Julen Lopetegui off to winning start but Wolves leave it late to see of Gillingham | Carabao Cup

Julen Lopetegui has had far more glamorous nights in the business but victory in his first game in charge of Wolves to advance to the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup represented job done as they squeezed past fourth-tier Gillingham courtesy of goals by substitutes Raul Jimenez and Rayan Ait-Nouri.

Wolves cannot be too fussy about wins either, this just their fifth of the season, three of which have come in this competition. For long periods it seemed a game low on quality and clear-cut chances was destined to be decided by a penalty shootout but the League Two side pressed self-destruct late on, conceding a spot-kick which Jimenez, making his first Wolves appearance since August, calmly converted before Ait-Nouri sealed victory in stoppage time.


Adams double sees Saints progress


Che Adams scored twice as Southampton marked Nathan Jones’ first home match as manager by scraping into the Carabao Cup quarter-finals with an unconvincing 2-1 win over Lincoln.
Top scorer Adams struck either side of half-time to spare Saints blushes after the Imps threatened an upset following Gavin Bazunu’s early own goal.
The lacklustre hosts labored for much of a forgettable fourth-round tie at a sparsely-populated St Mary’s, leaving Jones with plenty to ponder as he plots a Premier League survival mission.
Adams’ winner – his eighth goal of the season – arrived 16 minutes from time, preventing the jeopardy of a penalty shootout, which Saints had required to sneak past third-tier Sheffield Wednesday in the previous round.
Lincoln, who sit 14th in Sky Bet League One and beat Championship Bristol City in round three, acquitted themselves well and will probably leave the south coast feeling aggrieved as replays suggested Adams’ 25th-minute equaliser was offside.
Saints substitute Samuel Edozie squandered a golden chance to make the result safe in added time when he somehow shot wide of an open goal, while match-winner Adams should have claimed a hat-trick with another excellent opening.

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Lopetegui is a coach of great pedigree – hence Wolves’ owners Fosun’s delight at appointing him as head coach at the third time of asking – but his first game in charge was tantamount to an entry-level test. Nevertheless, Lopetegui recognized the awkwardness of the task, alluding to Gillingham’s shock victory over Brentford in the previous round. “These kind of matches are difficult because you play against a team that has nothing to lose,” he said afterwards. “These kind of matches are very difficult because sometimes you want to take shortcuts. This kind of opponent I think is very different to the one we are going to find in the next matches.”

Wolves travel to Everton on Boxing Day before hosting Manchester United on New Year’s Eve. By then they expect to have sealed a loan deal for the Atlético Madrid forward Matheus Cunha with an option to make the move permanent. The arrival of Cunha is set to be the first of several transfers. Wolves hope to ratify before the window opens in January as they seek to move up the table. A new centre-back and right-back are thought to be other priorities next month.

Julen Lopetegui gets his point across in his first game as Wolves manager. Photograph: Jason Cairnduff/Reuters

These teams may be three divisions apart but both are propping up their respective league tables, Wolves the Premier League and Gillingham League Two. Gillingham, relegated last season, have not tasted victory in the league since October and set up to flummox a Wolves team for whom this season has also been utterly miserable. For Gillingham, attention quickly shifts to their Boxing Day date with Colchester, who is a place above them in the table. “It’s the biggest game of the season,” said their manager, Neil Harris, who traveled separately to Molineux in an attempt to prevent the spread of a virus. We’ll be right at it. It’s so important to maintain our league status.”

Lopetegui was given a warm welcome before Wolves’ defeat to Arsenal in November and before kick-off here the South Bank unveiled a striking tifo with the words ‘Julen is a Wolf’. Lopetegui expressed a wish to see evidence of almost seven weeks of preparation since taking charge but until Rúben Neves, fresh from Portugal’s World Cup quarter-final exit, rattled a post with the last touch of a dull first half there was little to whet the appetite . Joe Hodge, who was replaced by Adama Traore at the interval, should have hit the target but headed wide unmarked inside the six-yard box.

Lopetegui urged calm as his players appeared strangled by expectation. Matheus Nunes, Hwang Hee-chan and Jiménez, three more who were involved in Qatar, entered in the second half and the hosts slowly stirred. Wolves were gifted a path to victory when the Gillingham defender Cheye Alexander tugged at the shirt of Hwang inside the box with 14 minutes of normal time to play. Jiménez stepped up to the penalty spot and stroked the ball into the corner to set Wolves en route to the next round before Aït-Nouri capped the win. “It has been a very special day for me,” Lopetegui said. Today [Tuesday] is the birthday of my father and today is my first match at Molineux.”

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