Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Aston Villa 1

"It was only a pre-season friendly," Aston Villa manager David O'Leary said.

It was just as well . . . when the gloves are off in just12 days' time, it's to be hoped that his Villa side look a little better tuned up for battle than this.

Of course, it is entirely possible that, if Wolverhampton Wanderers show this sort of form against Division One opposition every week, any team leaving Molineux next season having lost only 2-1 will have cause to feel satisfied.

Only when the new campaign has taken some sort of real shape by Christmas can this result be looked back at and examined with any sense of fairness and accuracy. But, if this was a portent for the season ahead, then it would seem they have an awful lot more to look forward to in Wolverhampton over the next nine months than at VillaPark.

To be fair to O'Leary, he had suggested before the game that, at this stage of his team's pre-season preparations, what they were most in need of was a good chasing. But, in a surprisingly entertaining friendly, Villa certainly got one and the manager's refusal to attend the customary press conference, preferring the Sir Alex Ferguson comfort blanket of communicating only via his club website, spoke volumes.

Maybe he suspected he might be bored with enquiries about Villa's pursuit of Milan Baros.

Maybe he thought he would be asked aggravating questions about Darius Vassell's parting shot last week before heading up the M6 to join a "big club".

Or maybe the way his team were outplayed simply left O'Leary's legs feeling a little wobbly.

The last time Villa came to Molineux, in March 2004, O'Leary's men coasted home 4-0 against a relegation haunted, confidence sapped Wolves side en route for a quick return to Division One.

This time they were up against a stylish, smoothly flowing Wolves side widely tipped to be back in the Premiership next May. Villa were the only team in danger of being embarrassed by a one sided scoreline this time.

Although Villa wasted the first two of a succession of first-half chances, both falling to Juan Pablo Angel, the visitors were two down inside the first 20 minutes. It could have been a lot more.

Carl Cort tapped home Lee Naylor's low cross to open the scoring. Less than two minutes later, he headed down after Kenny Miller and Mark Kennedy combined neatly onthe right and Seyi Olofinjanaslid in to bundle home - again from close range.

There should have been others. Instead, Villa scored when Kevin Phillips rose to head home Nobby Solano'scross. Phillips could have levelled a minute later when, again supplied by Solano, Michael Oakes had to save with his legs and Gareth Barry fired over with the rebound.

Oakes made another fine save to deny Angel before Barry went close again with a shot on the turn as Villa finished the first half strongly. Despite the appearance of Martin Laursen and Ulises Del La Cruz in a reshuffled back four, Wolves remained the more dangerous after the break. Sorensen twice touched efforts from Cort and Kennedy on to his woodwork, and substitute Colin Cameron marked his arrival with two more close calls.

All justifiable cause for excitement in the Black Country. Which is probably the colour to describe O'Leary's mood.