Adama Traore’s first goal of the season was well worth the wait as his powerful strike secured Wolves a 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace and a place in the FA Cup fourth round.
In the 35th minute, the 24-year-old produced a smart bit of skill and a powerful thunderous strike which flew past Jack Butland to give Wolves the advantage.
It proved to be the only goal of the game as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side booked their place in Monday’s FA Cup fourth-round draw.
Meanwhile, it was a disappointing night for Palace, who threw on Wilfried Zaha as a second-half substitute as they went in search of an elusive equaliser. The result means they exit the FA Cup at the third-round stage for the second successive season.
How Traore’s strike sealed Wolves’ progress…
Both sides exchanged really good openings early on, Fabio Silva heading Pedro Neto’s cross over from close range before Eberechi Eze fired Michy Batshuayi’s cut back high over John Ruddy’s crossbar.
Jack Butland, making his first appearance for Palace, was called into action in the 21st minute when he parried Nelson Semedo’s powerful low drive before making a more comfortable save from Silva seconds later.
Wolves: Ruddy (7), Nelson Semedo (8), Coady (7), Saiss (7), Ait Nouri (7), Dendoncker (7), Neves (8), Traore (8), Joao Moutinho (6), Pedro Neto (7), Silva (6).
Subs: Gibbs-White (6), Cutrone (n/a), Hoever (n/a).
Crystal Palace: Butland (6), Clyne (6), Tomkins (6), Sakho (5), van Aanholt (6), Ayew (7), McCarthy (6), Riedewald (6), Eze (7), Benteke (5), Batshuayi (6).
Subs: Kouyate (6), Zaha (6), Mitchell (6), Townsend (n/a).
Man of the match: Adama Traore
However, he could do nothing about Traore’s opener.
The 24-year-old skipped past Eze with a lovely piece of skill before shifting the ball onto his right foot and powering a shot beyond Butland from the edge of the penalty area. The Palace goalkeeper managed to get a hand to the ball but there was too much power on the strike for him to keep it out.
Silva missed another glaring opportunity at the start of the second half to extend Wolves’ lead, this time glancing another free header wide from a Neto corner.
Palace enjoyed much more of the ball in the second half, putting Wolves under pressure but they failed to trouble goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Wolves head coach Nuno Espirito Santo made two changes to the side that shared the points with Brighton in their last Premier League match. John Ruddy and Leander Dendoncker both came into the starting line-up in place of Rui Patricio and Vitinha.
Crystal Palace made a number of changes with Wilfried Zaha named only on the bench. Jack Butland made his first start in goal since joining the club and there were also starts for Eberechi Eze, Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke. James McCarthy came into the side with Mamadou Sakho at the heart of the defence alongside James Tomkins.
At the other end, Butland kept his side in the contest, showing good reactions to keep Leander Dendoncker’s goal bound effort out.
Palace boss Roy Hodgson called on Zaha for the final 20 minutes and the visitors immediately looked livelier as the forward tried to tee up Batshuayi, but Conor Coady spotted the danger to make a last-ditch block.
Wolves went close on the counter-attack with 10 minutes remaining as Neto sent a shot narrowly wide before Palace applied some late pressure in a bid to keep the tie alive, but they ran out of ideas.
What the managers said…
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo: “It [the FA Cup] deserved to be respected because it is the oldest competition. We want to compete and go as far as possible and we always try. It was a special goal from a special player [Adama Traore]. I am very happy because I think this goal will boost his confidence.
“He has been really trying in training sessions and that is why I am so happy.
“We have to have patience with everybody. It has been a hard season for everybody, all the teams, players and managers. You can see how the situation affects everybody.
“Adama is a versatile player, who can play in a couple of positions and one thing we are sure about is that every time he is on the pitch he always has an impact.”
Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson: “I thought in the second half we had quite a lot of control but we were a goal down to an incredible strike. We have suffered from a few of those in recent weeks. It meant that Wolves could sit back and defend which they did well.
“They [Christian Benteke and Michy Batshuayi] will be a little disappointed and they were both desperate to do well. They both worked extremely well and respected the tactical instructions we had given them but it didn’t fall their way but you must give Wolves credit for that. There weren’t many situations in the game where the goalkeeper was called on to make saves.
“Football is a part of life in general. We are part of society and like the rest of society we are a little depressed by what is going on at the moment and not least of all the terrible amount of hospitalisation and death we are suffering.
“We are still privileged and happy to be playing football. We have to be very careful before we start lamenting that life is hard.”
Man of the match – Adama Traore
A much needed confidence boost for the winger, who was a constant threat with his pace down the Wolves right.
He gave Patrick van Aanholt problems all evening and produced a stunning finish to end his goal drought.
Wolves will be hoping it can be the spring board to a few more in the coming weeks.
Opta stats – Wolves back to winning ways
- Wolves have progressed from the Third Round of the FA Cup in three of their last five attempts after failing to do to do in each of their four previous appearances at this stage of the competition.
- They enjoyed their first win in five games in all competitions, keeping their first clean in 11 games, since a 2-0 league win over Crystal Palace in October.
- Crystal Palace have been dumped out of the FA Cup at the Third Round stage in consecutive seasons as a top-flight club for the first time since between 1990/91 and 1992/93.
- Palace have registered just one clean sheet in their last 17 games in all competitions, shipping a total of 30 goals in that time.
- Wolves midfielder Rúben Neves has registered goal involvements in consecutive games in all competitions for Wolves (2 in total – 1 goal, 1 assist), as many as he managed in his previous 43 for the club.
Wolves host Everton in the Premier League live on Sky Sports Premier League on Tuesday; coverage starts at 8pm with kick-off 8.15pm. Crystal Palace travel to face Arsenal in the same competition on Sky Sports Premier League and Sky Sports Main Event on Thursday; coverage starts at 7.30pm with kick-off at 8pm.