Wolverhampton Wanderers scored twice in the first six minutes as they made a winning start to the new Premier League season with a victory at Sheffield United.
Both sides had enjoyed hugely impressive campaigns last term, with the Blades upsetting the odds to finish ninth on their return to the top flight, while Wolves secured seventh and reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
But it was Nuno Espirito Santo’s side who picked up where they left off as Raul Jimenez’s excellent finish gave them a third-minute lead following a quick break.
Sheffield United barely had time to recover from that early blow before Wolves added a second three minutes later, this time Romain Saiss rising unmarked to guide a header beyond Blades debutant Aaron Ramsdale.
The home side looked sluggish and struggled to create many meaningful chances in the first half, with their first shot on target not arriving until seven minutes before the half-time, when Oli McBurnie headed at Rui Patricio.
A half-time team talk by Chris Wilder had the desired impact as United came out flying in the second half, with John Fleck striking the base of the post with a powerful low drive before John Lundstram just failed to get to a teasing Billy Sharp cross.
However, only a superb Ramsdale save denied Wolves a third on the break as the 22-year-old – an £18m summer signing from Bournemouth – pushed a Saiss strike on to the post before Jimenez shot wide from the rebound.
Jimenez then struck the outside of the post and although the Blades pushed to reduce the deficit in the final few minutes Wolves held firm to secure an opening win.
Wolves’ performances both domestically and in Europe last season were all the more impressive considering the sheer volume of games they played as a result of their Europa League commitments.
Their campaign started in July last year and ended last month – more than 60 games later – as they reached the last eight of Europe’s second-tier club competition – losing to eventual winners Sevilla.
The late finish to a season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic meant Wolves have not had time to squeeze in any friendlies before the start of the new campaign.
But despite the lack of preparation, they showed no signs of rustiness and they were at their clinical best from the outset, scoring from their first two chances of the game.
Jimenez showed great composure to let a cross run across his body before finishing and then Saiss placed a header beyond the reach of Ramsdale in the Blades’ goal.
The lack of preparation for the new campaign perhaps showed as they saw less of the ball in the second half, although they did still have better chances on the break.
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Source – BBC