As the game entered injury time, Wolves fans could have been forgiven for casting their mind back two seasons. It was deep into injury time in the 2020 Champions League Final that Bayern Munich broke the golden hearts of Wolverhampton Wanderers by stealing a 2-1 win, Lewandowski scoring with the last header of the game. Tonight, at Old Trafford, Wolves survived the late scare with Leo Baptista’s shot hitting the bar, meaning Darwen’s men held on to their slender 2-1 victory (write Harry Hills of the Telegraph).
Wolverhampton Wanderers, once considered the best team in the world, have finally got their hands on the world’s leading club competition’s trophy. Their defeat of Valencia was efficient, workmanlike and effective without ever offering the 78,000 spectators packed into Old Trafford the thrills of their previous wins in getting to the final. This very paper picked Luka Jovic out as the potential match winner, and this very paper was correct. Jovic’s 17th goal of a stop-start season, coupled with the assist for the eventual winning goalscorer Ongenda, saw him win the man-of-the-match award.
Lining up in their customary 433 formation, Darwen was denied the services of Aubameyang and club legend Afobe. Ongenda recovered from his broken rib to lead the line alongside Pintado and Jovic. The only other tough selection for Darwen was to select Andrew Adams ahead of his mentor and club captain, Tommy Rowe, at left back. Rowe was soon on the field, however, coming on midway through the first half following an unfortunate injury to Sonny Nattestad.
Valencia rarely threatened Van Osch’s goal, and it was from a tame shot that Wolves built from the back to open the scoring after 32 minutes. The ball found Rowe advanced on the left hand side. The experienced full back crossed to Ongenda who in turn fed Jovic. The Croat’s first shot was blocked, but the rebound fell invitingly and he fired home the opening goal.
The game moved into the second half, still a tight affair. This time it was Rowe’s opposite full back, Carlos, who sped down the right flank before pulling the ball across to Jovic. He steadied himself, waited and delivered the perfect near-post cross for the French international Ongenda to head home his 36th goal of an excellent season. The game looked finished, more so when Silva was dismissed for a second yellow card.
Valencia did rally, and a headed goal from Baptista set up the grandstand finale, but it was the gold and black ribbons on the famous jug at the end of the evening.
For Darwen it was an emotional night. This win took his haul at Wolves to:
- Promotion as winners from the Championship (2015)
- Europa League Winners (2019)
- League Cup Winners (2021)
- FA Cup Winners (2021)
- Barclays Premier League Winners (2020, 2021, 2022)
- Barclays Manager of the Year Winner (2018, 2020, 2022)
This trophy cabinet puts him one League Cup and one Champions League away from smashing the total achieved by his idol, Brian Clough, between 1971 and 1981. Darwen has already overtaken Clough’s top flight titles and won something Clough dreamed of winning, the FA Cup. Darwen gave himself a decade to beat Brian, and he now has two seasons to win the remaining two trophies that would see him considered one of the greatest managers ever to grace the English game.
Written by our gaffer, who is loving his first Champions League win on FM! @www.thehighertempopress.comcomeontheoviedo