Wolves 2-1 Chelsea: Player ratings as Matt Doherty strike seals victory

Christopher Nkunku’s first goal for Chelsea couldn’t save his side from defeat as Wolves secured a well-deserved victory at Molineux on Christmas Eve.

After a tight first half, Mario Lemina headed in the opener in the 51st minute. The Wanderers held off pressure from the Blues before substitute Matt Doherty vitally doubled their lead in second-half stoppage time.

Nkunku was left free to nod in a cross from Raheem Sterling to reduce the deficit, but no equaliser came as Wolves moved up to 11th, level on points with Chelsea.

How the game unfolded

Chelsea were without usual midfield pairing Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo, leaving Lesley Ugochukwu to partner Conor Gallagher as the visitors made a bright start. A smart challenge was needed from Lemina to stop Armando Broja getting a shot away after Raheem Sterling wriggled from on the left.

The Blues again failed to take advantage of a promising situation in the 11th minute as Malo Gusto’s cross evaded Broja before Gallagher’s shot was blocked by Joao Gomes. A poor first touch also spurned a good opening for Nicolas Jackson.

Jose Sa made his first vital save after the goalkeeper played Joao Gomes into trouble. Sterling raced through unopposed and had players either side of him but instead saw his shot smothered by Sa.

Gary O’Neil’s Wanderers managed to provide more threat towards the end of the half as Craig Dawson made his presence felt in the Chelsea box before Hwang Hee-chan got his first sniff of goal. The South Korean latched on to Max Kilman’s sprawling pass but blasted well wide of Djordje Petrovic’s goal.

Lemina gave Chelsea a warning shot when his header from a corner was held by Petrovic, but minutes later the former Southampton midfielder connected with Pablo Sarabia’s set-piece, glancing into the far corner.

Wolves were bidding to move level on points with Chelsea before kick-off but their goal provoked attacking substitutions from Mauricio Pochettino as Christopher Nkunku and Mykhailo Mudryk entered proceedings.

The pressure started ramping up on the home side, with Jackson’s indecisiveness scuppering another chance to score before Nkunku’s prodded shot was cleared off the line by Toti Gomes.

Nkunku’s arrival gave more intent to Chelsea’s attacking forays and his pass to Sterling nearly led to an equaliser. However, Dawson flew across to make a brilliant block.

The Blues couldn’t get on the scoresheet before Wolves added a second for themselves. Two substitutes combined as Hugo Bueno’s cross bounced off Benoit Badiashile and fell to Doherty to finish simply.

There was time for Nkunku to grab his first ever Premier League goal, heading in unmarked from Sterling’s cross, but Wolves stood firm to close out the win.

Matt DohertyMatt Doherty

Doherty scored a decisive second for Wolves / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

GK: Jose Sa – 6/10 – Guilty of some really poor and dangerous passing that might have cost his side more against a ruthless team. Still kept the ball out of the net before Nkunku’s header.

CB: Max Kilman – 7/10 – A few ditsy moments but largely had Jackson’s number throughout proceedings.

CB: Craig Dawson – 7/10 – Pulled out some rugged blocks to prevent Chelsea drawing level.

CB: Toti Gomes – 7/10 – Important intervention on the line kept Wolves ahead.

RWB: Nelson Semedo – 6/10 – Definitely lacked final product with most of his crosses missing the mark. More stout in defence.

CM: Joao Gomes – 7/10 – Similarly combative alongside Lemina.

CM: Mario Lemina – 9/10 – A dominant midfield performance defensively, snapping into tackles and mopping up loose ball. Wasn’t shy of a shot and glanced in the winner superbly.

LWB: Ryan Ait-Nouri – 7/10 – Looked sharp going forward, combining nicely with Wolves’ attackers and winning headers in the Chelsea box.

RW: Hwang Hee-chan – 6/10 – Blew a big chance wide. Hard-working but didn’t get too many more opportunities.

ST: Matheus Cunha – 5/10 – Kept losing the ball when Wolves needed it to stick up front. Also got booked.

LW: Pablo Sarabia – 7/10 – Quiet in the early exchanges but woke up in the second half, setting up Lemina’s winner and threatened on the edge of the box.

Substitutes

SUB: Santiago Bueno (70′ for Dawson) – 6/10

SUB: Tommy Doyle (75′ for Sarabia) – 6/10

SUB: Matt Doherty (86′ for Cunha) – 8/10 – Replaced the supposed striker in Wolves’ team and showed Cunha how to do it with a cool finish.

SUB: Hugo Bueno (87′ for Ait-Nouri) – 7/10 – Won the ball back and drove forward before Doherty’s goal.

Subs not used: Sasa Kalajdzic, Ty Barnett, Owen Hesketh, Tawanda Chirewa, Daniel Bentley.

Manager

Gary O’Neil – 8/10 – His gameplan largely kept Chelsea at bay while playing to Wolves’ strength at set-pieces.

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea FC - Premier LeagueWolverhampton Wanderers v Chelsea FC - Premier League

Nkunku scored his first Chelsea goal / MB Media/GettyImages

GK: Djordje Petrovic – 6/10 – A few occasions where more decisive goalkeeping was needed from set-piece deliveries but made the saves he’d be expected to.

RB: Malo Gusto – 5/10 – Made a couple of clearances in defence but couldn’t provide any quality delivery in attack.

CB: Axel Disasi – 4/10 – Looked clumsy and indecisive in and out of possession.

CB: Thiago Silva – 4/10 – Seems to have been stretched to the absolute edge of his capabilities, with his performances now suffering.

LB: Levi Colwill – 6/10 – Definitely more adventurous than perhaps expected, catching the eye with some smart dribbling.

CM: Lesley Ugochukwu – 4/10 – Out-fought and out-through in the midfield battle by Lemina and Gomes.

CM: Conor Gallagher – 5/10 – A bundle of energy as always, though didn’t show enough positional awareness which Wolves exploited.

RW: Raheem Sterling – 6/10 – Had some wonderful chances, including one he made himself by robbing Gomes, but couldn’t hold his nerve in the final third. Got the assist for Nkunku’s header.

AM: Cole Palmer – 5/10 – Not much came off for the former Manchester City youngster. Picked up a booking which rules him out of Chelsea’s clash with Crystal Palace.

LW: Nicolas Jackson – 3/10 – One scenario where Jackson decided to cut back on to his right foot instead of shoot with his left encapsulated the messy thinking laced into Chelsea’s attacking display.

ST: Armando Broja – 4/10 – Couldn’t wriggle free in the box when he got service.

Substitutes

SUB: Christopher Nkunku (59′ for Ugochukwu) – 8/10 – Added more verve to Chelsea’s attacking play and headed in well to score.

SUB: Mykhailo Mudryk (59′ for Broja) – 5/10 – Got the stepovers out but not much worked well.

SUB: Ian Maatsen (79′ for Colwill) – 5/10

SUB: Benoit Badiashile (80′ for Gusto) – 5/10

SUB: Noni Madueke (80′ for Jackson) – 5/10

Subs not used: Marcus Bettinelli, Lucas Bergstrom, Ian Maatsen, Romeo Lavia, Alex Matos

Manager

Mauricio Pochettino – 3/10 – Chelsea couldn’t capitalise on their moments in the ascendancy and Pochettino’s second-half changes both tactically and from the bench did little to influence a comeback.

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