Adama Traoré to Raúl Jiménez: everyone knows how that ends. From a cross on the hour by Wolves’s phenomenal winger, the club’s prolific striker headed a terrific goal here. That was enough to decide a low-grade game and enhance Wolves’ high-achieving season, this win pulling them to within two points of fourth-placed Chelsea.
Bournemouth’s momentum, meanwhile, is emphatically downward. They were broadly competent for most of this match but never looked like earning a point once they fell behind. Unless something changes radically in their remaining matches, their fifth season in the top-flight looks likely to end in relegation.
Eddie Howe has a seat reserved at all council meetings and church services in Bournemouth. But his team’s performances since lately mean his position at the town’s football club is no longer guaranteed. No one has forgotten the wonders he has worked in a decade in charge, but nor can anyone ignore the ineptitude of a team have lost 18 of their 31 league matches this season, including their last seven away. With such haplessness the suspicion has taken root that The Cherries are growing stale under the Premier League’s longest-serving manager.
Given all that, and Wolves’s contrastingly vibrant form going into this game, Howe could take satisfaction from the first half here. Few others could, because it was a bleak spectacle. But Bournemouth were compact and robust and kept Wolves at arms’ length for long periods. Traoré was included in the starting lineup but struggled to make an impact early on, though he was more menacing than the other Wolves forwards, with Jiménez and Diogo Jota barely involved in the first period.
The home attack was deprived of service from midfield, where the visiting trio of Philip Billing, Lewis Cook and Jefferson Lerma seized early control. Bournemouth even flashed a hint of a goalscoring threat, as Rui Patrício had to charge off his line in the third minute to thwart Billing after a clever pass by Junior Stanislas. Wolves did not even hint at a goal until the 14th minute, and even then Rúben Neves’s errant shot from 25 yards began veering away from the target before Aaron Ramsdale had to consider saving it.
In times of torpor Traoré can usually be relied upon to inject uplifting chaos. In the 34th minute he finally spread anarchy in the visitings ranks by twisting and zooming past four players and bearing down on the box. But David Brooks terminated the winger’s run with a cynical trip. As Neves failed to deliver justice from the free-kick, the yellow card for Brooks seemed a weak punishment.
Steve Cook was also booked moments later for a similar foul on Jota, before Callum Wilson had his name taken for an avoidable collision with Patrício – that yellow might yet prove costly for Bournemouth, as it was Wilson’s 10th of the season and therefore incurs a two-game ban. With Joshua King out injured, Bournemouth can ill afford to be shorn of their top scorer for the upcoming matches against Newcastle and Manchester United.
Wolves were not above petty offences here: Neves was booked for sabotaging a nascent Bournemouth attack before the break. It was that sort of contest, sullied by grubby fouls and sloppy passes. Maybe the teams deserved to be cut some slack because of the oppressive heat but the way Nuno Espírito Santo seethed on the sidelines suggested the Wolves manager was in no mood to tolerate excuses. He never is.
Traoré got on the end of Wolves’ most dangerous attack of the first half, which came just before the interval when Jota took advantage of a mistake by Jack Stacey. Traoré fired over the bar from the edge of the area. But Bournemouth’s fate was merely postponed. On the hour Traoré made his mark, hurtling down the right before delivering a perfect cross for his favourite co-conspirator. Jiménez leapt between two defenders and powered a header into the net from seven yards.