Theo Walcott said he “feels like a kid again” after scoring his first goal since rejoining Southampton in their Premier League draw at Wolves.
Walcott, 31, returned to Saints on a season-long loan from Everton in October after leaving the club for Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2006.
And he put Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side ahead in the 58th minute at Molineux on Monday, turning in Che Adams’ cross.
However, it was not enough to earn a victory that would have moved Saints to third in the table because Pedro Neto levelled with 15 minutes left, following up after Raul Jiminez’s shot had come back off the post.
Southampton are still fifth, though, and Walcott is keen to help them “achieve things this season”.
“I will do a job whatever. I feel like the manager has the trust in me,” he said.
“I do not [remember my last Saints league goal]. The smile on my face says it all. The club are close to my heart.
“I feel like a kid again – I feel very fit. It means a lot to play at the highest level for so long. I just love playing football.”
Walcott and Southampton, who are now unbeaten in their past seven matches, may have enjoyed an even more memorable evening had the forward converted a glorious opportunity to make it 2-0.
But a draw was no more than Wolves – who move up three places to ninth – deserved for a much-improved attacking display in the closing stages.
Walcott takes centre stage
With top scorer Danny Ings out with a knee injury, the burden of replacing his goals at Southampton has fallen upon Adams and Walcott.
There are signs that Walcott, whose first taste of senior football came as a 16-year-old against Wolves, is starting to relish being back on familiar ground.
Excellent in Southampton’s last outing – a 2-0 win over Newcastle – he took centre stage at Molineux. He had already threatened to score from Stuart Armstrong’s clever pass, before he reacted quickly to turn in Adams’ driven cross and put his side in front.
It was his first goal for the club since scoring in the FA Cup on 7 January 2006 – before he left for Arsenal – and his celebration appeared to be a mixture of elation and relief.
However, his emotions were also on display when he appeared angry with himself for failing to make the score 2-0 from Adams’ fine pass.
With only goalkeeper Rui Patricio to beat he seemed to be put off by a chasing defender and screwed his shot wide.
Wolves frustrate despite comeback
With captain Conor Coady’s ever-present run of 84 Premier League games coming to an end – the defender is in isolation after coming into contact with someone with Covid-19 – Wolves deployed an unfamiliar flat back four.
The centre-back partnership of Max Kilman and Willy Boly provided Nuno Espirito Santo’s side with a relatively solid base as the visitors initially controlled proceedings.
They were also well shielded by Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker, the former making the most clearances (four) and the latter covering the most ground of any home player (11.12km).
But for all those admirable qualities, there was a distinct lack of incisiveness to their attacking play until they fell behind.
While Southampton goalkeeper Alex McCarthy did well to save parry Nelson Semedo’s long-range effort and Dendoncker’s follow-up attempt early on, he was largely untroubled until the hosts had to respond to falling behind.
Jimenez, who had been isolated and had the lowest number of touches of any outfield home player to start the game, slowly became more involved.
And it was his stinging drive that led to the equaliser, while goalscorer Neto and Daniel Podence all carved out good openings in the second period.
The biggest frustration for Nuno and Wolves fans is likely to be that their charge came too late.
‘The way he works for the team is amazing’ – what they said
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl to BBC Sport: “We had chances, they had chances. We had a chance for 2-0. When you score it’s tough for them to come back.
“They are a really good side with quality. It’s tough to defend for 90 minutes – you cannot play without giving them chances. I’m proud of the team. That was one of our most intense performances of the season.”
On Theo Walcott: “It was a good first goal for him. He’s a little unhappy he didn’t make the second one and that he couldn’t be the match-winner. The way he works for the team is amazing. As a number 10 or a striker you can trust him.
“He’s an experienced guy who comes back to the club where he grew up. It means something for him. Maybe that’s why he invests so much. You know you have to do that in our team.”
Wolves boss Nuno to BBC Sport: “It was a good game. Both teams played with high tempo.
“They have very good players and a very good manager. We matched them. We finished the game on the front foot. I’m very proud of the reaction to the goal.”
On whether there was a foul in the build-up to Southampton’s goal: “I think so. After that it was about reacting to that incident, trying to get our mind off the referee’s decision and focus on the game. The boys did that. It was a strong reaction. We finished the game well, creating chances. Let’s go again.”
On fans coming back: “We all wish it was tomorrow. We have enormous desire to have the fans back. It’s all about them. Let’s try our best to bring them back.”
Saints extend unbeaten run – the stats
- Wolves have lost just one of their past seven home Premier League games.
- Southampton are unbeaten in seven league games, last going longer without defeat in the competition in November 2013.
- Since the start of last season, Wolves have failed to score in the first half of 34 Premier League games, more than any other side.
- Wolves striker Jimenez made his 85th consecutive appearance in the Premier League, the joint-longest current run in the competition (level with Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel).
- Adams has been directly involved in six goals in his past seven league games for Southampton (three goals, three assists), as many goal involvements as he managed in his 32 appearances before that for Saints.
- Two of Neto’s five Premier League goals for Wolves have come against Southampton, while only Sylvan Ebanks-Blake and Steven Fletcher (five each) have netted more goals as a substitute for the club in the competition than the Portuguese (two).
Wolves travel to Arsenal for their next Premier League game on Sunday, 29 November (19:15 GMT), while Southampton host Manchester United earlier on the same day (14:00).
- 11Rui Patrício
- 22Nélson Semedo
- 8NevesBooked at 44minsSubstituted forNetoat 70′minutes
- 28João Moutinho
- 37TraoréBooked at 45mins
- 10Castelo PodenceSubstituted forMachado Ferreiraat 85′minutes
- 5Marçal de Oliveira
- 17Soares Silva
- 20Machado Ferreira
- 17ArmstrongSubstituted forDialloat 90′minutes
- 12DjenepoSubstituted forLongat 79′minutes
- Andre Marriner
Match ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Southampton 1.
Second Half ends, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1, Southampton 1.
Foul by Che Adams (Southampton).
Nélson Semedo (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Kyle Walker-Peters (Southampton).
Raúl Jiménez (Wolverhampton Wanderers) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Corner, Southampton. Conceded by João Moutinho.
Substitution, Southampton. Ibrahima Diallo replaces Stuart Armstrong.
Theo Walcott (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Adama Traoré (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Substitution, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Vitinha replaces Daniel Podence.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Kyle Walker-Peters.
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by James Ward-Prowse.
Attempt blocked. Daniel Podence (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Raúl Jiménez.
Attempt saved. Pedro Neto (Wolverhampton Wanderers) left footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Raúl Jiménez.
Che Adams (Southampton) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Leander Dendoncker (Wolverhampton Wanderers).
Corner, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Conceded by Jannik Vestergaard.