The dominance of wolves over a weakened Brighton was secured by a swift goal from Mario Lemina.

The dominance of wolves over a weakened Brighton was secured by a swift goal from Mario Lemina.

Could Wolves supporters have imagined receiving a FA Cup quarter-final match at home against a Championship team and a spot secured in the top half of the Premier League last August? It might have elicited a puzzled expression from them.

Gary O’Neil has brought about renewed hope and unity in the first six months of his leadership, with signs of upward progress similar to Nuno Espírito Santo’s reign rather than struggles against relegation.

Mario Lemina, embodying the passion and determination resonating throughout Molineux, netted the game-winning goal in just two minutes. Despite having 72% possession, Brighton’s significant injury woes rendered it meaningless. As a result, they will have to focus on winning the Europa League instead.

Jason Steele, the goalkeeper, went up for a corner in the 96th minute. He had the best opportunity for Brighton when Lewis Dunk’s header came his way. However, he failed to take advantage of the chance and misfired from three yards out.

The Wolves secured their fourth consecutive victory, which may not have been aesthetically pleasing, but they were able to prevail with just one goal, much like their previous match against Sheffield United on Sunday.

O’Neil, who was selected just before the Premier League season began, will not diminish the hopes of Wolves supporters who are envisioning a spot in the semi-finals at Wembley as they have secured a match at home against Coventry. “I am certain the fans will be dreaming of Wembley,” he remarked. “And I will be strategizing on how to defeat Coventry.”

“I have observed Coventry as a strong team in the Championship, but everyone outside of our team expects us to easily defeat them. However, within our team, we know it won’t be an easy match. Many assume we will emerge victorious, but even if we give 95%, it may not be sufficient.”

Brighton did not have a full roster, as nine players were unavailable. However, coach Roberto De Zerbi mentioned that Evan Ferguson, Joel Veltman, and Tariq Lamptey may be back for their upcoming match against Fulham on Saturday. The team struggled in comparison to their 4-1 victory under then-coach O’Neil at Molineux, but De Zerbi was satisfied with the performance of his young and makeshift team. He remarked, “We saw the potential of Brighton on the field today. They may not be fully prepared for this level of competition, but they are doing well to match their performance from last season despite numerous issues.”

Brighton’s Jason Steele, up for a corner, just fails to get on the end of Lewis Dunk’s header in a frantic finish.View image in fullscreen

Despite having to preserve Pedro Neto and Pablo Sarabia for the initial 60 minutes, Wolves made a stellar beginning.

Jean-Ricner Bellegarde, who moved up to the front, skillfully got past Jan Paul van Hecke and made a fast run down the left side. When Jason Steele failed to catch his cross, Lemina was the first to reach the loose ball over Pervis Estupiñán and, while still on the ground, powerfully scored his fifth goal this season.

Brighton, winners here on their three previous visits, proceeded to dominate the rest of the game. Their centre-halves, Igor Julio and Van Hecke, frequently joined the attacks as Wolves were pinned back. But from their best first-half chance Facundo Buonanotte headed wide Estupiñán’s left-wing cross.


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Although Wolves had the opportunity to extend their lead, Santiago Bueno missed the mark on Tommy Doyle’s free-kick despite having a clear view of the goal. Additionally, when Julio under-hit his back-pass, Steele had to make a strong tackle to stop Bellegarde from taking advantage.

Brighton increased their intensity by substituting in Danny Welbeck and changing to a four-man defense. Despite their continued control of the game, Wolves appeared more threatening on counterattacks even after the introduction of Neto and Sarabia. On multiple occasions, Neto was only a delayed pass or a defensive effort away from breaking free for a potential second goal.

Hwang Hee-chan sustained a minor hamstring injury, according to O’Neil, which will probably prevent him from joining the trip to Newcastle. The Wolves’ head coach expressed disbelief that he will be able to play on Saturday, stating that he can use the extra time to consider other options for the No. 9 position on his white board.

In preparation for their upcoming Europa League match against Roma on Thursday, Brighton utilized all five substitutes and focused on ball possession in order to conserve their energy. This approach was much preferable to constantly chasing after the ball.

The fans at Molineux were aware of the situation: Brighton would be granted possession if they secured a spot in the quarter-finals. The chant “Gary O’Neill’s crazy army” echoed throughout the stadium during the last moments, despite Brighton’s efforts to score the tying goal.