Wolverhampton, England – Teenage defender Rayan Ait-Nouri scored in his Wolverhampton Wanderers debut to help the club beat Crystal Palace 2-0 at Molineux on Friday to move up into third place in the Premier League.
The win left Wolves even on points with the leading Merseyside duo of Everton and Liverpool, the reigning champion, ahead of the bulk of this weekend’s matches.
Ait-Nouri, a left back for the French U-21 team, joined Wolves on a season-long loan — with an option to buy — from Ligue 1 side Angers this month.
It took him just 18 minutes to open the scoring.
Portuguese winger Daniel Podence doubled the lead nine minutes later, when he turned in Pedro Neto’s cross from close range.
“For Rayan Ait-Nouri I am really pleased because it is the first game and what a better start can he have?” Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo told the BBC. “He is 19 with a lot of things to improve. He has to get so many things on board and that’s the work.”
Wolves almost had a third goal before halftime as Nelson Semedo and Leander Dendoncker went close with long-range efforts.
“I think we were good but we should play better,” Nuno added.
“We started well. We had a good team in front of us. At the end of the first half we slowed down our pressure and Palace had chances.”
Nuno said being deprived of their passionate fans, with spectators barred from grounds because of the British government’s COVID-19 protocols, has made home games tough for Wolves.
“It’s all about the performance, the table is not important,” he insisted.
“The work is important. Playing without fans requires a lot of focus, we haven’t the edge of Molineux.”
Crystal Palace was denied a penalty by VAR when Patrick van Aanholt was ruled to be offside, before being fouled by Willy Boly.
The team was on the wrong side of another ruling when Luka Milivojevic was sent off late following a VAR review of his challenge on Wolves substitute Joao Moutinho.
The loss left the south London side ninth in the table, with manager Roy Hodgson unconvinced by Milivojevic’s dismissal.
“I’m not disappointed with how the players played for most of the game,” Hodgson said. “But I’m disappointed with that opening 20-minute spell.”
The former England manager added: “I spoke to the referee about the red card. I made my views clear. I don’t think it was a red card. It was a fair challenge.”
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