Joao Gomes: Analyzes every touch of his ‘dream debut’ for Wolves

In the 70th minute at St Mary’s, Wolverhampton Wanderers made their most awaited debut in recent memory.

It wasn’t a promising situation for Joao Gomes to step into.

His side were 1-0 down and had been playing with 10 men for 43 minutes after Mario Lemina was sent off.

The chances of victory seemed slim even given the obvious nerves in the Southampton camp, their side stuck in the relegation zone and in desperate need of points under the now-sacked Nathan Jones.

26 minutes (including stoppage time), 19 touches, 11 passes (eight successful), a tackle, seven tackles (two won), two shots and a brilliant goal later, the Wolves had won with the young Brazilian at heart; His hero status among Wolves fans is reaching even greater heights.

It was a perfect start to Gomes’ Molineux career and the Wolves hierarchy, which held back Lyon’s interest in signing the midfielder, have high expectations for the player.

It’s safe to assume Gomes enjoyed his 22nd birthday on Sunday, but probably not as much as the day before. It’s another chapter in a Wolves career that feels epic after just one brief appearance.

“I’m very happy for Joao,” said captain Ruben Neves. “He had a dream debut.”

the athlete takes a look at this remarkable introduction…


Gomes replaces Matheus Nunes with 20 minutes of regular time remaining and immediately displays the aggression in pressing that earned him the ‘Pitbull’ nickname at Flamengo. He bullies Kamaldeen Sulemana into a hard touch that earns Wolves a throw-in.

His first touch of the ball comes seconds later when he receives a pass from Craig Dawson and puts it down to Nelson Semedo.

It’s a routine pass for a Premier League midfielder but a solid start for a player making his first appearance outside of South America.

Within three minutes of being substituted on, Gomes watches from the edge of the Southampton penalty area as Diego Costa and Adama Traore force Jan Bednarek to equalize with an own goal.

Shortly after the restart, Gomes follows James Bree’s run…

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…and makes a tackle that, while not winning the ball, applies enough pressure to force a poor cross.

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Seconds later, another routine pass arrives: taking substitute Hugo Bueno’s short delivery and redirecting it to the feet of Max Kilman.

In the 76th minute he sent a Dawson pass safely back to Jose Sa in goal and less than a minute later had his first chance to show his creative talent.

He receives a throw-in from Semedo, passes Carlos Alcaraz and creates a passing chance to Traore.

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He successfully works the ball into a winger…

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… and after receiving the return pass, Gomes plays a skillful through ball into Costa’s path for the first time.

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Costa’s ensuing cross led to a shot from Pablo Sarabia, which went wide, although the offside flag would have ruled out any possible goal.

In the 80th minute, Gomes receives another Semedo throw and fends off Samuel Edozie’s challenge before winning another throw-in from substitute Southampton.

Then, after Semedo has accepted the ball, another crisp pass comes to Traore.

It’s not a flawless performance, however, which is understandable considering he’s a young player making his Premier League debut. A minute later, Gomes intercepts a misplaced pass from Che Adams before being pressured by Sulemana to almost lose possession.

But a slide challenge sees him putting Alcaraz on the ball at the expense of a throw-in from Southampton.

With seven minutes of regular time remaining there is another show of confidence as Gomes receives another throw-in from Semedo and under pressure from Joe Aribo takes a touch away from the Southampton player and lobs a pass forward.

So far so clean and tidy. And Gomes’ touch map (below) shows that he has channeled his energies into becoming involved in all areas of the field.

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But in general Gomes (No. 35, below) has meshed with captain Ruben Neves (No. 8) in subtly different ways than Lemina in his two starts so far. While Lemina generally sat lower to allow Neves to play a little further up the field than in recent seasons, Gomes’ time on the pitch saw the skipper stay lower, allowing the Brazilian to press and use his energy to get up front.

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Beyond position play, with three minutes remaining, was Gomes’ crowning moment.

The midfielder’s attacking ability puts him in a position to pounce on a mix-up between Sulemana and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

He collects possession and drives towards the edge of the penalty area…

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… and sees his first shot ricochet off Bednarek.

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He then steers a confident conclusion into the top corner for the winning goal.

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The emotion in its celebration only adds to the magic of an unforgettable day.

First there is joy…

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…then a moment of disbelief as the moment sinks in.

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A brief moment of concern follows: in the final minute of regular time, Gomes concedes a free-kick for fouling Adams on the edge of the box despite trying to evade the tackle. Fortunately for Gomes and Wolves, nothing comes to fruition.

Two minutes after added time, Gomes intervened after a cross from the left and cleared the ball out of the danger zone. He then contests an aerial duel with James Ward-Prowse a minute later and although neither player wins the ball cleanly, Gomes does enough to keep possession for his side.

In the fifth of six extra minutes, Gomes slams Aribo to a loose ball and puts it away from his team’s goal – although he undoes that good work by being disowned by Maitland-Niles.

Seconds from the final whistle, in a fitting final, Gomes heads clear from inside Wolves’ box in what proves to be the finishing touch to his debut.

“(Joao Gomes) brings a lot of things,” said his midfield colleague Joao Moutinho, looking back on a remarkable comeback. “He is a young man with a lot of quality. He’s aggressive, he wants the ball, he wants to play the ball and today he had a great finish.

“But when he comes into play, the most important thing is that he – not just him, but also the others – brought a lot of energy with him and that’s why we won.”

“He showed what we know about him: he has the character and the quality,” added coach Julen Lopetegui. “Luckily for him and for us, he achieved his goal.

“We are happy about his signing and he will be a good player for us.”

(Photo: Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

https://theathletic.com/4186336/2023/02/13/joao-gomes-wolves-southampton-goal/ Joao Gomes: Analyzes every touch of his ‘dream debut’ for Wolves

Russell Falcon

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