Leander Dendoncker’s late strike saw Wolves beat Fulham 1-0 at Molineux to all-but secure a seventh-placed Premier League finish, and with it a chance of European qualification next season.
The Belgian’s impressive volleyed finish with 15 minutes to go was enough to see off already-relegated Fulham as Nuno Espirito Santo’s side moved four points clear of Everton in eighth, although ninth-placed Leicester could still overtake them if they win their final two games.
If Wolves do cement seventh place, it means if Manchester City beat Watford in the FA Cup final later this month, they will progress into the Europa League qualifying rounds and a first appearance in Europe since 1980.
For some reason, Wolves have struggled against teams in the bottom half of the table this season, in stark contrast to their impressive form against the top-six sides, and it was no different in the first half of this clash.
As expected, the hosts dominated both possession and territory before the break, but without really testing Fulham goalkeeper Sergio Rico, who had a relatively quiet first 45 minutes.
The closest Wolves actually came to making a first-half breakthrough was when, just past the half-hour mark, they worked a left-wing corner short to Joao Moutinho. However, Dendoncker was only able to head the playmaker’s inviting cross against the bar from six yards out.
For long periods of the second half it looked as though Scott Parker’s men may actually leave the West Midlands with a remarkable fourth clean sheet in a row, that is until a rare moment of quality in the game.
The visitors gave away possession in a dangerous area, allowing Matt Doherty and Moutinho to play a neat one-two down the right. And, from the wing-back’s inch-perfect pull back, there was Dendoncker to cushion a brilliant volley past a helpless Rico at his near post for his second league goal of the season.
As for Fulham, the most noteworthy moment of their whole afternoon came with just a minute to go when Parker brought on Harvey Elliott, with the sixteen year-old becoming the Premier League’s youngest ever player. The England under-17 winger beat the previous record of 16 years and 65 days set by another former Fulham player, Matthew Briggs, in 2007.
WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (3-5-2): Patricio (Norris 90+3); Bennett, Coady, Boly (Kilman 90+3); Doherty, Jonny, Neves, Dendoncker, Moutinho; Jimenez, Jota. Subs (not used): Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Traore, Costa, Cavaleiro.
GOAL: Dendoncker (75).
FULHAM (4-2-3-1): Rico; Christie, Le Marchand, Ream, Bryan; Chambers, Anguissa (Elliott 88); Babel, R. Sessegnon (Ayite 82), Cairney; Mitrovic. Subs (not used): Fabri, S. Sessegnon, Nordtveit, Mawson, Kebano.
BOOKED: Christie, Le Marchand, Chambers.
REFEREE: Jonathan Moss (West Riding).