95 minutes of chaos gave way to a desolate scene of desperation. Wolves substitute Owen Otasowie sat disconsolate in the corner of a net he should have dented with the last action of the game, as friend and enemy made their way back to the locker room. Otasowie, a 19-year-old midfielder who had come on as a substitute with two minutes left, had absolutely unchallengedly headed an Adama Traoré cross over the crossbar and had to be raised to his feet by a support staff member before leaving the scene.
Nuno Espírito Santo said, “Surely he will react and take a chance like that and do better,” and the coach must hope the same is true for his squad. When they led 3-1 at halftime against a Brighton side whose season seemed to be slipping away, Wolves squandered the opportunity.
Otasowie may have saved the side, but it was hardly his fault that Neal Maupay was unnecessarily fouled by João Moutinho, usually so controlling, eleven seconds after the restart, triggering the penalty that halved the deficit. Nor could he be blamed for the defensive work that allowed Lewis Dunk to score Brighton’s equalizer from a corner, in an almost identical situation just minutes after Adam Webster had hit the crossbar.
Dunk’s header gave a deserving victory to Brighton and ensured that, at least for the moment, the team could forget their unsightly statistics. In 13 home league games and in their last eight games away from home, they have gone winless. No one has drawn more games and that suggests they are all considered candidates for relegation.
But the result displayed refreshing verve after the break and even in some stages of the first half and took some of the burden off their boss, Graham Potter.
“It was tough for us in the first half,” Potter said. “You look for character and I thought we had that. The players were amazing: great spirit, personality and quality.” When he fed Leandro Trossard with a cross that Aaron Connolly flicked past Rui Patrício, Webster took the lead in the 13th minute.
Since his first appearance at Amex Stadium almost 15 months ago, Connolly hadn’t scored, but the players and club soon faced another disappointment.
Over the next half-hour, Brighton self-destructed, while Nuno was satisfied with Wolves’ way of taking charge.
After Nélson Semedo had guessed his own mistaken throw, Romain Saïss converted a fine header and finished correctly. Dan Burn failed to drive a deflected shot by Pedro Neto over the line. The full-back had cleared a cheap corner earlier and just before the break he struggled to beat Traoré again.
From the penalty spot, Rúben Neves scored and the game seemed to be decided.
Until Andi Zeqiri, who after the restart substituted the wounded Connolly, won a header with his first contact on the ball and caused the panicked interference of Moutinho as Maupay reached the penalty area.
Between him and the target, Maupay still had two defenders, so he had to be grateful as he distributed the resulting gift.
“I’m not disappointed in João,” Nuno said. “I’m disappointed in myself, in everyone.” In the time that followed, the Wolves defended disastrously. Zeqiri should have poked Webster’s rebound shot at the woodwork, but with Trossard’s free kick, Dunk had no luck. Nuno acknowledged that his team was “making mistakes we shouldn’t be making.” now without conceding a goal in 10 games. In the end, Otasowie was glad that the missed opportunities were the least of the worries of his coach.