Man City 1 (Sterling 66 (p)) Wolves 0
Ten-man Wolves were condemned to consecutive one-goal defeats to the Premier League’s top two as Manchester City had to rely on a debatable second-half penalty to overcome a stubborn old gold side.
Raheem Sterling’s spotkick proved to be the difference between the teams, as Wolves spent the game defending deep and trying to catch Man City on the counter-attack. Their efforts were made the more difficult in first-half added time when Raul Jimenez was sent off for two yellow cards in a matter of seconds.
But Wolves defending staunchly all game and almost snatched a point late on as Maximilian Kilman – in an advanced position – rose high in the box but his header was palmed over the crossbar, as City ensured all three points remain in Manchester.
Making just the one change from last weekend’s narrow loss to fellow title-chasers Liverpool, Joao Moutinho came into the midfield with Hee Chan Hwang dropping to the bench, where he was joined by Willy Boly and Marcal, with the pair having returned to training this week following injury and Covid isolation respectively.
It left Jimenez and Adama Traore as the attacking pair for Wolves, with the visitors’ game plan clear for all to see as Wolves sat off in a 5-3-2 formation, before setting Traore away over the Man City defence when they won possession of the ball.
Despite Wolves’ rear-guard keeping a deep block in front of their goal, it did not stop City from having opportunities to open the scoring, with Raheem Sterling, Joao Cancelo and Ilkay Gundogan all having shots which Jose Sa is able to deal with comfortably.
Traore was Wolves’ main outlet, and the forward was picking up the fouls as City tried any way to stop him from advancing, and from one of those fouls, Wolves were able to get bodies into the penalty area for the resulting free-kick, but Jimenez’s glancing header posed no threat to Ederson’s goal.
Just before the half-hour mark, the game experienced a large stoppage as Ruben Neves and Maximilian Kilman jumped for the same ball and collided heads. The Portuguese appeared to come off worse, as he was on the ground for several minutes before both players were cleared to continue.
That added seven minutes of time onto the end of the half, and midway through stoppage time, Wolves found themselves down to 10 men. Having committed a foul to earn a booking, Jimenez then stopped City from taking the free-kick quickly, earning himself a second yellow in a matter of seconds and was dismissed, leaving Wolves to play the whole second-half with one man fewer.
Half-time | Man City 0-0 Wolves
The second-half was a case of defence against attack, as City launched onslaught after onslaught at the Wolves goal, but, for the most part, the black shirts of the visitors defended admirably, marshalled brilliantly by Jose Sa.
The Portuguese goalkeeper pulled off several saves to deny Gabriel Jesus when he managed to break through the staunch lines of the Wolves defence. He was also dominant in the air to pluck the ball out when crosses were launched into the penalty area.
There were also several blocks made by those in front of him with Man City being limited to pot shots from distance. That was until a cross was blocked by Moutinho when he lifted his arm.
The decision went to VAR and although it appeared that the ball struck the midfielder on the underside of his armpit, referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot, and Sterling stepped up and placed the ball straight down the middle as Sa dived to his right.
With Wolves a man down and their outlet of Traore replaced by Hee Chan Hwang, they were holding on throughout the latter stages of the game, before almost snatching a point at the death when substitute Daniel Podence was played in down the right and his cross found the head of Kilman, but Ederson was able to palm over his crossbar and secure his side the victory.
Full-time | Man City 1-0 Wolves
Man City | Ederson, Cancelo, Dias, Laporte, Zinchenko, Rodri, Gundogan (Foden 56), Silva, Grealish (De Bruyne 73), Sterling, Jesus.
Unused subs | Steffen, Walker, Stones, Ake, Fernandinho, Mahrez, Palmer.
Wolves | Sa, Semedo, Kilman, Coady, Saiss, Ait-Nouri, Neves (Trincao 82), Dendoncker (Podence 87), Moutinho, Traore (Hwang 67), Jimenez.
Unused subs | Ruddy, Hoever, Boly, Marcal, Cundle, Silva.
Referee | Jon Moss.