73 mins: In the middle of all those chances McGoldrick came on, replacing Basham.
72 mins: And another miss! This one is from Sheffield United, who tries to backheel goalwards as Baldock pulls the ball back to him, but somehow gets it over the bar!
70 mins: What a miss! And another miss! Norwood gives the ball away in midfield and Jimenez carries the ball to the edge of the area before passing left to Saiss. He has time to take a touch and pick his spot, but his shot is too close to Ramsdale, who palms it against the post! Then it rebounds straight to Jimenez, who doesn’t have time to do anything much and sidefoots just wide of an empty net!
70 mins: Buur has gone to right-back, freeing Traore to take up a more attacking position.
68 mins: A substitution! Neto goes off, and Oskar Buur comes on.
67 mins: Sharp gets free down the left again. This time his cross is decent, but Coady is well positioned and clears. Then it happens again just seconds later, this time a low cross from Sharp, and Coady turns behind.
63 mins: Saiss is back on his feet. Or foot, rather, as he hops off the pitch before putting his right boot back on.
61 mins: Saiss is down and receiving treatment, after Egan accidentally kicks his ankle as a corner comes into the box.
60 mins: United are well on top here, but still aren’t creating any chances. Meanwhile, these are the teams for tonight’s late game at Brighton:
Brighton: Ryan, White, Webster, Dunk, Lamptey, Lallana, Bissouma, Alzate, March, Maupay, Trossard. Subs: Stephens, Gross, Jahanbakhsh, Steele, Burn, Veltman, Connolly.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga, James, Christensen, Zouma, Alonso, Loftus-Cheek, Jorginho, Kante, Havertz, Werner, Mount. Subs: Rudiger, Barkley, Abraham, Caballero, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Azpilicueta.
Referee: Craig Pawson
58 mins: Sharp is played in to the left of goal, but his attempt to square to Lundstram is overhit and underaimed. They should have converted that chance into a goal.
57 mins: Fleck sends in a cross from the left, but Wolves have nine players inside the penalty area and one of them heads it clear.
53 mins: Wolves win a corner on the right, and Saiss wins the header again but sends the ball just beyond the far post!
51 mins: Fleck hits the post! Lundstram plays the ball back to him on the edge of the area, towards the left side, and he runs onto it and takes a touch before cracking a low shot across goal that smacks the meat of the far post before bouncing back out to Baldock, who also hits a low shot across goal, but his deflects wide!
48 mins: Egan is late to a challenge on Podence, a bit of a risk given his first-half booking, but Mike Dean gives him only a warning.
47 mins: Chance! It’s (inevitably) a long ball, a flick-on from McBurnie, and Stevens lashes over the bar from an acute angle before screaming out in frustration.
46 mins: Peeeeep! They’re off! And United instantly hump a long ball straight to Rui Patricio, depressingly.
The players are back out, Wolves having made the Blades wait a while.
I was wrong to say Jack O’Connell was marking turf as Wolves scored their first goal. In fact he couldn’t decide whether to close down Neto or stay with Jimenez, and ended up positioning himself roughly halfway between them. Then as the corner came in before the second Enda Stevens was marking the scorer, Saiss, only for O’Connell to foul him as the ball was in the air, giving him a hefty shove in the small of the back and a bit of an ankle-kick as well. Which given that they are on the same team seems a puzzling decision.
Half-time: Sheffield United 0-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers
45+2 mins: Enough time for a Wolves corner, which is taken short to work Joao Moutinho a different angle from which to overhit a cross straight into touch.
45+1 mins: If nothing else, the Blades have done enough in the second half of the first half to give themselves some hope of being able to perhaps get back into this game in the first half of the second half. There’ll be one minute of stoppage time.
42 mins: United have been kind-of-dominating these last 10 minutes or so, flinging the ball forward and making it hard for Wolves to get rid of it.
39 mins: Another foul on Jimenez, another booking. This time it’s McBurnie, trying (and failing) to win the ball with his right foot while casually kicking the Mexican with his left.
38 mins: Another corner for the Blades and this does lead to a save, McBurnie’s header going down the middle of goal allowing Rui Patricio to catch.
36 mins: Rui Patricio is called into significant action for the first time, and it’s to turn over a mishit cross. The corner is cleared.
33 mins: Egan is booked for kicking Jimenez in the legs. United are all long-balls and physicality at the moment.
29 mins: Agricultural stuff from United. A high ball into the box is headed down to Lundstam, who skies a ludicrous looping cross-type thing towards Fleck, Rui Patricio comes out to claim his header but hits Sharp, and McBurnie sends the loose ball over the bar before falling over. There was an offside there, and possibly also a foul, and it’s anyway a goal kick.
28 mins: A lovely cross from Stevens on the left, and Saiss wins another important header. Turns out Sharp was offside, so it wasn’t as important as it first looked, but still.
27 mins: Podence is released down the left, and a good pass into Jimenez would have left the forward with a clear run on goal. He doesn’t get it, though, is forced to turn back, and is crowded out before he can shoot.
24 mins: Jimenez’s third shot of the night is by some way the worst, but it’s still very good, a shift onto his left foot and a curling 20-yarder that doesn’t miss by much.
22 mins: Wolves win a free-kick on the right. Nothing comes of it, but the way each of their players is seeking and using the ball at the moment smacks not just of the kind of confidence a quick two-goal lead will give you, but also of sheer quality. It’s a side full of fine footballers and no mistake.
19 mins: Traore gives the ball away again, but Coady comes out to dispossess McBurnie with a fine sliding tackle. “I’m worried for Sheffield United and my main basis for such concern is being an Ipswich Town fan,” writes John Barnes (not that one). “United remind me very much of the dear old Tractor Boys back in the noughties. One season of overachieving after promotion and it was European cup glory again!! And relegation. Now we’ve fallen further afield in League One like some other fallen/sleeping giants in that league and it’s a very hard road back. Just hope that it doesn’t happen to them, but something [about] them is similar.”
16 mins: Traore, on the halfway line, attempts a clever no-look backheel flick that nearly presents the ball to Sharp, who could potentially have sprinted clear if he was more capable of sprinting.
13 mins: Wolves win a free-kick, central and about 40 yards from goal. Jimenez takes up a very curious position, pretty much on the penalty spot, five yards beyond any defender so emphatically offside. Whatever the plan was, it didn’t come to fruition – the ball is played in, and headed out.
11 mins: United pass the ball around their defence for a while, before eventually hitting it up to Sharp, who is instantly muscled off it.
10 mins: A foul throw from United, in the left-back position. Nothing’s going their way tonight.
GOAL! Sheffield United 0-2 Wolves (Saiss, 6 mins)
And another! The corner comes in and Saiss rises highest to head an excellent header past Ramsdale from 10 yards!
6 mins: Save! Dendoncker crosses from the right and Jimenez chests down and thumps goalwards despite lots of defenders lurking near him. It was never going in, but Ramsdale had to tip over.
4 mins: In addition to Lundstram diving in unnecessarily and getting nowhere near either the ball or Podence, when the ball came in O’Connell was defending an ultimately irrelevant patch of turf at the near post instead of monitoring Jimenez, who was thus completely free.
GOAL! Sheffield United 0-1 Wolves (Jimenez, 3 mins)
That’s a cracking goal on the break. There’s some great work from Podence on the left, who fools Lundstram really nicely before scampering clear, and then his cross is volleyed into the top corner by Jimenez!
1 min: Adama Traore is fouled twice in the opening 10 seconds of the game, which is quite the achievement.
“United were so impressive last year,” gushes Mary Waltz. “For a newly promoted squad to rise so high in the table without the massive money support that the top squads have is truly remarkable. Plus they play with a unique, exciting style.” All of this is true, but to come anywhere close to repeating it would be more remarkable still.
The players are on their way to the pitch, Wolves popping out halfway up a stand, the home side emerging from the actual tunnel.
Chris Wilder has had a word with Sky:
I’m sure we’ll be better for the experience of being in the Premier League. Hopefully they’ll have enjoyed it and gained from it. We’ve brought some new players into the group as well. But it’s going to be a huge challenge for us again, we understand that. Nothing taken for granted from my point of view. We’ve got to go again and start with another big performance tonight.
I’m a huge believer that games at the start of the season are just as important as games at the end. You get the same number of points. We’re looking to replicate that but we know we’re up against a fabulous team. Their pre-season has possibly been a little bit disjointed, but we’re all getting on with it, we all know it’s like no other pre-season that we’ve been involved in, but it’s still a big three points on offer tonight and we’re going to have to play well to get a result.
Some lucky photographer has been up in a helicopter today, to take some very fine fresh photographs of Bramall Lane in the early autumn sunshine:
Nuno Espirito Santo has a pre-match chat:
We are ready to try. We did well things in the past, things which show us the way in the future. And the future is today. We start a new season, and we are highly motivated for it. It’s a quick turnaround. [On playing Adama Traore at right wing-back] He’s a versatile player, he can do multiple things on the pitch, but it’s obvious the squad needs a player in that position.
The team sheets are in, and the names upon them are these:
Sheffield United: Ramsdale, Basham, O’Connell, Egan, Baldock, Lundstram, Norwood, Fleck, Stevens, McBurnie, Sharp. Subs: Berge, Burke, Jagielka, McGoldrick, Foderingham, Ampadu, Osborn.
Wolverhampton: Rui Patricio, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Traore, Dendoncker, Joao Moutinho, Marcal, Pedro Neto, Jimenez, Daniel Podence. Subs: Neves, Silva, Jota, Vitinha, Ruddy, Ruben Vinagre, Rasmussen.
Referee: Mike Dean.
Over the last two years Sheffield United and Wolves have provided two very different models of post-promotion excellence, with Nuno Espirito Santo’s Wolves finishing seventh in both seasons back in the top flight with an expensively-assembled, very Portuguese-based squad and the Blades coming ninth last year with a more homegrown assembly. The challenge for both is to keep improving, or at worst to only decline a tiny bit. “It will be very difficult, very challenging and more demanding,” Nuno said last week of that prospect. “It will require more work, better decisions and better solutions and better performances from our players.”
United, like all teams who thrive on their first go in the Premier League, must now lay to rest the ghost of Ipswich 2001-02, who having won eight of their last 12 games to finish a thrilling fifth in their first campaign after promotion won only one of their first 17 next time out and got relegated. Surely nothing like that will happen to Chris Wilder’s brilliantly-prepared outfit, though. Surely?