Relief for Solbakken as 'new Wolves' start to find right mix
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Leicester City 1
Monday 17 September 2012
There was something fitting about the musical mishmash before kick-off here yesterday. "Hi-Ho Silver Lining" is an old favourite in these parts but the blast of "La Marseillaise" that preceded it seemed a puzzling choice, even if it were chosen to help make Bakary Sako, the former France Under-21 international making his Molineux debut, and his fellow Francophone new boys, feel at home.
Mixing the old with the new is precisely what Stale Solbakken, Wolves' Norwegian manager, is attempting to do on the pitch, grafting seven players, all of different nationalities, onto the survivors of Mick McCarthy's Premier League team.
It has made for mixed results so far and even this morale-boosting victory – delivered by first-half goals from Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Richard Stearman – followed a mishmash of a performance, with Wolves fortunate to concede just one goal, a spectacular Paul Konchesky strike, during Leicester's second-half onslaught.
Solbakken admitted relief was the overriding emotion afterwards: "We are relieved we got three points and the first half was something to build on," he said. "In a way it is the first game for the new Wolves, with new players coming in from the beginning and others coming on."
It was a victory that Solbakken, the former FC Copenhagen and Cologne coach, needed, coming in the first match after the dismissal of Terry Connor, the club's long-serving assistant manager, and on the day of former owner Sir Jack Hayward's first visit to Molineux this season.
It helped the manager to have captain Karl Henry back from injury but equally influential was Sako, the winger signed from Saint-Etienne, whose left foot delivered the set pieces for both goals. "You can see his potential," said Solbakken of the strong, pacy Frenchman. It helped too that Leicester's defence was in such generous mood. Konchesky left Ebanks-Blake free to apply the headed finish to Sako's far-post free-kick for the 13th-minute opener.
Two Leicester lapses then contributed to the second goal eight minutes later. Liam Moore gave the ball straight to Kevin Doyle and although Kasper Schmeichel tipped the Irishman's effort over, Ritchie de Laet stood ball-watching as Sako's corner was flicked on by Doyle for Stearman to volley in off the underside of the crossbar.
For a Leicester side with promotion aspirations, this was their third 2-1 defeat in as many away games and their manager Nigel Pearson bemoaned their "sloppy" defending. "We have conceded two poor goals," he said. "It really is a case of us unfortunately at the moment making silly mistakes and at some point we have to convert our chances."
They had plenty of them. In the first half Ben Marshall drew a flying save from Carl Ikeme and David Nugent fired over. It was the least they deserved when Konchesky finally struck with a powerful, swerving shot from 30 yards. Wolves were tiring but the equaliser would not come, Nugent's header trickling past the far post before substitute Martyn Waghorn struck the base of the upright.
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