Some 14 years and £70 million in transfer fees since he marked his debut for Wolves with two goals against Norwich, Robbie Keane returned to Molineux to repeat the feat in an Aston Villa shirt. It was a day that may tempt Mick McCarthy to wonder if he has upset the footballing gods in some way.
Keane's second-half double, which came as the Irishman made the first start of his two-month loan from LA Galaxy, enabled Villa to recover from a 2-1 half-time deficit and complete a third win in their past four Premier League matches away from home.
McCarthy, his side now eight games without a win and in the bottom three, might have known that the star of his 2002 Republic of Ireland World Cup squad would come back to haunt him when he needed it least. But it also appeared that fate was conspiring against him – Emmanuel Frimpong sustained a nasty injury that ended his influence on a match he had been dominating from midfield, and Karl Henry was foolishly sent off with 23 minutes left.
Henry, disentangling himself from Mark Albrighton after winning a free-kick, seemed to kick the Villa man in the chest with his right boot. Albrighton's reaction was on the theatrical side but the referee, Michael Oliver, had a clear view and had little option. With eight minutes of injury time, Wolves were effectively down to 10 men for a quarter of the match.
It was enough time for Keane to win it, controlling Roger Johnson's headed clearance with his left foot and using his right to smash the ball home off the bar.
"One man sent off, another carried off and a penalty – I don't think much more could have gone wrong," McCarthy said. "I can't excuse the red card. Albrighton's rolled about like he has been hit by a steamroller but it was a sending-off. I don't think we would have lost with 10 men.
"Was it a turning point? Yes, but there were several. We found yet another way to concede a goal – their second, when there were five or six things we could have done better."
It was a sloppy goal indeed, coming after Wolves had recovered from the concession of a penalty when Christophe Berra's attempt to clear from his penalty area instead took away Darren Bent's legs. Bent scored from the spot. The goal ensured that whatever the outcome, Wolves would not keep a clean sheet for a 19th successive match, equalling their leakiest run in the Premier League. Yet as an indicator of how the first half might unfold, it was entirely misleading.
Frimpong, whose arrival on loan from Arsenal has already shown signs of reviving Wolves' season, controlled the midfield and Michael Kightly shone on the right flank.
It was from Frimpong's pass that Kightly went past Clark to equalise after 21 minutes, beating Shay Given with a cool left-foot finish. Kightly's corner was then headed home by Dave Edwards as Wolves went ahead.
But after the Villa manager, Alex McLeish, at that point contemplating a miserable 53rd birthday, made some half-time adjustments, the tide began to turn.
Keane levelled as his hopeful swing of the right boot after a sloppy clearance by Matt Jarvis had too much for Wayne Hennessey. He then scored the winner. "Injuries made it easy for me to get Robbie in today," McLeish said. "You could see there what a striker of his quality can do."
Wolves (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley (Ebanks-Blake, 89), Johnson, Berra, Ward; Kightly, Frimpong (Milijas, 58), Henry, Jarvis; Edwards (Stearman, 82); Fletcher.
Aston Villa (4-2-3-1): Given; Hutton, Collins, Dunne, Clark; Gardner (Bannan, 87), Petrov; Albrighton, Keane (Weimann, 89), Agbonlahor (Warnock, h-t); Bent.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Man of the match: Keane (Aston Villa)
Match rating: 8/10Reuse content