Sunday 6 August 2017 20:27, UK
New striker Leo Bonatini made an instant impact as his debut goal earned Wolves a 1-0 Sky Bet Championship win against Middlesbrough.
Bonatini, who has joined Wolves on a season-long loan from the Saudi Arabian side Al Hilal, pounced on a 33rd-minute mistake in the Middlesbrough defence. The goal also ensured that it was the perfect start for new Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo in front of sold-out Molineux.
But it was not the beginning to his reign that new Middlesbrough chief Garry Monk had been seeking after his expensive outlay on new players. With 13 debutants on show - seven from Wolves and six from Middlesbrough - it was perhaps not surprising that the opening stages of the game saw the two new-look teams struggle to create any real chances of note.
While Middlesbrough toiled for an opening, Wolves were equally short of success in front of goal. Bonatini did do well to tee-up £15m club-record signing Ruben Neves on the edge of the area in the 19th minute. But the Portugal international midfielder, who joined Wolves from Porto, was unable to get any power on his shot and it was comfortably cleared by the Middlesbrough backline.
It looked like it would need something inspired or a mistake to end the stalemate and unfortunately for Middlesbrough it was a howler from Daniel Ayala that let in Bonatini to break the deadlock and finally spark the game into life.
A misplaced pass by Ayala was intercepted by Bonatini and he strode into the penalty area before rolling the ball past the stranded Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
But Wolves advantage should really have been short-lived as Martin Braithwaite squandered a golden opportunity to equalise two minutes before the interval. Cyrus Christie delivered an excellent right-wing cross that picked out Braithwaite only for the Danish forward to lift his header well wide after coming under pressure from goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Having wasted that opening, Middlesbrough were fortunate not to fall further behind six minutes after the restart when only the outstretched hand of Randolph prevented Bright Enobakhare from doubling Wolves advantage after a powerful run into the penalty area.
Converting that chance would have eased Wolves' nerves as Middlesbrough looked for a way back on to level terms. They would have found an equaliser in the 72nd minute had it not been for Ruddy.
Middlesbrough's £15m striker Britt Assombalonga was set-up by Patrick Bamford only for Ruddy to spread his body to beat away the close-range shot.
Nuno: It was a tough game and in the first half we played very well. We controlled the game and this is the way we should work. I think that we deserved the three points and we are pleased with the boys.
"We are still not the final product and every game will be better. This is the line that we want from the boys, always progress, always get better. So I think we are all learning. Every day is a chance to learn."
Garry Monk: "But I thought we were the better team in the second half and we upped our level of urgency. We need that at the start of games. We had the best chances in the game and on any other day we could have taken one or two of them. That is football and is sometimes the way that it works out.
"We definitely deserved something from the game. In terms of the result it was disappointing but in terms of what we deserved it doesn't show a true reflection. We know that we will get better and we should take confidence from that."