In the FA cup, Wolves drew with Swansea 0-0 in an eventful, incident laden afternoon at Molineux with both teams ending the game with ten men.
This game pitted the top of the Championship against the bottom of the Premier League with Wolves going into the game favourites in some quarters despite being from the lower division.
Both team’s named strong first elevens, which saw Wilfed Bony and Renato Sanches named for Swansea. Nuno made six changes for Wolves from the win against Brentford with, Norris, Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Hause, N’Diaye, Enobakhare named in a much-changed starting eleven.
Wolves had the best chances in the first half with Swansea reserve keeper Nordfeldt having to pull off four excellent saves to prevent Wolves taking the lead. Enobakhare tested the Swansea keeper early on with a shot from outside the area following some good build up play from Gibbs-White.
In the early moments of the game however it was Morgan Gibbs-White who, on his debut, impressed playing the playmaker role. He was confident on the ball, and spreading play excellently in the attacking third to carve open Swansea. He had a great chance to score on his debut when he was played in for a one on one with keeper from Bonatini only to be denied by a good save from Nordfeldt.
The best chance for Wolves in the first half fell to Bright Enobakhare after a lofted cross from Costa which saw a header saved from N’Diaye then dropped to Bright who blazed wide from short range.
Swansea went close from a free kick on the edge of the Wolves penalty box. Norris seemed to get the faintest of touches to the shot and touched it onto the bar. Norris is still yet to concede this season in a remarkable run of five clean sheets in five games including the Carabau cup and this FA Cup result.
No other statistic defines Nuno’s approach more to football than this one; Wolves have built their success this season on being hard to break down. No player optimised this more than Alfred N’Diaye who for significant parts of the game player alone against three Swansea midfielders disrupting their play and protecting the back four, as well starting attacks.
The first major incident of the game came in the fortieth minute when the referee sent off Ruben Vinagre with a straight red. The tackle looked innocuous live in the stadium with both the fans and Nuno expressing their extreme dissatisfaction to the referee.
With the benefit of seeing a reply however it looked like it was a sending off, with Vinagre’s studs up high on the shin of Lloyd Dyer. Unfortunately this meant GIbbs-White impressive debut was cut short, with him sacrificed to bring on Barry Douglas to balance the team.
Following half time Swansea had much more of the possession but didn’t make their advantage in numbers count. Bony missed the best chance of the game as the ball was pulled back to him in the box and all he could was pock the ball back to a Swansea shirt whilst not even threatening Norris’ goal.
The numbers were evened up on the 67th minute in one of the most bizarre decisions of the season. Costa who was bright all game broke free from a Leroy Fer challenge when the dutchman tripped Costa in what was a tame cynical foul.
The referee then preceded to show Fer a straight red, in the strangest decision of this season, in most other games that would have only been a yellow card.
Following Fer’s sending off Wolves had the best chances of the game and controlled much of the second half. Barry Douglas’ cross from a free kick on the left hand side found a free Kourtney Hause at the back post only for him to head wide.
With thirteen minutes to go Wolves fans saw the first sight of their new signing Rafa Mir, who came on to replace Leo Bonatini. Mir was lively on the ball getting into some good spaces in the box, with some fluid interchanges with Costa and Cavaleiro.
Mir had a two good chances late on in the game to win it for Wolves, the first came as he was played through on goal before his shot was blocked by a recovering Swansea defender. The second and his best chance of the game, came from a Doherty cross which Mir glanced just wide with the Swansea keeper scrambling across the goal only for the linesman to flag for offside.
Neither team would have wanted a replay before kick off, with an extra game in the schedule not helping Swansea’s survival or Wolves promotion hopes. However cup games for Wolves this season have shown that the quality in their squad means they can win games both in the league and the cup even against higher placed opposition. Wolves will go into the replay confident they can progress into the next round.