Bruno Lage’s Wolverhampton Wanderers side went into Saturday afternoon’s West Midlands derby in much-improved form, as after losing their first three league games of the 2021/22 campaign, the 45-year-old’s Wolves side had picked up nine points from a possible 12 over their last four fixtures.
However, after Danny Ings opened the scoring for Aston Villa shortly after half-time and John McGinn doubled the home side’s lead on the 68-minute mark, it appeared as if Wolves’ fine run of form would be coming to an end at Villa Park.
The latter of these goals led to Lage making a double substitution with around 15 minutes to go, bringing on both Fabio Silva and Daniel Podence for Joao Moutinho and Fernando Marcal respectively – a decision which would change the game completely.
With Francisco Trincao being ruled out of the game after falling ill while on international duty with Portugal, there was something of a pre-match debate as to who should come in to replace the Barcelona loanee in the Wolves starting XI – Adama Traore or Podence.
While Traore did light up the fixture on occasion due to his remarkable strength on the ball and dizzying dribbles – of which he completed six – it was undoubtedly the Portuguese’s introduction to the game which began to turn the tide for Wolves.
Indeed, despite the £22.5m-rated forward featuring for just 16 minutes, as well as making only five passes and touching the ball just 14 times, the 25-year-old nevertheless ended the game with one assist and one key pass to his name. He played an influential role in his side’s thrilling comeback, with late goals from Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Ruben Neves securing a famous 3-2 win over Wolves’ West Midlands rivals.
As a result of his efforts, Podence earned a SofaScore match rating of 7.3 – with only Saiss and Neves receiving a higher score for Wolves on the day – while The Athletic journalist Tim Spiers claimed that the Portugal international’s introduction to the game finally saw Lage’s side showing signs of “intent” in the match.
While it is impossible to know whether or not Podence would have had the same impact if he had started ahead of Traore, it seems certain that the £60k-per-week winger will ultimately believe that his performance proved his manager wrong – a sentiment that we wouldn’t argue against.