Raul Jimenez’s strange 45 minutes as Lage explains Wolves omission

For 80 minutes against Aston Villa it looked as though Raul Jimenez’s shock omission was going to be the biggest Wolves talking point of the day.

Wolves were on course to lose at Villa Park before Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Ruben Neves completed the most remarkable comeback.

Jimenez only arrived back at Compton Park yesterday after playing three games (186 minutes) during the international break with Mexico.

The striker pleaded with Lage to start him against Villa in the West Midlands derby, but the Wolves boss decided to field Adama Traore and Hwang Hee-chan as a two-man attack.

Explaining his eye-catching team selection, Lage said: “Raul is very important for us and the way we play. But also the other players are important. I don’t want to take risks with top players.

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“Maybe I need to protect Saiss more because he played more time than Raul for his national team, but my concern is about the travel. The flight was too much time, he just arrived, he feels tired, he wants to play.

“I put him to warm up and every time he was saying ‘I want to go inside (the team), I want to go inside’, but I preferred to go with Daniel.

“I don’t want to take risks with him because we don’t have a big squad and I don’t want injuries because we don’t make the best decisions.”

Lage’s decision was vindicated in the end, but for 35 minutes of the second half his refusal to introduce Jimenez was baffling everyone of a Wolves persuasion.

READ: Bruno Lage explains last-minute Wolves plan that destroyed Villa

READ: Wolves player ratings vs Villa after Neves seals sensational win

Jimenez’s second half at Villa Park, which was – apart from a few minutes at the end – played out away from the cameras, was bizarre to say the least.

As soon as Danny Ings headed Villa in front in the 48th minute the packed out away end started to chant for Jimenez.

But it wasn’t until the 60th minute that Lage ordered his star striker to warm up.

Jimenez proceeded to limber up in front of the press box at Villa Park, alongside Willy Boly and Ki-Jana Hoever to begin with. It was clear Jimenez was Lage’s first port of call at this point.

Raul Jimenez’s strange 45 minutes as Lage explains Wolves omission
Raul Jimenez celebrates Wolves’ winning goal against Southampton in September

The striker then took his sweatshirt off and got stripped and ready, before putting a blue bib over his iconic number nine shirt.

However, as Jimenez went through what appeared to be the final stages of his warm up, John McGinn fired home Villa’s second goal.

Around five minutes after McGinn’s goal, Lage brought on Daniel Podence and Fabio Silva. There were 15 minutes left on the clock and the game had seemingly been lost.

Jimenez had all but given up on keeping up his Premier League appearance record before Saiss handed Wolves a lifeline with 10 minutes remaining.

Lage sent Jimenez back out to warm up with a comeback now on the cards. The 30-year-old quickly went through his paces before one of Lage’s assistants shouted him back to the bench.

While Lage was delivering some last-minute instructions to his number nine, Coady equalised after Villa failed to clear a Wolves corner.

Coady bundled the ball home in the 85th minute and doubts started to arise again whether Lage would use Jimenez at all.

The striker disappeared into the dugout for a few minutes before re-emerging again and finally making it onto the pitch in the 88th minute.

Jimenez barely touched the ball in a rare substitute cameo for Wolves, but he was at least able to enjoy the jubilant celebrations for Neves’ 95th minute winner with his teammates and the travelling fans.

READ: Wolves fans make ‘pride of the Midlands’ point after stunning Villa

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