Nuno Espirito Santo says Wolves must use their scintillating first-half display at Bournemouth as a blueprint for the rest of the season after making it eight Premier League games unbeaten.
Goals from Joao Moutinho and the in-form Raul Jimenez saw high-flying Wolves take complete control at the Vitality Stadium en route to climbing to fifth in the table with a 2-1 win.
The visitors’ cause was aided by the deserved 37th-minute dismissal of Cherries captain Simon Francis for two yellow cards, before they faded after the restart and were left hanging on for victory after Steve Cook’s header halved the deficit for Eddie Howe’s hosts.
“The first half we played really, really well. I think we achieved well the advantage and then with one man less, until the end of the first half we managed well,” Wolves boss Nuno said.
“In the second half, we knew that Bournemouth is a very good team with very good players and Eddie reacted and created problems.
“We know that the game was dangerous, it was about getting the third goal but at the same time keeping the balance. I think we performed well and I’m happy with the boys.
“The first half must be our reference for the way we want to proceed and keep on going and improving.”
Moutinho opened the scoring in the 21st minute with an expertly executed free-kick after Francis was booked for scything down Diogo Jota.
Mexico striker Jimenez doubled the advantage 10 minutes later with his sixth goal in seven games following quick thinking from Portugal international Moutinho to release Adama Traore from another free-kick.
Cherries defender Francis, making his first top-flight start since suffering serious knee ligament damage on Boxing Day, was then sent off for a second foul on Jota, before fellow centre-back Cook headed in Ryan Fraser’s corner to set up a tense final half an hour.
Nuno, who takes his team to Braga in the Europa League on Thursday, praised his players for picking up where they left off before the international break, singling out influential midfielder Moutinho.
“When you come back from the international break knowing that all of the players have been all around the world, it’s about keeping together and doing your tasks,” he said.
“Joao is an important player because he has the experience to know what is required in each moment.”
Bournemouth boss Howe accepted he got his tactics wrong during a dismal first-half display.
Having lost forward Joshua King to injury during the international break, Howe opted to switch to three central defenders and select Francis in the league for the first time in 11 months.
“We didn’t deliver what we wanted to do in the first half, I think that’s plainly obvious to everyone in the stadium,” Howe said.
“We made a couple of mistakes tactically on the pitch, that happens in the game, it’s so difficult to change as you’re playing at the moment.
“You’re hoping that the players can get it right but we didn’t deliver it, we were a yard off on our press. We allowed them to play around us, they’ve got very good technical players and we allowed them to come into the game which, of course, wasn’t what we intended.
“But I have to take responsibility for that, every time you send a team on to the pitch you want to cover all bases for them and make sure you get it right. I felt we didn’t and ultimately that’s my call.”
Speaking about Francis’ early departure, Howe added: “I haven’t seen him. He’ll be disappointed, of course, but that’s the game. He’s such an honest lad and an honest player, it happens.
“The pleasing thing was the response to it. I thought everyone stood up and gave an extra 10 per cent and the frustration for me is why wasn’t that there from the start? Because if it was I think we would have won the game.”