Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 Gillingham: Julen Lopetegui gets off to winning start as Wolves manager
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.
17Gonçalo Guedes29Diego Costa10Podence
1Sá22Nélson Semedo4Collins23Kilman64Bueno59HodgeSubstituted forTraoréat 45’minutes8Neves28João MoutinhoSubstituted forHwang Hee-chanat 61’minutes17Gonçalo GuedesSubstituted forNunesat 61’minutes29Diego CostaSubstituted forAït-Nouriat 81’minutes10PodenceSubstituted forJiménezat 69’minutesSubstitutes3Aït-Nouri9Jiménez11Hwang Hee-chan13Sarkic24Gomes25Ronan27Nunes37Traoré81Lembikisa
25Turner2Alexander4Wright5Ehmer23Baggott3Tutonda16JefferiesSubstituted forMacDonaldat 73’minutes6WilliamsSubstituted forLeeat 74’minutes8O’KeefeSubstituted forReevesat 74’minutes21Adelakun9MandronSubstituted forKashketat 64’minutesSubstitutes7MacDonald10Lee11Reeves24Kashket33Holtam
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Gillingham 0.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Gillingham 0.
Attempt missed. Hwang Hee-Chan (Wolverhampton Wanderers) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high following a fast break.
Foul by Rayan Aït-Nouri (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Will Wright (Gillingham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Goal! Wolverhampton Wanderers 2, Gillingham 0. Rayan Aït-Nouri (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Hwang Hee-Chan.
Attempt missed. Scott Kashket (Gillingham) left footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Ben Reeves with a cross.
Foul by Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Ben Reeves (Gillingham) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Attempt saved. Ben Reeves (Gillingham) left footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the right is saved in the bottom left corner.
Foul by Rúben Neves (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Olly Lee (Gillingham) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Matheus Nunes (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Olly Lee (Gillingham).
Foul by Nathan Collins (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Scott Kashket (Gillingham) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Hakeeb Adelakun (Gillingham) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Rayan Aït-Nouri replaces Diego Costa.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Will Wright.