Pedro Neto’s goal helped Wolves return to winning ways as they condemned Fulham to a fourth straight Premier League defeat.
The hosts, who had lost their two previous top flight games by an aggregate score of 7-1, move up to 12th in the table with the victory.
However, they were still far from their best and created few clear-cut chances against a resolute Fulham side.
Neto’s goal was a rare moment of quality in the final third, with the Portugal under-21 international superbly driving an effort into the bottom right corner early in the second half.
With Alphonse Areola impressing in goal, the visitors had looked good value for a point at Molineux, where they have not won in the league since 1985.
And even after Neto’s strike, substitute Aboubakar Kamara spurned a glorious opportunity to level the scores, firing a close-range shot straight at the Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Neto inspires Wolves win
After being thrashed by West Ham last Sunday, the visit of a Fulham team yet to earn a point on their return to the top flight seemed an ideal opportunity for Wolves to get back on track.
Fans of the West Midlands club were buoyed in the week by the news that the club had secured the long-term services of captain Conor Coady and forward Raul Jimenez.
However, for the second week running, it appeared as though Nuno Espirito Santo is yet to find a way to ignite the attacking spark of a side that has lost Diogo Jota and Matt Doherty (to Liverpool and Tottenham).
The duo supplied 23 goals last term and were integral to Wolves’ ability to counter attack with pace and penetrate with runs behind opposition defences.
In the first period in particular, those qualities were absent in a display short on imagination and intensity.
Neto’s sweet left-foot provided the solution, in part.
The 20-year-old winger was Wolves’ most purposeful player throughout, drawing a fine save from Areola before emphatically breaking the deadlock.
Nelson Semedo was denied a goal on his first home start, following up Neto’s drive, while Jimenez also saw the Fulham keeper save after opportunistically latching on to a long clearance over the top.
Progress without a point
Fulham boss Scott Parker has accused his side of being naive, particularly in defence since their Premier League return.
But he will have been encouraged by this display, albeit their progress came without delivering the reward of a point.
Antonee Robinson, Maxime le Marchand and on-loan Torino defender Ola Aina, all started in a new-look defence and the visitor’s appeared unrecognisable from the side that shipped 10 goals in their opening three matches.
Former AC Milan target Robinson, 23, was assured in defence and attack but should have done better with a first-half attempt after bursting past two home defenders.
Aina, a Nigeria international who started his career with Chelsea and Le Marchand also contributed to a disciplined rearguard effort.
Pleasingly for Parker, his side also did not concede any real chances once they had started to chase the game, while Ademola Lookman impressed on his debut, starting the move from which Kamara ought to have equalised.
‘It was important to bounce back’ – what they said
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live: “We started the game well, organised. We had some problems in attack. Fulham were organised. Second half we were much better, we created and were on the front foot and got the goal.
“It was important to bounce back from last week but we know it is important to improve.
“We made a lot of things better than last week but with our standards I believe we should do better. We should manage the game better after we score.”
On players going for international duty: “We are proud our players go to national teams but I think the schedule is not correct. It is the pandemic and everyone has to adjust so we assess and decide and keep them going.”
Fulham boss Scott Parker, speaking to Sky Sports: “I am delighted and proud of the team in what they produced today. They showed every facet of what a team needs to show, it has been well documented defensively in terms of conceding goals.
“For large parts we nullified their threat as a counter-attacking team and on the other side of it we defended as best we can.
“We have been absolutely gutted at some of the goals we have conceded – the players are hurting as much as anyone they are not winning games.
“I think we got a performance today. We have had that in other games as well.
“If you could, you would wave a magic wand or click a finger and everything would be perfect but it is not that easy.”
On Ademola Lookman: “You saw the boy’s quality in the time he had on the pitch. There is a directness about him, a willingness to cause problems and that is what we need. He will be a massive asset for us.”
On potential transfers: “We are in the market, we are hoping to get some players in to help us. If it is not the case then this group of players will come out fighting.”
Second-half side Wolves – the stats
- Wolves have kept more home clean sheets in the Premier League in 2020 than any other side (seven), keeping seven shutouts in their last nine league matches at Molineux.
- Fulham have lost each of their opening four matches to a top-flight season for only the second time, and the first since 1951-52.
- In all competitions, Wolves are now unbeaten in 16 home matches against Fulham, winning 12 and drawing four.
- Fulham have conceded 11 goals from their opening four Premier League games of 2020-21, the most they’ve shipped after their first four matches of any league campaign since 1960-61 (14).
- Fulham boss Scott Parker has lost 11 of his 14 Premier League games as a manager (79%); of managers to have taken charge of 10+ games in the competition, only Jan Siewert (80% – 12/15) has a poorer ratio of defeats.
- Of Wolves’ last 16 Premier League goals, 12 have come in the second half of their matches. Indeed, Wolves have failed to score in the opening 45 minutes in 20 of their last 26 league fixtures.
- Pedro Neto scored his fourth Premier League goal for Wolves, but first at Molineux, with this his 16th home league appearance for the club.
Following the international break, Wolves travel to Leeds for their next Premier League fixture on Monday 19 October (20:00 BST).
Fulham’s next Premier League match is at Sheffield United on Saturday 17 October (15:00 BST).
Player of the match
Pedro NetoPedro Neto
with an average of 7.40
Squad number7Player namePedro Neto
Squad number9Player nameJiménez
Squad number16Player nameCoady
Squad number37Player nameTraoré
Squad number27Player nameSaïss
Squad number15Player nameBoly
Squad number8Player nameRúben Neves
Squad number22Player nameNélson Semedo
Squad number32Player nameDendoncker
Squad number10Player nameDaniel Podence
Squad number11Player nameRui Patrício
Squad number2Player nameHoever
Squad number49Player nameKilman
Squad number28Player nameJoão Moutinho
Squad number19Player nameLookman
Squad number1Player nameAreola
Squad number9Player nameMitrovic
Squad number7Player nameKebano
Squad number33Player nameRobinson
Squad number29Player nameZambo Anguissa
Squad number10Player nameCairney
Squad number23Player nameBryan
Squad number17Player nameCavaleiro
Squad number34Player nameAina
Squad number14Player nameDe Cordova-Reid
Squad number47Player nameKamara
Squad number20Player nameLe Marchand
Squad number13Player nameReam
- 11Rui Patrício
- 22Nélson SemedoSubstituted forHoeverat 78′minutes
- 8NevesBooked at 90mins
- 7NetoSubstituted forTraoréat 82′minutes
- 10Castelo PodenceSubstituted forJoão Moutinhoat 71′minutes
- 17Soares Silva
- 20Machado Ferreira
- 28João Moutinho
- 20Le MarchandBooked at 79mins
- 29Zambo Anguissa
- 17CavaleiroSubstituted forLookmanat 67′minutes
- 14De Cordova-ReidSubstituted forKebanoat 81′minutes
- 23BryanSubstituted forKamaraat 67′minutes
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Fulham 0.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Fulham 0.
Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Ademola Lookman (Fulham) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
André-Frank Zambo Anguissa (Fulham) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Attempt missed. Neeskens Kebano (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is too high. Assisted by Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Attempt missed. Maxime Le Marchand (Fulham) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left following a set piece situation.
Attempt blocked. Neeskens Kebano (Fulham) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Tom Cairney (Fulham) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Attempt missed. Neeskens Kebano (Fulham) left footed shot from the left side of the box is close, but misses the top left corner. Assisted by Ademola Lookman.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Adama Traoré replaces Pedro Neto.
Substitution, Fulham. Neeskens Kebano replaces Bobby De Cordova-Reid.
Attempt blocked. Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Maxime Le Marchand (Fulham) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Maxime Le Marchand (Fulham).
Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Ki-Jana Hoever replaces Nélson Semedo because of an injury.