Sheffield United grabbed a crucial last minute winner in the race for European football on Wednesday, to see off Wolves.
In a largely even first half, both sides seemed to have each other scouted well as Wolves dealt with Sheffield United's wide overloads, while the Blades snuffed out danger in defence by forcing Wolves to funnel their play through the centre of the park.
Two games, two goals. John Egan won it late for Sheffield United! ?pic.twitter.com/eYwYbUUxPK— 90min (@90min_Football) July 8, 2020
The home side started the second half brightly, despite losing Oli McBurnie through injury shortly after play resumed. Aware of Wolves' impressive form in the second half of matches this season, United pushed their opponents back into their own half. A lack of quality in the final third meant that both goalkeepers had little to do for the most part, however, as neither side could probe an opening.
A desperate, last push from Sheffield United looked to set to fruitless until a corner in the last minute of added time proved vital as John Egan popped up with winning goal.
Key Talking Point
Sheffield United were cautious in their approach from the first minute of the game. Wary of Wolves' attacking firepower, they were initially hesitant to throw bodies forward. As the first half progressed, the Blades looked to attack down the flanks in their usual overlapping fashion, which at times left them open to a counter attack.
The return of Jack O'Connell has proven timely for Chris Wilder's side, with most of their attacks coming from the left flank that the Englishman was constantly pushing into.
In attack, Billy Sharp caused problems for the Wolves defence with tireless running which created passing options, but he couldn't find a goal for his troubles. O'Connell and Baldock were allowed to put crosses into the box, but to no avail as Conor Coady swept up for the visitors. Enda Stevens did well to pick out forward options from deep and out wide, but ultimately a lack of attacking quality stopped them from scoring in the opening 45.
They continued to be resolute in defence in the second half; Stevens was again impressive, himself and others smothering Traore whenever he picked up the ball near the 18-yard box.
They continued to dominate possession in the closing stages, but the game looked set to end in a draw as Rui Patricio saved a stretched Ben Osborn effort in the 92nd minute. It was from this corner, however, that Egan showed up with the goods and won the game for his side.
It was undoubtedly the most clear-cut chance of the game, which is testament to how poor both sides were in front of goal. United had managed just two shots on target prior to this.
Sheffield United Player Ratings
Starting XI: Henderson (5); Basham (6), Egan (7), O'Connell (5); Baldock (5), Berge (5), Norwood (6), Osborn (6), Stevens (7*); McBurnie (5), Sharp (6).
Substitutes: Mousset (5), Zivkovic (6).
In a rather dull affair, Enda Stevens was perhaps the brightest spark. The Irishman had the difficult task of keeping Adama Traore quiet from left wing-back, but did so with ease.
He was also responsible for creating a lot of chances for his side, with his impressive passing range coming to the fore. Stevens worked incredibly hard down the wing to provide crosses or support on the overlap, but also started attacks from deep.
A more convicting display in attack would probably have resulted in Stevens finishing the game with an assist or two to his name.
Egan's last-minute winner will steal the headlines, but the 29-year-old was crucial to the Blades fortunes.
Key Talking Point
Wolves dominated possession from the off, but couldn't create any clear cut chances through their powerful front three of Traore, Jimenez and Jota. With both sides playing wing backs, Nuno's side struggled to cause problems out wide and were forced inside. This caused problems on the counter, but ultimately resulted in a tactical stalemate for the majority of the first half.
Nuno's side struggled to create openings in the second half. Traore was isolated on the left-hand side, but managed to start counter attacks when picking the ball up from deep. As the game went on, Wolves' front three found themselves coming further and further back to retrieve the ball.
The introduction of Leander Dendoncker with little over 10 minutes to go allowed Wolves to match Sheffield United's 3-5-2 formation, with an extra body in midfield in the hope that they could wrestle control of the midfield battle. It didn't work, however, and Santo's were still just as hemmed in as they had been for the rest of the half.
Despite Wolves usually being the ones to pop up with a last-minute winner, they caved under the cosntant pressure from their opponents and now face a trip back down to Wolverhampton without a single point to show for their efforts.
Wolves Player Ratings
Starting XI: Patricio (5); Boly (5), Coady (6), Saiss (5); Doherty (5), Neves (6), Moutinho (5), Jonny (5); Traore (6), Jimenez (5), Jota (6).
Substitutes: Dendoncker (5).
The winning goal provides Sheffield United with a huge three points in an already outstanding return season to the Premier League, putting them in seventh place on 51 points.
Despite a slow start since football returned from a three-month lockdown, a win against Wolves will fill Wilder's side with confidence heading into their final four fixtures, and keeps them in the hunt for European qualification.
As for Wolves, a loss means they lose ground in their bid for Champions League qualification. Winning would've put them level on points with Manchester United, but the Red Devils can now open up a six point gap should they beat Aston Villa on Thursday evening.
Source : 90min