Pogba's penalty miss crucial in Molineux draw
Costly penalty miss
By Chris O'Brien
August 20 2019
A Paul Pogba penalty miss cost Manchester United dear, as they shared the spoils with Wolverhampton Wanderers in a 1-1 draw at Molineux in Monday evening's televised clash. The game also highlighted how detrimental VAR is proving to the live football experience.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's rejuvenated Red Devils were eager to build on their stunning opening day demolition of Chelsea with a positive result against Wolves.
The West Midlands club - who claimed a credible draw at Leicester on the opening day - are very much match-ready, with four Europa League ties under their belt this season, having knocked Pyunik and Crusaders out of that competition.
However, United controlled much of the opening period, despite the 45 minutes producing few excellent chances. Anthony Martial's goal broke the deadlock for United; the Frenchman taking his Red Devils tally to 50; a fine left-footed, first-time shot flicked passed Rui Particio after neat build-up play from Jesse Lingard, Luke Shaw and Marcus Rashford.
The goal carried plenty of swagger, and reflected United's bouyant mood as they seek to move on from a disastrous end to last season and enjoy a second honeymoon spell under Solskjaer's popular leadership.
But, despite being firmly on top, United couldn't add to their advantage when momentum was with them. It was to prove critical as a Wolves side who are impressive at home and lost only 13 league games last season came storming back under the floodlights.
Wolves were level on 55 minutes. Raul Jimenez had issued a warning by hitting the woodwork earlier in the half, before Nevez bagged the equaliser with a sensational, curling finish after Moutinho found him from the corner spot. It was a top class finish from a Wolves side who have looked true Premier League material since their promotion from the Championship in 2018.
Nevez's strike went through the usual VAR farce. A joyous moment for the home fans temporarily spoiled, as the technology so many insisted the game needed continues to sap the life out of watching live football. Fans treasure moments of true euphoria that are rapidly becoming rarer at the game's higher echeleons. There was no offside - but the "Fuck VAR" chants heard loud and clear in the aftermath suggest more and more fans may be defecting to the view of a previously ostracised minority.
United could not rekindle their first-half best, but had the ideal chance to recapture the lead when Pogba went on a marauding surge forward, before being fouled by Conor Coady. A penalty - after another VAR wobble - was given; but Rashford - a hero from 12 yards against Chelsea - did not step up. Instead, the man who won the spot-kick did.
Pogba missed three penalties last season, and duly missed another. He leathered it hard from twelve yards, but the shot was firmly in Patricio's range, and he palmed it clear. United probably need a permanent penalty-taker that isn't United's polarising midfield man - and, indeed, the decision to drag the duties away from Rashford so soon after his successful Old Trafford dispatch baffled many.
The Red Army will regard Monday's draw as two points dropped; after controlling possession and looking so impressive in the opening 45 minutes. However, the inability to double the advantage when in control, plus another Pogba penalty mess, will cause concern. Nevertheless, four points from two tough opening fixtures is an excellent return after the self-destructive conclusion to the previous campaign, and victory on Saturday against Crystal Palace would mean this has been a very good start to a potentially tricky season.
Full Time - Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-1 Manchester United
Attendance - 31,314