Wolves 1 Southampton 1
Wolves fans haven’t warmed to VAR yet and you don’t need to be a brain surgeon to appreciate why.
Saturday brought two more efforts chalked off after Leander Dendoncker’s harshest of all strikes at Leicester to be ruled out by the controversial new ruling system.
OK, so replays showed VAR was correct to twice deny Raul Jimenez in the first half, first because he handballed Willy Boly’s outstanding through ball, then as Patrick Cutrone’s right leg was offside, though you could argue what advantage the Italian had at that instant.
At least Nuno Espirito Santo’s side emerged with something from a game that failed to warm supporters for much of the proceedings on a day when there was an autumnal chill for the first time this season.
And it was with some relief and justification that Jimenez was the scorer after his two efforts were ruled out in the first half.
The Mexico international’s 61st-minute penalty earned Wolves a deserved point to extend their unbeaten run to four in the Premier League and six overall, while Southampton ended a run of three straight defeats with their eighth point, seven of which have come on the road.
Jimenez’s ninth goal of the season cancelled out Danny Ings’s opener eight minutes earlier after an awful mistake from Conor Coady to let him in.
For the second game in a row, Wolves suffered casualties as Ryan Bennett then Ruben Neves were forced off by half-time with minor knocks to add to hamstring victim Romain Saiss, who watched the game from an executive box in the Billy Wright Stand, while Pedro Neto was missing for the third game in a row.
Bennett became the second central defender in as many games to depart within the opening half hour after Saiss limped off at Manchester City.
Head coach Nuno admitted Wolves missed the organisation the dependable Bennett brings once he was forced off with a strain to his left groin.
Bennett’s replacement Jesus Vallejo is finding the Premier League an unforgiving stage to learn on as he again looked shaky and unconvincing on his second appearance in the top flight to follow his blazing baptism of fire in the 5-2 home defeat against Chelsea.
The on-loan Real Madrid defender is clearly a decent footballer, but seems surprised and shaky when placed under pressure, as per Ings’s high press, and uncomfortable with the physical side of the game.
It’s not to his advantage that the Molineux crowd have also picked up on his uneasiness and there was a tension from the stands whenever he came under pressure.
It was his hasty clearance that was headed straight back into the danger area by Hojbjerg for Ings to score.
And it was his poor pass that was seized on by Ings for a curling shot that Rui Patricio gathered at the foot of the post in the first attack of the second half.
Hopefully Vallejo can win the supporters over in the same way so many of Nuno’s signings have; let’s face it, the Portuguese hasn’t got many wrong so far.
His biggest of all, £32.6m club record signing Jimenez, looked to have benefitted from a break after being excused international duty.
The Mexican was hungry and sharp; chasing down loose balls and lost causes and showing a razor-sharp radar and finishing for his two disallowed efforts before finally getting on the scoresheet after Hojbjerg’s challenge saw Matt Doherty fall to win the penalty after initially holding off the Saints captain and brilliantly evading Maya Yoshida’s lunge.
Seconds later, Diogo Jota came on for Cutrone after missing the last four games in all competitions with a toe injury.
The wiry attacker, playing as a left-sided forward in a hark back to the Championship days after Nuno switched to 3-4-3 at half-time when Doherty replaced Neves, lifted Wolves and dragged them up the pitch with his brave dribbling that producced two blocked shotsand several fouls against him.
But despite trying to take the game to Saints, Wolves failed to trouble opposition goalkeeper Angus Gunn.
Instead, Patricio was the busier ‘keeper, as a stretching toe-poke from James Ward-Prowse was gratefully gathered then the Portugal number one pawed away a superb free kick from the same midfielder.
In the end, a draw was a fair result, and Wolves retain momentum as they sign off at Molineux until the visit of Slovan Bratislava on November 7.
Wolves fans might be rueing VAR, but the decisions were proved correct, and, over the season, their team will surely benefit too.
Wolves (3-5-2): Patricio 7; Bennett 6 (Vallejo 27, 5), Coady (c) 6, Boly 7; Traore 7, Dendoncker 6, Neves 6 (Doherty 46, 7), Moutinho 7, Jonny 8; Jimenez 8, Cutrone 6 (Jota 62, 7).
Unused subs: Ruddy (gk), Gibbs-White, Vinagre, Kilman.
Southampton (3-5-1-1): Gunn 6; Bednarek 7, Yoshida 7, Vestergaard 7; Valery 6 (Boufal 75, 6), Ward-Prowse 7, Hojbjerg (c) 6, Romeu 6 (Danso 82, 6), Bertrand 7; Redmond 7; Ings 8.
Unused subs: McCarthy (gk), Stephens, Long, Adams, Armstrong.
Man of the match: Raul Jimenez – looked hungry throughout as he found the net three times but only one stood. 8/10
Referee: Peter Bankes 7/10