Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Gillingham: Julen Lopetegui gets off to winning start as Wolves manager

Ruben Neves
Ruben Neves started for Wolves after returning from World Cup duty with Portugal

Julen Lopetegui got off to a winning start as Wolves manager as they edged into the Carabao Cup quarter-finals at the expense of Gillingham.

The Premier League strugglers finally found the breakthrough on 77 minutes through a Raul Jimenez penalty after Hwang Hee-chan was fouled.

Rayan Ait-Nouri then secured the win in stoppage time following a breakaway.

Gillingham, bottom of League Two, were spirited but eventually outgunned by their hosts.

Former Real Madrid and Spain manager Lopetegui’s first game in charge of Wolves had been a long time coming, after he replaced the sacked Bruno Lage in November.

If he is to lift Wolves off the foot of the Premier League, the 56-year-old has one major issue to solve – scoring goals.

His team have scored just eight in the league this season, and struggled to break down Gillingham for long periods despite having the bulk of shots and possession.

Ruben Neves came closest for Wolves in the first half, striking a 35th-minute free-kick just wide before hitting the post with a 20-yard effort just before half-time as Lopetegui grew visibly frustrated on the sidelines.

He had started Diego Costa, who was a key figure in Lopetegui’s Spain side which qualified for the 2018 World Cup, but the ex-Chelsea forward is still waiting for his first Wolves goal.

Instead it was Jimenez, freshly returned from World Cup duty with Mexico, who broke the deadlock in the 77th minute after Hwang – himself involved having reached the last 16 in Qatar with South Korea – was brought down following a corner.

Jimenez calmly sent Gills keeper Jake Turner the wrong way for his first goal since August 23, 119 days ago, when the 31-year-old scored against Preston in the EFL Cup second round.

Lopetegui said of the forward after the game: “It is good for Raul and it is good for us. All the strikers want to score and this will be important for his confidence.”

Wolves’ victory was secured in stoppage time through Ait-Nouri, but Lopetegui was visibly unimpressed with his side’s performance and went straight down the tunnel at the final whistle.

The Molineux club are set to sign striker Matheus Cunha from Atletico Madrid – for Lopetegui, the prospect of more goals cannot be realised soon enough.

For Gillingham, their attention will return to trying to extend their 72-year spell as a league club.

They have only won two of their 20 games in League Two, are winless since 1 October and with just six league goals, they are the only English league side with fewer goals than Wolves.

Neil Harris’ side looked as though they could hold out for penalties having offered little in regular play, after dumping out Premier League Brentford via spot-kicks in the third round.

However Jimenez and co ensured that would not be the case, although Gillingham could still cause another cup upset when they play Leicester City in the FA Cup third round next month.



Formation 4-3-3

  • 1
  • 22Nélson Semedo
  • 4Collins
  • 23Kilman
  • 64Bueno
  • 59HodgeSubstituted forTraoréat 45′minutes
  • 8Neves
  • 28João MoutinhoSubstituted forHwang Hee-chanat 61′minutes
  • 17Gonçalo GuedesSubstituted forNunesat 61′minutes
  • 29Diego CostaSubstituted forAït-Nouriat 81′minutes
  • 10PodenceSubstituted forJiménezat 69′minutes


  • 3Aït-Nouri
  • 9Jiménez
  • 11Hwang Hee-chan
  • 13Sarkic
  • 24Gomes
  • 25Ronan
  • 27Nunes
  • 37Traoré
  • 81Lembikisa


Formation 5-4-1

  • 25Turner
  • 2Alexander
  • 4Wright
  • 5Ehmer
  • 23Baggott
  • 3Tutonda
  • 16JefferiesSubstituted forMacDonaldat 73′minutes
  • 6WilliamsSubstituted forLeeat 74′minutes
  • 8O’KeefeSubstituted forReevesat 74′minutes
  • 21Adelakun
  • 9MandronSubstituted forKashketat 64′minutes


  • 7MacDonald
  • 10Lee
  • 11Reeves
  • 24Kashket
  • 33Holtam

Michael Salisbury


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