Raheem Sterling’s controversial penalty won the points for Manchester City that kept them at the top of the Premier League table, but it was a frustrating afternoon for the supporters as the blues faced a side intent on keeping their players behind the ball.
After the disappointment of Tuesday’s Champions League defeat at RB Leipzig, manager Pep Guardiola made nine changes, with Kyle Walker, who was sent off in Germany, dropping to the bench.
With Liverpool and Chelsea not playing until 3pm, it was vital that the blues put down a marker for the chasing pack to follow, but toiled in front of goal, with the visitors defending like their lives depended on it.
Ederson, who was restored to the starting line-up, had barely anything to do in the first 45 minutes as City pressed for the opening goal that wouldn’t arrive. The only real incidents of note both involved Wolves, although the blues had an appeal for a penalty turned down when a ball in from Jack Grealish in the last moments of the half looked to have struck the arm of the defender.
Wolves’ duo Ruben Neves and Max Kilman had a nasty clash of heads leading to a lengthy delay, with the former seeming to come off the worst from the pair. Thankfully, the Wolves man was okay to continue. Shortly afterwards, Roman Saiss infuriated the City crowd when he claimed he’d been hit in the face by the trailing arm of Sterling.
There seemed to be only slight contact as City’s England winger got away inside the box, however the Wolves man went down as if he’d been taken out by a sniper in the South Stand. Sterling’s frustration was clear, as was Rodri’s, who attempted to drag the Moroccan midfielder to his feet.
The only other incident of note in a dour first half was the sending off of Wolves’ Raul Jimenez just before half time. The striker found himself in the book for a foul on Rodri, but then refused to allow the City man to take the free kick. Instead of retreating, Jimenez stood just a couple of yards in front of the Spaniard, and the referee issued a second yellow to the Mexican in the space of a minute.
That was the cue for Wolves to keep their ten men behind the ball for the second half as City laid siege to the visitor’s goal. Ilkay Gundogan thought he’d given City the lead when his header went over the keeper, but Conor Coady cleared off the line.
Sterling had another appeal for a penalty turned down and it was looking like another one of those days for City, who tried and repeatedly failed to break down the stubborn Wolves defence, while referee Jonathon Moss had to warn Wolves captain Coady about his team wasting time.
The 66th minute brought an air of controversy and supplied City with the winner. Bernardo Silva’s cross appeared to strike Joao Moutinho on the arm, although the Portuguese international claimed it hit him in the armpit. After a lengthy check, VAR agreed with the referee’s decision and the spot kick stood.
The faithful held their breath as Sterling converted the penalty, calmly stroking his spot-kick down the middle to score his 100th Premier League goal and give City a lead which, over the balance of play, had deserved.
The blues continued to pour forward, and Jack Grealish missed a golden chance to make it 2-0 when he met Sterling’s cross, only to see his effort go high, wide, and handsome of the Wolves goal. Phil Foden had an effort blocked by Kilman as City looked to make the game safe.
At 1-0, there was always the worry that Wolves would have at least one chance, and that came in the final minutes. Kilman’s header made sure Ederson hadn’t fallen asleep, with the Brazilian keeper tipping the chance over the bar.
A solitary goal was enough to secure the vital three points to keep the blues remained top of the Premier League.
Final Score: Manchester City 1-0 Wolves.