Hoddle's warning to his Wolves: failure is not an option

Wolves 2 Aston Villa 1

Hoddle has not substantially strengthened a squad that finished ninth last season but there was enough potential in their form over the closing weeks to persuade shrewd punters to look for early value from the bookmakers. Yesterday's performance against their Premiership neighbours will only shorten their odds.

Villa were 4-0 winners when they visited Molineux in the top division two years ago but an emphatic win was never threatened this time. Although their new signing Kevin Phillips offered the encouragement of a goal, the cutting edge Villa lacked last season still needs a good deal of sharpening and the news that the transfer target Milan Baros has agreed to join Schalke O4 from Liverpool will disappoint the manager David O'Leary.

The results of friendlies need always to be assessed in context but Wolves offered plenty of evidence that, for them, this one was more than a training exercise. Their approach from the outset rippled with commitment, even in the absence of an injured Paul Ince, and Villa were rapidly unsettled. As well as Phillips, O'Leary's side includedanother new signing, Patrik Berger, which might have prompted a more respectful attitude from their opponents.

Instead, Hoddle's team spelt out their credentials. The breadth and speed of their attacks was a feature in most of their better performances last season, memorably in the way they outplayed Ipswich, one of the better sides in last year's Championship, at Molineux in April, when a 2-0 scoreline hardly reflected their superiority.

It caught Villa by surprise, resulting in a two-goal lead for Wolves within 15 minutes, Carl Cort and Seyi Olofinjana finding the net within 60 seconds of each other. Each time, Wolves attacked swiftly and directly. Cort tapped in after Gary Cahill, Villa's 19-year-old centre-half, had been unable to repel Gary Naylor's thrusting run on the left, Olofinjana doing likewise as Cort, skilfully controlling Kenny Miller's floated pass, provided an identical final ball.

Hoddle has been disappointed that Jackie McNamara, the Celtic midfielder deployed at right-back yesterday, and Rohan Ricketts, the Tottenham midfielder he had on loan last season, have been his only summer signings, although he has secured a Hungarian defender Gabor Gyepes on a six-month loan from Ferencvaros.

He might have a good enough squad, in any case. They may have put Villa out of sight within the first half-hour, Thomas Sorensen making a good low save from Seol Ki-Hyeon before Nolberto Solano chested down a Cort header on the goalline.

Villa gradually found some fluency and Phillips, looking for a Premiership swansong with Villa after his move from Southampton, replied with a spectacular diving header to convert Solano's cross from the right.

Wolves were able to reimpose themselves and should have stretched their advantage early in the second half, Ricketts allowing Sorensen to save at close range when he should have converted a Seol cross. Cort then slammed a shot against the bar after a corner.

Villa, by contrast, lacked attacking potency and only another fine save by Sorensen prevented Mark Kennedy confirming Wolves's superiority 20 minutes from time.

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