What began as an evening where one England youth looked to have taken a chance long waited for, finished up with another seizing the spotlight all for himself. This was a match where Morgan Gibbs-White gave uplifting proof of his enormous talent.
Starting his first Premier League game, the 18-year-old did not wilt when his team went behind against Chelsea, instead becoming the catalyst for a comeback that electrified Molineux and left Maurizio Sarri’s side ten points off Manchester City.
Sarri tinkered with his team, giving opportunity to those who have been banging on his door, but was left to rue a second defeat of the campaign after the loss to Tottenham a fortnight ago.
MATCH FACTS AND STATS
Wolves 3-4-3: Patricio 7; Bennett 7.5, Coady 7.5, Boly 7.5; Doherty 7.5, Moutinho 7.5, Saiss 7, Vinagre 7.5; Gibbs-White 8.5 (Costa 72’ 6.5), Jimenez 8 (Dendoncker 81’), Jota (Cavaleiro 88’)
Goals: Jimenez (59), Jota (63)
Booked: Saiss, Moutinho, Vinagre, Coady
Subs not used: Ruddy, Hause, Bonatini, Traore
Manager: Nuno Espirito Santo 8
Chelsea 4-3-3: Kepa 5; Azpilicueta 6, Rudiger 6.5, Christensen 6, Alonso 6; Kante 6.5 (Kovacic 77’), Fabregas 7, Loftus-Cheek 7; Hazard 6.5, Morata 4.5 (Giroud 65’ 6), Willian 5 (Pedro 65’ 6)
Goals: Loftus-Cheek (18)
Booked: Christensen, Alonso, Fabregas, Giroud
Subs not used: Caballero, Jorginho, Zappacosta, Luiz
Manager: Maurizio Sarri 6
Ref: Jon Moss 6
Ruben Loftus-Cheek did at least do well, scoring a deflected goal that gave Chelsea an 18th-minute lead. But the impact of Alvaro Morata and Willian was minimal, and Sarri did not even offer a glance when the pair were taken off late on.
His opposite number, Nuno Espirito Santo, was a whirring dynamo on the sidelines as the seconds ticked down, one part manager, sending on substitutes to see out victory, one part conductor, cajoling the supporters in the stands to raise the volume.
After five losses and no wins in six, this was as good a result for Wolves as it was bad for Chelsea, alleviating the doubts that had began to creep into the club in recent weeks.
It had seemed the match would follow a different course, with Loftus-Cheek pivotal.
The last time he had started a Premier League game for Chelsea, Guus Hiddink was trying to piece together the shards of a squad left by Jose Mourinho.
Their comeback was aided in part by the officiating. Jon Moss became enemy No 1 for a number of debatable calls against the home side, but seconds into the second half he took no action when Willy Boly looked to have taken out Alvaro Morata as he seemed certain to put the ball into an empty net.
The reprieve galvanised Wolves, who struck twice in four minutes.
Just before the hour Gibbs-White got the moment his performance deserved as he bullied Fabregas off the ball, then slipped a perfect pass in behind Christensen to set Jimenez clear. Jimenez can sometimes hesitate in front of goal but here he struck with conviction, powering the ball through Kepa Arrizabala, who it must be said should have saved.
Santo exploded, his eyes bulging up at the directors box behind him, and just as he caught his breath his team took the lead.
Moutinho dispossessed Willian with a shoulder that the Chelsea forward thought should have been punished, then fed Matt Doherty on the overlap. Doherty continued his habit for attacking effectiveness, crossing low to the back post where Jota was waiting to tap in.