time in the Premier League, as he rose highest in the Wolves box to head home Raheem Sterling’s cross in from the right hand side. However, it only proved a consolation as Wolves held out for their early Christmas present: a huge win to stay clear of the relegation zone.Embed from Getty Images
Both sides are next in action on Wednesday, where Chelsea host Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge, and Wolves head to London to take on Brentford – both kick off at 7:30pm.