Wolverhapton Wanderers 1-0 Middlesbrough: Espírito Santo beats Monk in Championship opener

Leo Bonatini scored the only goal of the game after an error from Boro's Daniel Ayala.

Wolverhapton Wanderers 1-0 Middlesbrough: Espírito Santo beats Monk in Championship opener
(Photo via Getty Images/ Sam Bagnall)
Wolverhampton Wanderers
1 0
Middlesbrough
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ruddy; Miranda, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Saiss, Douglas; Enobakhare, Jota, Bonatini (Dicko min. 57).
Middlesbrough: Randolph; Christie, Ayala, Gibson, Friend; Clayton, De Roon (Forshaw, min. 65), Howson (Gestede min. 81); Fletcher (Bamford, min.57), Braithwaite, Assombalonga
SCORE: 1-0, min 33, Bonatini
REFEREE: Darren Bond (ENG). Booked: Miranda (min. 28) Clayton (min. 58)

Daniel Ayala’s first half error was the difference between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Middlesbrough, as Nuno Espírito Santo overcame Garry Monk in the battle of the new managers.

Brazilian striker Leo Bonatini scored the only goal of the game when Ayala’s pass in the 33rd minute set up the forward, who calmly slotted the ball past goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

Overall, Espírito Santo, who arrived from Porto in June, will have been impressed his side’s organised and resilient performance against the Championship's promotion favourites.

Despite being the highest spenders over the summer, Boro didn’t live up to their early season hype.

Cagey start

Boro began the game in a 4-3-3 formation, with Monk handing debuts to six of his new signings.

Ashley Fletcher, Britt Assombalonga and Martin Braithwaite made up a potent-looking forward line, while Randolph, Cyrus Christie and Jonny Howson also started the game.

There were plenty of fresh faces in Wolves’ starting 11, too, as Espírito Santo named John Ruddy, Willy Boly, Roderick Miranda, Barry Douglas, Diogo Jota, Leo Bonatini and record signing Rúben Neves in his first team of the season.

In front of a jubilant home crowd, Wolves saw more of the ball in the early exchanges however neither side created a significant chance.

Boro came close to an opener on 17 minutes when Adam Clayton’s teasing free-kick was whipped across the penalty area.

Any touch from a red shirt may have sent it into the Wolves net, however - as the home fans drew breath - the ball was flicked behind for a corner.

Wolves’ best chance of the opening half-an-hour came when Bonatini set up Neves on the edge of the Boro box, however the Portuguese midfielder failed to make sufficient contact with the ball.

Bonatini pounces on Ayala mistake 

The game continued to drift along until the 33rd minute when Ayala’s calamitous mistake handed Wolves the lead.

With little pressure on the ball, the Boro centre back misplaced his pass, allowing Bonatini to charge though on goal.

The Brazilian striker, who signed on loan from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal earlier this week, only had Randolph to beat and made no mistake.

Boro received a golden chance to equalise two minutes before half time when an inviting cross from Christie set up Braithwaite a couple of yards out.

However, unchallenged, the Danish forward glanced his header wide, meaning the hosts went into the interval a goal to the good.

Six minutes after the restart, Wolves’ 19-year-old tyro Bright Enobakhare forced a save from Randolph after some nifty footwork saw the winger skip past two Boro players.

Boro unable to bounce back

Monk introduced Patrick Bamford and Adam Forshaw in place of Fletcher and Marten De Roon, as the visitors pushed equaliser.

It nearly came with 20 minutes to go when Assombalonga chased down a loose ball towards the Wolves goal.

Goalkeeper Ruddy reached it first on the edge of the hosts' penalty area, and despite a few appeals for handball, referee Darren Bond waved play on.

Ruddy denied Assombalonga again five minutes later when the Wolves keeper turned the ball around the post for a corner.

Monk used his last substitution with nine minutes to go, throwing on giant forward Rudy Gestede for Howson but it wasn’t enough.

Championship