José Mourinho questioned the ambition of his team after Tottenham let victory slip from their grasp by conceding another late equaliser. No Premier League team have dropped as many points from winning positions this season as Spurs, who scored thanks to Tanguy Ndombele in the opening minute and spent most of the rest of the match trying to protect their lead.
Wolves, slick and relentless, refused to let them and deserved the equaliser Romain Saïss scored four minutes from time, heading into the net after a corner.
Earlier this month Spurs conceded a similar goal to Liverpool in the last minute and the following week they had to settle for a draw after conceding a late equaliser from a free-kick against Crystal Palace. After that match Mourinho insisted his team’s conservatism had not been ordered by him and he made a similar complaint at Molineux, lamenting his team’s reluctance to attack with more convictions when leading 1-0.
“I am frustrated with the result, we had control of game, we had 89 minutes to score more goals and we didn’t,” he said. “It’s not just about not scoring but also not being dangerous and ambitious and for me that’s the problem.
“It is a concern. The fact we score early goals and we don’t kill matches. We must score another, it’s as simple as that. Even defending very well, which we did as a team, that is not enough. Even if we had done that and we won 1-0, my feeling would be the same.”
Mourinho also lamented his team’s vulnerability from set pieces. “It’s disappointing, of course. And tomorrow we are going to have a similar meeting to other meetings we have had and we are going to practise the same thing we have practised after similar situations.”
Nuno Espírito Santo lauded his team for scoring a late goal for the third match in a row. “It is not just about their fitness, it is also a lot to do with their belief and spirit.”
It has, then, been a festive season of little cheer for Spurs. They came to Molineux on a mission to re-establish themselves as title contenders following consecutive defeats by Liverpool and Leicester and they started like a team convinced they could still be champions.
Perhaps Mourinho took Nuno by surprise by deviating from his usual system and deploying a back three. Certainly Wolves looked flummoxed after only 20 seconds, when Son Heung-min raced on to a straightforward pass from the back by Ben Davies. Son’s shot was saved but when the resultant corner came to Davies beyond the back post, the Welshman teed up Ndombele, whose shot from 20 yards curled into the middle of the goal, with Rui Patrício seemingly unsighted by the bodies in front of him.
Now Wolves had to find a way of unpicking a Mourinho’s defence. At least they had time on their side. They also have Pedro Neto, Adama Traoré and Daniel Podence, a trio of attackers whose speed and skills regularly tormented the visitors.
Unfortunately Wolves did not have Raúl Jiménez, through they were pleased to see the striker watching from a corporate box, the first time he has been able to do that since fracturing his skull at Arsenal last month. Fábio Silva filled in for him gamely up front but the 18-year-old has not yet refined his predatory skill.
For 20 minutes the attacking was tit-for-tat, with Ndombele masterful in midfield for Spurs. When he broke up a home attack in the 21st minute he strode 50 yards forward, brushing aside tackles like flimsy litter before teeing up Sergio Reguilón, whose finish, alas, was poor.
After that Spurs grew meek, their focus on conserving their lead rather than increasing it. Slick Wolves could say they left the visitors with little choice but aside from a couple of shots by Silva and Podence Spurs navigated their way fairly comfortably to half-time with their lead intact.
However they could have lost it within 10 seconds of the restart, as Wolves howled for a penalty when Silva beat Doherty to a through-ball by Semedo and then went down in the box, possibly following contact from the defender’s foot. A VAR review did not find conclusive evidence of a foul.
Wolves continued to attack but, with Harry Kane and Son far more active at their own end than in opposing territory, Spurs looked to be closing in on a win that would have lifted them to third place. But Wolves were remorseless and claimed the goal they merited when Saïss beat Davies and Kane to a corner and glanced a header into the net.
Suddenly Spurs found themselves having to cling on just for a point. At least they managed that, but only because Silva headed straight at Lloris after a delicious cross by Rúben Neves.