Wolves vs Norwich City match report: Martin Olsson’s red card gives Wolves the chance for a perfect return

Wolves 1 Norwich City 0


After running away with the League One title, Wolves made a winning return to the Championship in match that turned on a 60th-minute red card for the Norwich defender Martin Olsson, who may be punished with an extended ban after pushing referee Simon Hooper before he left the field.

The Swedish left back was dismissed when his foul on Wolves man of the match Rajiv van La Parra brought him a second booking. His reaction was hardly comparable with Paolo di Canio’s infamous shove on Paul Alcock but Olsson clearly put his hand forcibly on Hooper’s chest, seemingly in an attempt to stop him pulling out his cards.

Four minutes later, David Edwards – one of only two survivors in the Wolves starting line-up from the side beaten at Norwich in March 2012 as they slipped towards Premier League relegation – beat John Ruddy with a fine header that decided the game.

“There is no doubt it was a pivotal moment,” the Wolves manager, Kenny Jackett, said of the red card. “Norwich’s movement and the way they closed us down had been excellent and in terms of possession they had started the second half well.

“I felt it was a game we could learn a lot from and of course three points is never unwelcome. But for us with the pressure having built up in pre-season to start a new season in a new division with a win is a big thing.”

The result stretched Wolves’ unbeaten run at home to 13 matches and left Norwich manager Neil Adams still seeking his first win after presiding over his team’s last five matches in the Premier League. He felt the second booking for Olsson was fair, less so the first, also for a foul on Van La Parra.

“The second foul was more a yellow than the first, which I was very disappointed with. It meant that two innocuous fouls cost us a player when we were controlling the game.”

Adams said he did not see Olsson push referee Hooper but said he would look at the footage and speak to the player before making any comment.

Wolves might have gone ahead on their first attack had Edwards been able to wrap his foot around a low cross from the left by Bacary Sako that gave the Norwich defence a quick wake-up call should they have needed one.

Disappointingly for a Molineux crowd eager to see a continuation of the vibrant form Jackett’s side showed last season, it was not the signal for a stream of chances. Norwich, with Bradley Johnson sitting deep and the two wider midfielders dropping back readily in support of their back four, were well organised off the ball and looked happy to absorb pressure.

This was the pattern of the opening half, suggesting that Adams will be as keen to ensure that his side are not easily broken down as he is for them to create chances for an attacking unit that should thrive at this level. Ricky van Wolfswinkel – Chris Hughton’s biggest disappointment – has gone on loan to St Etienne, but Nathan Redmond remains, for the moment at least, with Kyle Lafferty, once of Rangers, signed from Palermo and the prolific Lewis Grabban brought in from Bournemouth.

When they did break from defence they looked threatening, without seriously testing Carl Ikeme in the Wolves goal, but that changed at the beginning of the second half.

Nouha Dicko was a stride away from converting a raking Sako cross right at the start but then Norwich had two chances within the space of a couple of minutes. Andrew Surman, fed neatly by Redmond, launched a powerful shot that Richard Stearman blocked magnificently, before Grabban’s pace took him past his marker to shoot from close range at an angle, Ikeme defying him with an excellent save.

But the picture changed with the red card for Olsson. Struggling against the pace of Van La Parra, a summer free transfer signing from Heerenveem, Olsson bundled the Dutch winger over clumsily, denying him a run into the penalty area. Referee Hooper gave the benefit of the doubt in awarding a free kick outside the box but that was as far as his leniency stretched.

Adams took off Wes Hoolahan and sent on Javier Garrido in the left-back position but Norwich conceded a goal within four minutes nonetheless as Van La Parra continued to be the game’s biggest influence, this time supplying a superb cross from the right that was met with just as good a header from Edwards, who found a gap to squeeze through between defenders and angled the ball skilfully wide of Ruddy, who had no chance of keeping it out.

Thereafter the football became more end-to-end, as it had to with Norwich now chasing the game. Elliott Bennett skimmed the roof of the net with a long-range shot and then Ikeme again had to make a good save to keep Grabban off the scoresheet. Lafferty came on for Steven Whittaker as Adams sacrificed a defender and Wolves found themselves under some pressure in the closing minutes.

But Norwich had to leave gaps at their own end and had Dicko been able to provide Sako with a better pass, or had Leon Clarke released his shot a little quicker on the end of a James Henry pass Wolves might have made themselves comfortable.

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