WOLVES 3, MAN CITY 2
Ten-man Manchester City suffered a heartbreaking defeat at Wolves where they slipped 14 points behind leaders Liverpool.
In an extraordinary, exhilarating and enthralling game, City had goalkeeper Ederson sent off after only 12 minutes but went on to establish a two-goal lead with Raheem Sterling scoring both.
But after bravely holding out they capitulated in the second half when Wolves staged a stirring comeback and proved why they have won more points from losing positions than any other side in the Premier League – 14.
It left City having suffered a fifth defeat in 19 league games as the season reached its halfway stage with Pep Guardiola’s side already dropping more points than in the whole of last season.
In Guardiola’s four seasons at City, this is the one with the least points after 19 league games – 38 points compared to 44 last season and 55 the campaign before that.
It was also the first time Sterling had been on the losing side after he had scored for City after being unbeaten in 69 games in all competitions.
This was also the lowest percentage possession Guardiola had ever had in management – 38 per cent – as Wolves completed a league double against City.Embed from Getty Images
Guardiola described his side’s 10 men as “defending incredibly”.
“Unfortunately at the end we conceded two shots and lost in the last actions,” he said.
Guardiola said referee Martin Atkinson had to make a split-second decision about the sending off but perhaps his side could have defended better.
Asked whether City would now prioritise the cup competitions, Guardiola denied this saying if they do that there would be a danger of not playing in Europe next season.
Guardiola added: “We are used to winning a lot of games, but we have to adjust mentally to not winning so much.
“It is unrealistic to think of Liverpool but about Leicester who are second.”
Guardiola made two changes from the City side that was imperious in the 3-1 home win against Leicester City last time out.
Sergio Aguero, recovered from injury, replaced the unwell Gabriel Jesus while Rodrigo was preferred to Ilkay Gundogan in midfield.
There was a dramatic start to the game.
First there was a lengthy stoppage following a painful clash of heads involving Benjamin Mendy and Leander Dendoncker who came off worst and needed more extensive treatment.
That was nothing compared to what happened next as City goalkeeper Ederson was sent off in the 12th minute.
Diogo Jota was put clean through on goal and Ederson raced out of the penalty area and took out the striker as he lobbed the keeper.
Atkinson’s decision was upheld by VAR official David Coote at Stockley Park as the Brazilian became the fourth City player to see red in the current campaign.
City sacrificed striker Aguero for reserve keeper Claudio Bravo as they were forced to play more than 75 minutes with 10 men as they went 4-4-1 with Sterling the lone front player.
That was by no means the end of the drama after City were awarded a controversial penalty midway through the opening half after the intervention of VAR.
Riyad Mahrez went down theatrically but Coote ruled Dendoncker had arm on his shoulder when many inside Molineux thought he would be booked for diving.
Sterling’s penalty was superbly saved by Rui Patricio diving low to his right only for VAR to intervene again ruling Patricio had strayed from his line before the kick was taken.
A retake was ordered and Patricio denied Sterling who put the spot kick in the same place as the initial penalty.
This time, however, the ball rebounded to Sterling who slotted home his 19th goal of the season.
Wolves’ fans voiced their displeasure about VAR declaring it is not football anymore and objects were thrown on to the pitch as Sterling celebrated his goal prompting a tannoy warning to both sets of supporters.
And it was a measure of the lengthy of time lost to treatment and VAR checks that there was seven minutes of added time.
City made a second change at the break as Eric Garcia replaced Mahrez as they went with a third central defender in what was 5-3-1 when defending and 3-5-1 when on the offensive.
Wolves had an early chance to equalise when Jota shot over from six yards after Raul Jimenez dinked the ball over the City defence.
City’s 10 men extended their lead in the 50th minute as Sterling scored his 20th goal of the season.
A neat passing move out of defence ended with Kevin De Bruyne providing the assist with a pass to release Sterling who raced clear to lift the ball over the advancing Patricio.
VAR rejected a Wolves penalty appeal which was almost identical to the one awarded to City.
Rodrigo had an arm on Jota who also went down theatrically, but Coote ruled no spot kick.
Wolves halved the deficit in the 55th minute when Traore burst forward and found the bottom corner with a drive from 25 yards as the men from Molineux finally had something to cheer.
Suddenly City’s goal was under siege as Wolves went in pursuit of an equaliser.
It prompted Guardiola to make his last change mid-half when Gundogan made his entrance in place of De Bruyne to add fresh legs and more steel to the midfield.
Bravo was forced into routine saves to deny Dendoncker and Traore as City continued to defend resolutely.
Wolves had a great chance to equalise in the 73rd minute when Romain Saiss glanced a header wide from four yards following Joao Moutinho’s free kick.
They were finally rewarded for their dominance when Jimenez equalised with eight minutes left.
The goal owed much to Traore’s determination that Mendy was not going to usher the ball out of play.
Traore shoulder charged Mendy off the ball, cut in along the by-line and cross for Jimenez to slide home the leveller from five yards.
Wolves completed a remarkable comeback with an 89th minute winner from Doherty.
The right back burst forward and played a pass to Jimenez who back heeled the ball back to Doherty who continued his lung-busting run and slotted home a perfectly-placed low shot from the edge of the box.
That was not the end of the drama as City almost snatched an equaliser in the third of four added minutes.
Traore fouled Sterling in the D and the striker picked himself up and saw his free kick strike the top of the crossbar as a remarkable game came to a thrilling conclusion as Wolves climbed to fifth place and are only two points adrift of the Champions League places.