Joe Hodge of Wolverhampton Wanderers walks up to take a penalty kick in the shootout. Alamy Stock Photo

Wolves boss backs Irish youngster Hodge after penalty miss

Julen Lopetegui has tipped the 20-year-old midfielder to ‘grow and improve’

WOLVES BOSS Julen Lopetegui has backed Irish underage international Joe Hodge after a crucial penalty miss in last night’s shootout loss during their Carabao Cup quarter-final against Nottingham Forest.

It has been a breakthrough season for the 20-year-old midfielder, who has made 10 appearances in all competitions for Wolves’ first team.

After appearing as an 80th-minute substitute in last night’s match, Hodge was one of two Wolves players (along with Ruben Neves) to miss penalties as Forest secured a 4-3 shootout win, following a 1-1 draw in normal time.

“I want to highlight his commitment and character,” Lopetegui told Wolves’ official website. “But this is done and the players that don’t score the penalties are never at fault, but he wanted to take a penalty and show his character and this is all. He’s going to grow and improve from this, for sure.”

Lopetegui also had praise in general for his side, who were unlucky not to knock Liverpool out of the FA Cup at the weekend, in a game that featured impressive displays from both Hodge and man-of-the-match Nathan Collins.

“I want to highlight the fight of the players again, because we have played three matches away from Wolverhampton and we haven’t lost, but we haven’t won. We need to win, above all today because it was a key match to continue ahead and we have a big vision to ahead.

“We have fought a lot and it’s a pity for our fans because they are here and offering a big support for us, so it was a pity for all of us, but above all, for them.

“To continue, we have to improve some things. It’s going to be a very hard and long race, and after today we have another very important match in front of us, and we have to put the focus tomorrow on the next match.”

The end of the match was marred by a mass brawl, which the Football Association are now reviewing.

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