Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-1 Aston Villa
Wolves boosted their hopes of playing in Europe next season by beating Aston Villa to move up to seventh in the Premier League.
The hosts took the lead when Spain defender Jonny struck a crisp half-volley after Fabio Silva’s shot had been blocked by Lucas Digne.
Wolves doubled their advantage when Villa defender Ashley Young, who had come on as a substitute for Digne, inadvertently headed into his own net following Marcal’s left-wing cross.
England striker Ollie Watkins missed a couple of good chances for the visitors before converting a late penalty to give Villa hope.
However, Steven Gerrard’s side could not force an equaliser as the home side held on for the three points.
The victory takes Wolves above West Ham, and they are now five points behind fourth-placed Arsenal in the final Champions League spot - although the Gunners have three games in hand.
Wolves v Villa as it happened, plus reaction and analysis
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Wolves dreaming of European return
For Wolves, it was a third victory in seven games, even if in the end it was tighter than they might have liked.
They are now seventh and, if they stay there, will qualify for next season’s Europa Conference League - as long as Crystal Palace do not win the FA Cup (in which case the Eagles would play in Europe instead).Wolves are trying to secure European football for the second time in four years after reaching the Europa League quarter-finals in 2019-20.
Despite being without midfielder Ruben Neves, who is out for a month with a knee injury, and suspended striker Raul Jimenez after his red card against Leeds, Bruno Lage’s side looked a threat every time they attacked against a surprisingly vulnerable Villa defence.
Wolves went ahead after only seven minutes when Villa’s John McGinn slipped and lost possession before team-mate Ezri Konsa also fell over. That enabled the hosts to counter, with Jonny scoring with a great strike.
It was his second goal in consecutive matches in only his sixth appearance of the season, after being out for 10 months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
The hosts doubled their lead in the 36th minute in fortunate circumstances when Young, on in place of the injured Digne, slipped when trying to deal with Francisco Trincao’s cross and headed into his own net.
No Wolves collapse this week, just
Wolves threw away a 2-0 lead against Leeds before losing 3-2 on 18 March, and their fans would have been fearing a repeat late on at Molineux.
Villa’s best chances in the first half came from long distance, with Philippe Coutinho narrowly firing a free-kick over and Leon Bailey having an excellent effort tipped over by goalkeeper Jose Sa.
Watkins, who scored for England in their 3-0 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday, twice had chances to halve the deficit before Wolves substitute Hwang Hee-chan almost added another for the hosts within two minutes of coming on, but shot wide.
When Watkins was fouled by Sa, he converted the penalty for his eighth Premier League goal of the season to set up a frantic finale. Poland right-back Matty Cash had the chance to equalise in the 95th minute, but his volley was excellently saved by Sa.
Villa remain ninth in the Premier League despite their third successive defeat - the first time they have lost three in a row since the former England captain replaced the sacked Dean Smith in November.