Aston Villa and Wolves played out a goalless draw at Villa Park, in a West Midlands derby that lacked the one bit of magic in front of goal to turn the tide.
The home side twice hit the bar in a dominant first half. Wolves improved after the break and Romain Saiss somehow failed to find the target from less than a yard out, while Emiliano Martinez made a stunning save as the points were shared.
Villa carried the greater attacking threat in the opening period and came within a whisker of opening the scoring inside 10 minutes as a howitzer from Ollie Watkins beat Rui Patricio only to clatter against the crossbar.
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Ezri Konsa was the second Villa player to strike the bar when firing powerfully from eight yards, and he arguably should have done better to keep the ball down.
Wolves, driven forward by the impressive Pedro Neto, were much improved after the break.
Neto stung Martinez’s palms after a lung-bursting run and his cross from a clever corner move saw Conor Coady hit the post with a header - with Saiss somehow scooping the rebound over.
Coady was then in a state of bewilderment with 13 minutes left to play as Martinez showed stunning reflexes to push the ball round the post after the Wolves defender had swept in a shot that looked certain to secure the three points.
TALKING POINT - WHAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH ADAMA?
There was a time in the not too distant past that Adama Traore was being linked with a £100 million transfer. Power, pace and direct running had teams around Europe queueing up express interest.
Wolves batted back the interest and there are probably bean counters at Molineux looking at their balance sheets dreaming of what might have been.
Traore, still oiled up so that can’t be used as an excuse - unless he’s shifted brand and it’s affecting his play - just looks totally devoid of confidence.
He’s not offering up for the ball often enough, and when he does the first thought is to look sideways or backwards rather than driving forward and threatening his opponents.
He was faced with Ahmed El Mohamady and should have relished the challenge, but he gave the Villa full-back an easy time.
Nuno Santo needs to reinvigorate his winger, or the offers that will come their way in the future will be 10x less than what was once talked about.
MAN OF THE MATCH
It’s a day when you’d like to offer up a couple. Emiliano Martinez kept Villa in the match with two brilliant saves, the second of which from Coady was out of the top drawer, but Pedro Neto just had that bit of magic dust.
When his side were poor in the opening 45 minutes, he was the one player to offer himself and drive Wolves forward.
In the second half, when Wolves took control, he was at the heart of their play and proved why he is rated so highly.
Aston Villa: Martinez 8; El Mohamady 5, Konsa 6, Mings 7, Targett 7; Luiz 6, McGinn 6; Traore 6, Sanson 5, Trezeguet 5; Watkins 7. Subs: Barkley 6, Davis N/A, Ramsey N/A
Wolves: Patricio 6; Saiss 6, Coady 7 , Dendoncker 5; Otto 6, Neves 6, Moutinho 5, Semedo 6; Neto 8*, Willian J 6, Adama 4. Subs: Fabio Silva N/A
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4' CHANCE! Dendoncker tries to pinch the ball but is the wrong side and Ollie Watkins collects and lets fly from 25 yards. Rui Patricio is well beaten but it thuds off the bar and away. Good start from Villa.
10’ CHANCE! Villa threaten again. Watkins collects the ball and drives into the box. He cuts inside and creates a yard of space, but elects to pass to Traore instead of shooting and the chance goes begging. Not sure why he didn't let fly. Maybe he felt it was too close, as 25 yards appears to be his range.
15’ CHANCE! Villa strike the woodwork again. The home side attack down the left and the ball is whipped in by Traore to Konsa. He does well to control the ball after it came through a bunch of bodies and he crashes a shot against the bar. Dean Smith will be getting the tape measure out at half time if this continues.
50’ CHANCE! Neto has been the bright spark for Wolves and he breaks at pace from the corner, exposes Targett and fires a shot on goal that is saved by Martinez. Much more like it from the visitors.
57’ WHAT A MISS! A clever corner from Wolves. Neto picks out Coady who heads against the post. The ball comes out to Saiss who scoops it over from a yard out. Not quite sure how he missed.
77’ WHAT A SAVE! From the free kick, Barkley gives the ball away on the edge of his own box. Coady meets the ball as it is swept goalwards and Martinez somehow makes the save. It was brilliant.
90+2’ CHANCE! Mings is back on his feet as Barkley whips the corner in, the ball drops to Watkins who forces a save from Rui Patricio and Konsa shoots the rebound wide.
Touching wood. Ollie Watkins has hit the woodwork seven times season. People have been craving bars. Watkins is sick of the sight of them.
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