Wolves blunted by Blades for first defeat in eight
Sheffield United 2 (Clarke 39, 58)
A double from ‘old boy’ Leon Clarke condemned Wolves to defeat at Bramall Lane with the visitors having to play all but the opening quarter of an hour with ten men following the dismissal of Conor Coady.
Nuno made three changes to his side with Barry Douglas and Alfred N’Diaye starting and Helder Costa making a welcome, albeit as it turned out, brief return. Ivan Cavaleiro, Ruben Vinagre and Romain Saiss all dropped down to the bench. Wolves were backed by over 2,000 of their travelling supporters.
In the ninth minute a mistake by Cameron Carter-Vickers let in Leo Bonatini but, with two defenders for company, the striker was only able to shoot straight at Jamal Blackman in the home goal.
John Ruddy did well to turn away Jack O’Connell’s header following a corner from John Fleck before the game took a dramatic turn in the 15th minute.
Former Molineux striker Clarke broke clear in the inside-right channel and he was about to run into the area when he appeared to be pulled back by Coady who was shown an immediate red card.
Fleck’s free-kick was pushed away by Ruddy but only as far as Paul Coutts who hit the rebound over the bar.
As United looked to capitalise on the extra man advantage, George Baldock’s low cross fell to Fleck whose shot was deflected wide before a Wolves change saw Saiss replacing Costa.
Diogo Jota was wide with a low drive from 20-yards before the Wolves defence was forced back by a stream of home attacks and a plethora of Fleck and Coutts corners.
Clarke’s attempt at back heeling O’Connell’s cross past Ruddy was thwarted by the keeper but it was Clarke that finally broke through in the 39th minute when he guided the ball home from six-yards out after Enda Stevens had delivered a low centre.
Half-Time: Blades 1 Wolves 0
Both sides made a change at the start of the new half. Daniel Lafferty went on for Stevens for the Blades whilst Wolves replaced Bonatini with Bright Enobakhare.
Wolves had a golden opportunity of getting back in the game on 50 minutes when Jota was fouled by Carter-Vickers in the United area. Ruben Neves stepped up to the spot but his penalty struck the outside of Blackham’s left hand post and the chance was gone.
Coutts went into the book for a late challenge on Neves before a second United change saw Mark Duffy taking over from Jake Wright.
Clarke struck again in the 58th minute when he headed home after Duffy had lifted over a free-kick from wide on the right.
Neves was shown the yellow card after failing to retreat for a free-kick and he was taken off shortly afterwards with Cavaleiro taking his place.
Basham was yellow carded for deliberately handling the ball before Duffy was inches away from a third when he diverted Baldock’s cross just the wrong side of the post. Baldock was booked for simulation a minute later.
Despite the odds being stacked against them, Wolves pressed hard in the closing minutes and Danny Batth headed wide from a Douglas corner then, in stoppage time, Blackman had to turn over a terrific 30-yard drive from Jota.
Blades: Blackman, Baldock, Stevens (Lafferty 45), Fleck, O’Connell, Basham, Clarke (Evans 78), Wright (Duffy 56), Coutts (capt), Carter-Vickers, Brooks.
Unused subs: Moore, Lundstram, Sharp, Carruthers.
Bookings: Coutts (54 – foul), Basham 67 – handling).
Wolves: Ruddy, Doherty, Douglas, Neves (Cavaleiro 64), Batth (capt), Miranda, Coady, Jota, Bonatini (Enobakhare 45), N’Diaye, Costa (Saiss 19).
Unused subs: Norris, Marshall, Price, Vinagre.
Booking: Neves (61 – obstructing free-kick).
Sending-Off: Coady (15 – professional foul).
Referee: P. Bankes.
Attendance: 25,893 (2,233 away supporters).