Gary O’Neil hailed a “massive win” after Hwang Hee-chan scored a first-half winner to edge Wolves past relegation-threatened Burnley at Molineux.
The Clarets had come into the game on the back of Saturday’s morale-boosting 5-0 thrashing of Sheffield United, but were unable to back up that impressive showing and were left to rue a costly defensive error.
On a chilly evening in the Midlands, the contest failed to spark into life until the 38th minute when stand-in goalkeeper Daniel Bentley made a fine double save to deny Jay Rodriguez then Josh Brownhill’s follow-up at full stretch.
Having been in a position to lead, the visitors then conceded at the other end shortly after as Sander Berge’s heavy touch was picked off by Matheus Cunha, who fed Hwang to slot a composed finish.
O’Neil said: “I think it was a massive win for us because I have watched a lot of Burnley. They are very well organised and every team I have watched struggled to progress up the pitch with the ball.
“They are a good side and [it’s] disrespectful to just say ‘job done’. They won the Championship by a long way, spent around £90m-odd and will be competitive at this level. No Premier League game is easy and it is a big win.”
The Clarets sought for the equaliser in the second half but were unable to trouble Bentley, with Vitinho’s effort from outside the area which sailed over the closest they came to claiming a point.
Wolves held on to secure their first win in three games and move up to 12th in the table, while Burnley remain in trouble in the bottom three.
Hwang continues fine form
O’Neil’s men had been beaten by league leaders Arsenal and Fulham in their last two games and ground out a much-needed result in freezing conditions.
Number one Jose Sa failed to recover from a back injury suffered against the Gunners and Bentley came in to keep Wolves’ first clean sheet since August.
The Englishman made a telling contribution in the opening period when Joao Gomes gave the ball away deep in his own half and Burnley fashioned their best opportunity of the game.
Rodriguez, who scored after 15 seconds on Saturday, could only his hit strike straight at Bentley but the goalkeeper’s second save was superb, springing low to his right to tip away Brownhill’s volley.
“The double save should never exist from our own throw-in,” added O’Neil. “That was crazy but a big save from Daniel. Really pleased with the goal and clean sheet, pleased to be on 18 points.”
Burnley’s possession-based style of football is admirable but individual errors have left them in the league position they find themselves in and it was another mistake that led to their downfall here.
Vincent Kompany’s side had been controlling much of the game and Zeki Amdouni’s low drive tested Bentley, but then Berge’s loose touch proved fatal as Hwang tucked away his ninth goal of the campaign, and sixth at Molineux.
Pablo Sarabia forced visiting goalkeeper James Trafford into tipping the ball over the crossbar from a deflected strike and the England U21 international also pushed away a free-kick from the Spaniard which was heading for the top corner.
Wolves could have made it a more handsome scoreline but Mario Lemina headed over at the far post and Cunha’s long-range drive was gathered by Trafford.
Burnley failed to apply pressure on the Wolves goal as the match wore on and have now lost eight of their nine away games this season – the worst record of any top-flight team.
Kompany said: “It is defined in moments. We had ours, didn’t take it and one of the few chances we conceded we conceded a goal. In the end I don’t think the game was decided by just one moment, we should have scored.
“I am never going to be here after a defeat and not feel the way I feel now. I can be objective and quite honest about what I am seeing – a team that is alive, in games and fighting.
“We have to believe that being in games for some time now is what will give us the results. When you have the chances you have to take them, at the moment I am not going to feel sorry for us but this is where we need to step it up.”