A countdown of the 10 most memorable moments of Portuguese football in 2018: PART 5
5. Wolves and their Portuguese contingent lifting the Championship title
Wolves’ summer of recruitment was the source of great interest for fans of Portuguese football, witnessing some of the Primeira Liga’s top prospects moving across to the English second tier. It was surreal, unexpected and, to the average onlooker, difficult to truly believe.
There were several suggestions as to what the best Portuguese-related moment in Wolves’ season actually was, which is testament to just how brilliant the Championship champions were last campaign, with Ruben Neves’ wondergoal, Rui Patricio’s outstanding save, and that game against Cardiff all excellent candidates to be put forward as the most memorable moment of them all last season.
As such, we have rolled it all into one mega-moment, encompassing the entire season that was, overall, a sensational journey from start to finish, with far more highs than lows.
It all started in 2017, of course; having seen Porto managers in recent years move to clubs such as Chelsea (twice), Roma, Malaga, Zaragoza, and the Spanish national team, witnessing Nuno Espirito Santo, the ex-Valencia manager, drop down a division to join the Wolves project was immediately met with a great deal of surprise, and proved that Wolves were different from the rest.
Indeed, it was testament to the ambition the club had going forward that Nuno, while knowing he was taking a significant risk, could see the potential in the team. He brought with him one of Porto’s most well sought-after players in Ruben Neves, in addition to his teammates Diogo Jota and Willy Boly, as well as ex-Benfica centreback Roderick Miranda.
These Primeira Liga players were joined by compatriot Ruben Vinagre from Monaco, all of them joining the Portuguese duo of Ivan Cavaleiro and Helder Costa who were already at the club.
And Wolves got out of the blocks straight away, winning their first three matches in a row, going from strength to strength throughout the season.
With their 4-1 defeat to rivals Aston Villa their only real negative on what was a season filled with success, their 24 clean sheets in the league was a clear indicator that Wolves were well ahead of the chasing pack and were following the tactical implementation of Nuno impeccably, his Wolves side as hard to score against as his Porto side proved to be the season before.
Perhaps the standout match of the season was that surreal encounter with second-place Cardiff that ultimately ended in a 1-0 Wolves victory. With Ruben Neves finding the back of the net with an exquisite free-kick in the 67th minute, it looked as if Wolves were going to earn a victory that would send them well on their way to sealing a return to the Premier League. However, after Gary Medine was brought down in the box in stoppage time, it looked like Wolves’ lead was to be wiped out, but Ruddy matches Medine’s low strike to keep the advantage intact.
As if that wasn’t enough drama, just moments later Ivan Cavaleiro then let his emotions get the better of him as he chopped down Gunnarsson, gifting Cardiff yet another opportunity to equalise. But it was a case of different person same result as Junior Hoilett struck the bar. Cue wild celebrations from fans and players alike.
All in all, they finished the season on 99 points, averaging more than 2 points a game, and impressed with their style and attacking intent in their 3-4-3 formation. It has been a sensational year for Wolves supporters, and their success is most definitely worthy of inclusion on this list.