Crystal Palace 1 (Ward 47) Wolves 1 (Jota 90+5)
Wolves fans will be hoping their Premier League season is up and running after they rescued a point at the death at Crystal Palace.
Coming as late as it did, Diogo Jota’s equaliser in the fifth minute of time added on not only ended a run of three straight defeats for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, but felt like a winner, especially as they had been reduced to 10 men for the last 17 minutes after Romain Saiss saw red.
Wolves’ reply was late, but it was certainly deserved, after the visitors enjoyed the better of the chances in the first half before Leander Dendoncker deflected in Joel Ward’s long-range effort for Palace in the 47th minute.
Head coach Nuno Espirito Santo again rang the changes, with the game coming just three days after their latest Europa League game, the 1-0 defeat at home to Braga. Saiss, Joao Moutinho, Jota and Adama Traore replaced Ryan Bennett, Ruben Neves, Morgan Gibbs-White and Patrick Cutrone. Traore played a more advanced role, with him and Jota either side of Raul Jimenez, as Nuno switched to his 3-4-3 formation that was used up until he changed to 3-5-2 in December last year after six games without a win.
The tweak seemed to work too, as Wolves created the first opening when Moutinho’s cross found Dendoncker and the Belgian’s shot was cleared off the line by James McArthur.
The visitors created the next attack as Traore outmuscled his markers and let fly only to see his goalbound shot was deflected over the bar.
Palace responded with a Jordan Ayew header from a corner which was well covered by goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
But Wolves were in the mood to end their mini-slump and Eagles goalkeeper Vincente Guaita had to be alert to tip over Matt Doherty’s point-blank header after Jimenez crossed. Traore fired well wide after the ball broke to him on the edge of the box from the resulting corner.
Guaita thwarted Wolves twice more before the break. First, he smothered Jota’s shot arrowing for the corner of the net after he exchanged passes with Jimenez and surged into the box. Then Doherty directed the ball towards goal from Moutinho’s cross but the Spanish keeper kept the ball out.
Wolves might have been the dominant force in the first half, but their wastefulness in front of goal was punished within two minutes of the restart – albeit in fortunate circumstances. Ward’s shot from the edge of the area wrongfooted Patricio after a deflection off Dendoncker.
But despite falling behind, Wolves continued to force the pressure on the home goal, and Guaita got a foot to Jonny’s cross to deny Jimenez. Worse was to follow however as Saiss was dismissed for a second bookable offence in the 73rd minute. The Morocco international received his marching orders for a needless challenge in the Palace half to pull back Wilfred Zaha after being yellow-carded for a sliding into the Eagles attacker earlier in the half.
Wolves then had Patricio to thank after he got down low to foil substitute Christian Benteke after the former Villa striker evaded Conor Coady to fire goalwards.
The visitors continued to press for an equaliser and Traore’s powerful effort was deflected wide at the far post.
With Wolves chasing the game in added time, substitute Ruben Neves fired wide from long range before Patricio denied Benteke at the other end.
But the visitors weren’t to be denied and they grabbed the equaliser they deserved when Jota fired past Guaita after Ward slipped going for Traore’s cross.
Palace: Guaita, Ward, Sakho, Cahill, Van Aanholt, Milivojevic, Schlupp, McArthur (McCarthy 83), Kouyate, Zaha, Ayew (Benteke 69).
Unused subs: Hennessey, Kelly, Dann, Meyler, Townsend.
Wolves: Patricio; Boly, Coady, Saiss; Doherty (Neves 57), Dendoncker (Neto 65), Moutinho, Jonny; Traore, Jota, Jimenez (Cutrone 76).
Unused subs: Ruddy, Vallejo, Vinagre, Gibbs-White.
Referee: Stuart Atwell