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Wolves’ decision to withdraw Morgan Gibbs-White against Braga proved costly

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This article is part of Football FanCast’s Off the Bench series, which places in-game managerial decisions and squad selections under FFC’s microscope.

Wolves succumbed to defeat in their Europa League Group K opener as Braga snatched all three points with a 1-0 victory at Molineux on Thursday night.

A defensive mistake from centre-back Ryan Bennett handed the ball on a plate to Wenderson Galeno, who then charged towards goal before pulling the ball back for Ricardo Horta to smash home past Rui Patricio from the edge of the area.

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The goal occurred just four minutes after a key substitution from the home side.

With the game becoming increasingly frustrating for Wolves, their boss Nuno Santo needed a creative spark in midfield and turned to Portuguese playmaker Joao Moutinho in the 67th minute as he replaced Morgan Gibbs-White.

Moutinho assisted eight goals in the Premier League last season while the 33-year-old managed half that in the team’s six qualification matches leading to this match.

Off the Bench

In hindsight, it was the wrong decision as the England U21 international was one of the livelier players on the pitch.

Gibbs-White recorded two key passes, three successful dribbles and even drew two fouls, thus resulting in valuable dead-ball opportunities.

The introduction of Moutinho wasn’t the wrong move per se, but certainly, the incorrect player was replaced.

Instead, Leander Dendoncker should have been hauled off for yet another disastrous and weak showing.

The Belgian international conceded two fouls and his passing was generally sloppy, recording a success rate of just 68.2% which was the lowest in the starting XI barring striker Patrick Cutrone.

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His form domestically has followed a similar nature, averaging a lowly rating of just 6.38 – and his regression is something FFC have already outlined previously.

If Moutinho was introduced alongside Gibbs-White they could have garnered better success in front of goal, there’s no way of knowing if Braga still would have scored, though it was unlikely considering they had registered just one shot on target prior to the 71st-minute winner.

The young 19-year-old midfielder scored his first goal for the club in this very competition netting against Pyunik and was one of Wolves’ only threats in the attacking third.

That decision may well have stopped the west Midlands club opening their account in Group K with a perfect result.

Article title: Wolves’ decision to withdraw Morgan Gibbs-White against Braga proved costly

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