Lopetegui says keeping Wolves in the Premier League has been «more difficult» than winning the Europa League

Lopetegui says keeping Wolves in the Premier League has been «more difficult» than winning the Europa League

Boss Julen Lopetegui believes keeping Wolves in the Premier League will be his greatest success, as they have ended any relegation fears and damaged Aston Villa’s European dream.

Toti Gomes’ first-half header earned a spirited 1-0 win and led Wolves to 40 points after being bottom of the table at Christmas.

It was their fourth consecutive top-flight home win – for the first time since 1975 – and depending on other results, they could be mathematically safe on Monday night.

Lopetegui was appointed in November before taking over after December’s World Cup and Wolves are now 10 points clear of the relegation zone.

“It was one of the biggest challenges of my life as a coach. It was my most difficult achievement as a manager, much more difficult than (winning) the Europa League and taking Sevilla to the Champions League,» said the manager, who celebrated vigorously at full time.

“It was a very bad situation. A lot of people called me, ‘you’re crazy, why are you going there?’

“These are very important points for us. Reaching 40 points is not mathematical but we are very close to the goal. I am very happy for the club, the fans, the players. We arrived here in December with 10 points down.

“Today I showed more emotion, I am human. We suffered a lot.»

Gomes bagged the winner after nine minutes when he headed in Ruben Neves’ corner from the crossbar.

Villa dominated much of the first half with Jose Sa saving Emi Buendia and Ollie Watkins squandering their best chance when he planted a header straight into Sa.

Matheus Cunha shot high just before the break with Emi Martinez hampering Diego Costa soon after the restart.

Villa struggled to bring down a resilient Wolves – who lost 6-0 at Brighton last week – but should have made it 1-1 with 19 minutes left.

Douglas Luiz bowled in a free kick which landed perfectly for Tyrone Mings, but the defender volleyed high from six yards.

The defeat has dealt a blow to European hopefuls Villa who remain eighth, having played more games than Brighton, Tottenham and Liverpool, who they will face in their last three games.

Boss Unai Emery said: «I’m frustrated with the result but overall in 90 minutes we tried to move forward with the game plan, we made it through, had good positioning, good progress with passing and then we were entered the area.

“At half time I said I liked seeing our team play like this, the best way to get a good result is like this.

“In the second half the pace was slowing down, they were trying to lose time and we didn’t put in our best performances.

“We tried to change the game but we couldn’t. We must be excited because three months ago we were thinking of a different target, even if two weeks ago the chances were better.

“Tyrone’s chance was the best. In the first half we had more but not as clear-cut. Is football».

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