Wolverhampton Wanderers slumped to a 1-1 draw against already-relegated Norwich City on Sunday afternoon in a disappointing final Premier League home game of the season.
While Wolves' European aspirations were still alive at kick-off, Norwich's relegation reduced their final games to the equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Nevertheless, it was the Canaries that began with all the thrust and threat.
Teemu Pukki repeatedly stretched Wolves by darting behind their sedentary backline. However, the club's leading scorer couldn't prevent Norwich's goal drought from ticking into seven Premier League hours of football as he limply prodded at a pair of first-half efforts.
Yet, Wolves didn't react to the various warnings Norwich delivered. At the third attempt, Pukki broke the deadlock in the 37th-minute. Scampering behind Wolves once again, Conor Coady jockeyed Pukki into a shooting position, giving the visiting forward plenty of space to drag a scruffy finish into the bottom corner.
As Wolves limped towards the conclusion of a toothless first half, manager Bruno Lage was slumped in his seat with both palms pressed firmly into his face, hiding his disgust as he may have regretted his return after a COVID-enforced absence.
Lage took a proactive approach to ease his own anguish, hauling off club captain Coady for Chiquinho during the interval. The dynamic winger duly won the 55th-minute set-piece which preceded Rayan Ait Nouri's equaliser, instinctively nodding the ball past Angus Gunn after a scramble in the box.
Now played to the roars of a rejuvenated Molineux, Chiquinho swung the ball onto Pedro Neto's head at the back post, forcing Gunn into a superb stop. That swell of enthusiasm - on and off the pitch - was short-lived.
Wolves were certainly improved after the interval but couldn't eke out a winning goal against the division's rock-bottom outfit. For the third time this season, Wolves failed to defeat Norwich as dropped points ruled out a potential top-seven finish and any chance of European football next season.
Wolves vs Norwich player ratings
1. Wolves (3-4-3)
GK: John Ruddy - 6/10 - On his first Premier League start since March 2019, the former Norwich keeper denied Pukki well with a smothering stop.
CB: Willy Boly - 3/10 - Regularly found himself facing his own goal, looking on helplessly at Pukki's heels as Norwich targeted Boly's flank.
CB: Conor Coady - 3/10 - Lacking his normal composure in possession, Coady had a front-row seat for Pukki's opener without ever threatening to halt the goalscorer. Hooked at half-time.
CB: Toti Gomes - 6/10 - Swift across the turf, Gomes made a goal-saving tackle to prevent Kieran Dowell from snaffling up a rebound while the game was still scoreless but couldn't provide the same obstacle for the opener.
RWB: Jonny Castro Otto - 5/10 - On the sporadic occasions he crept forward, Jonny's touch and delivery were invariably too heavy. More assured when shunted deeper in the second half.
CM: Ruben Neves - 6/10 - Grew into the game, particularly after donning the captain's armband for the second half.
CM: Joao Moutinho - 6/10 - Peppered his performance with some silky touches and delivered the chaos-causing set-piece which led to Wolves' equaliser.
LWB: Rayan Ait Nouri - 6/10 - A regular outlet on the left flank in open play, Ait Nouri reacted the fastest to head Wolves level.
RW: Pedro Neto - 5/10 - Blazed Wolves' best first-half opening over the bar and saw another attempt after the break brilliantly stopped by Gunn.
ST: Raul Jimenez - 5/10 - Battling for the ball but invariably limited to touches outside the area.
LW: Hwang Hee-chan - 4/10 - Earned groans of disapproval from his own supporters on a few occasions.
SUB: Chiquinho (46' for Coady) - 7/10 - Injected some much-needed urgency upon his arrival as he provided a regular threat wide on the right.
SUB: Fabio Silva (74' for Hwang) - 6/10 - Touched the ball around Gunn but couldn't pick out a teammate with his unselfish cutback.
SUB: Daniel Podence (74' for Neto) - 6/10
2. Norwich (3-5-2)
GK: Angus Gunn - 7/10 - Produced a razor-sharp reaction stop to tip a close-range effort from Neto over the bar.
CB: Sam Byram - 6/10 - Pushing wide as Norwich built from the back with four players.
CB: Grant Hanley - 7/10 - Marshalled his backline into a solid shape off the ball which left Wolves thoroughly frustrated in open play.
CB: Ben Gibson - 5/10 - Not tasked with a great deal of individual defensive work but didn't provide the most reassuring support for Giannoulis.
RWB: Max Aarons - 6/10 - Knocked the ball down the line for Pukki to scurry onto ahead of the game's first goal as he largely held a reserved position.
CM: Billy Gilmour - 5/10 - Struggled to get into the game before he was the first to make way as Dean Smith tried to restore calm to his side after they were pegged back.
CM: Mathias Normann - 7/10 - Hovering behind his fellow midfielders, Normann also bounded forward to support the Norwich attacks which he often launched himself.
CM: Pierre Lees-Melou - 5/10 - Flittered in and out of the game without much fuss.
LWB: Dimitrios Giannoulis - 4/10 - Capable of penetrative but also slack passes. Ran ragged by Chiquinho when Lage turned to his not-so-secret weapon.
ST: Kieran Dowell - 6/10 - Showed flashes of promising combination play with Pukki as he tried to prevent his teammate from cutting a familiar isolated figure.
ST: Teemu Pukki - 7/10 - From the first whistle, Norwich's top scorer scuttled into promising positions but only converted one of the numerous chances that his industry carved out.
SUB: Lukas Rupp (62' for Gilmour) - 5/10
SUB: Jacob Sorensen (70' for Normann) - 6/10
SUB: Jonathan Rowe (83' for Dowell) - N/A
Source : 90min