A stunning Leander Dendoncker volley proved to be the difference as Wolves signed off their first season back in the Premier League at Molineux with a deserved three points against relegated Fulham.
The Belgian international netted with just 15 minutes of play left in a game which was littered with chances for the home side.
‘Doctor’ Nuno Espirito Santo – fresh from receiving his honorary doctorate from the University of Wolverhampton prior to kick-off – named an unchanged side from the one which secured three points against Watford the previous weekend.
Fulham, who looked to maintain possession in the contest had the first effort of the match when Joe Bryan laced a shot at goal from 25 yards which was comfortable for Wolves keeper Rui Patricio. When Wolves did get the ball, they attacked on the counter, with Diogo Jota’s pace causing problems for the visiting defence.
The striker had two appeals for a penalty not go his way, with the second earning the Wolves forward a yellow card for what referee John Moss deemed a dive after Jota went down under a challenge from Cyrus Christie.
Jota continued to give Fulham, and especially Christie, nightmares with his direct running. The forward was denied by a fingertip save from Sergio Rico after being played in cleverly by striker partner Raul Jimenez.
The Portuguese international then fired wide inside the area from a tight angle after charging into the box to meets a pass from Joao Moutinho who perfectly laid the ball into Jota’s path.
Just after the half-hour mark and Wolves came inches away from opening the scoring. From a corner, Moutinho found Dendoncker near the penalty spot who rose highest in the box to plant his header against the crossbar. Moments later, another corner was headed wide by Willy Boly.
As the game progressed towards half-time, it became a scrappy affair, with both sides being sloppy in possession and not able to create any clear-cut chances.
Half-time: Wolves 0 Fulham 0
The second-half started in similarly scrappy fashion, but Wolves continued to be the likeliest team to take the lead in the contest. Jota again was causing the danger for the home side, firing narrowly wide of the far post when played into a good position inside the left-hand side of the area.
Despite Wolves’ domination of the game, Fulham could have gone in front with just 30 minutes if Aleksandar Mitrovic had his shooting boots on. The forward got behind the Wolves defence and received a pass from Ryan Sessegnon straight into his path, but 12 yards out from goal he fires his effort high over the crossbar.
Minutes later, Wolves had three chances at the other end of the pitch. Firstly, Ruben Neves lined up a shot from 25-yards, but his curling effort which looked destined for the far corner was palmed wide by Rico. The Fulham keeper had to then be at his best to get down low and deny Matt Doherty’s point-blank header from just a matter of yards, before Jimenez powered his header wide of the post from Moutinho’s subsequent corner.
Following increased Wolves pressure, Doherty then had the ball in the back of the net after a Jonny shot fell into his path, but the Irish wing-back was correctly flagged for offside. Boly then headed another effort wide after getting poor connection on Moutinho’s curling free-kick.
With 15 minutes of the game to go, the deadlock was finally broken. Moutinho and Doherty linked up well down the right-hand side for the latter to then swing in a cross directly to the onrushing Dendoncker who, from 12 yards out, fired an unstoppable volley past Rico, giving Wolves a well-deserved lead.
Wolves weren’t finished there and were inches away from their second when Rico somehow turned Jota’s thunderbolt half-volley from just inside the area onto the crossbar. Jota had another chance just minutes later as he drove his way towards the Fulham box, but his 20-yard effort was well over the bar.
As the game entered extra-time, Nuno gave a Premier League debut to goalkeeper Will Norris, as well as a senior debut for defender Maximilian Kilman who played a starting role in the under-23s securing the Premier League 2 Division 2 title this season.
However, neither of the substitutes even had a touch of the ball before the final whistle blew on another successful season at Molineux.
Full-time: Wolves 1 Fulham 0
Wolves: Patricio (Norris 90), Doherty, Bennett, Coady, Boly (Kilman 90), Jonny (Vinagre 90), Dendoncker, Neves, Moutinho, Jota, Jimenez.
Unused subs: Norris, Kilman, Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Costa, Cavaleiro, Traore.
Fulham: Rico, Christie, Le Marchand, Ream, Bryan, Anguissa (Elliott 88), Chambers, Cairney, R Sessegnon (Ayite 82), Mitrovic, Babel.
Unused subs: Fabri, Mawson, S Sessegnon, Nordveit, Kebano.
Referee: Jonathan Moss