Adama Traore came off the bench to inspire Wolverhampton Wanderers to a 2-0 win at West Ham United on Saturday — a significant result at both ends of the Premier League table.
The quicksilver Spanish winger was perhaps surprisingly left on the bench for 64 minutes but his introduction enlivened an otherwise humdrum encounter at an empty London Stadium.
Traore’s surging run and sublime cross was perfect for Raul Jimenez to head powerfully home in the 73rd minute.
Traore was then involved again in the move which ended with fellow substitute Pedro Neto firing home a sensational left-footed volley to seal the win that lifted Wolves into sixth place, level on 46 points with fifth-placed Manchester United.
Defeat for West Ham, their fourth in their last five Premier League games, left them in 17th spot, ahead of Bournemouth, who play Crystal Palace later on Saturday, on goal difference.
West Ham worked hard to match Wolves but struggled to create much apart from a glorious early chance for Pablo Fornals who lashed a shot wildly high and wide.
The home side must have feared the arrival of Traore from the bench and so it proved as he provided the spark to earn Wolves an important win in their quest for Europe.
West Ham’s left back Aaron Cresswell is no slouch but he could get nowhere near Traore who powered past him before clipping over a cross for Mexican Jimenez to chalk up his 14th goal of the season, nine of them assisted by Traore.
Traore then showed some fancy footwork before passing to Matt Doherty whose cross was dispatched in style by Neto.
No wonder Traore was named man of the match for his 25-minute cameo appearance.
“It’s about using the substitutes at the right moments,” Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo told Sky Sports.
“We needed this win to feel that we are really back. We will never get used to playing without fans. Let’s hope and pray we get a vaccine or something so we can be together again.”
With derbies against Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea looming, West Ham manager David Moyes knows these are critical times for the club.
“I thought we limited a very good team but the difference was when Traore came on,” Moyes said.