WOLVES 1, MAN CITY 3
A gloomy Pep Guardiola described it an ‘incredible victory’ as Manchester City made it an opening day win for 10 successive seasons, a Premier League record.
City’s seemingly unhappy manager appreciated the importance of the victory against a Wolves side that completed a league double against them last season.
The reason Guardiola was subdued was arguably because he was mindful the win was achieved without seven players which left his squad so threadbare he had three kids on the bench.
And he admitted it is hardly ideal with a relentless fixture schedule, hinting he will play a team of young players in the Carabao Cup against AFC Bournemouth on Thursday.Embed from Getty Images
“It is about keeping energy for Premier League matches,” he explained.
“We have won the Carabao Cup three years in a row, but we do not have the players to play every three or four days.”
Guardiola admitted to fearing his side might struggle in light of the disruption of the past fortnight in preparing for the new season.
City, despite a disrupted build up, safely negotiated a tough hurdle as they posted an emphatic victory with goals from Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus.
And despite a spirited second-half fightback from Wolves, when Raul Jimenez halved the deficit to 2-1 with 12 minutes left, Jesus sealed victory in injury time.
It was a pleasing start for Guardiola whose side was given extra time off because of their European excursions, meaning City were the last of the 20 top-flight teams to return to action.
The win was achieved without seven players including key personnel like Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, and Aymeric Laporte while midfielder Ilkay Gundogan has just tested positive for Covid-19.
Indeed, they were so short on numbers they had three of their young guns on the bench, Liam Delap and Adrian Bernabe have yet to make their Premier League bows.
Wolves had lost two of their key players following the recent sales of Matt Doherty to Tottenham and Diogo Jota to Liverpool, two huge misses on the evidence of this display.
They failed to heed an early warning when City had a penalty appeal in the second minute dismissed by both referee Andre Marriner and VAR after Raheem Sterling went down under a challenge from Conor Coady.
There was no reprieve when De Bruyne was sent tumbling by Romain Saiss and they were unable to be saved by a VAR check as the Belgium picked himself up to put City ahead in the 20th minute.
City doubled their lead in the 32nd minute when Wolves’ defence was sliced open by an incisive passing move that ended with Sterling cutting the ball back for Foden to sweep home a low shot.
And it could have been an even wider margin as City had two glorious chances late in the half.
De Bruyne, put clean through from Jesus’s flick, was denied by a superb block by goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Rodrigo then bent a shot with the outside of his foot which was just wide of the upright.
Wolves, by contrast, failed to trouble City goalkeeper Ederson in the first 45 minutes.
If City thought the second half would be another stroll in the park they were mistaken as Wolves were a completely different side.
Suddenly they were on the front foot as City lost the momentum of the opening period.
Striker Daniel Podence had two wonderful chances to halve or even wipe out the deficit.
He produced a terrific shot on the turn which hit the back stanchion and then lobbed Ederson when put through only to see the ball land on the roof of the net.
And sandwiched in-between was a weak Ruben Neves shot which was easily cleared off the line by Kyle Walker.
City appeared to have regained control and Jesus even had a goal ruled out for offside – there were no arguments on this occasion.
But then out of nothing came Wolves’ brilliantly constructed goal in the 78th minute with their first on target goal attempt of the game.
Adama Traore nutmegged De Bruyne on the right wing before crossing for Jimenez to power home an unstoppable header.
Far from losing their nerve, City managed the latter stages well and in stoppage time Jesus first forced a fine flying save from Patricio and then restored a two-goal advantage with a shot which took a wicked deflection to leave the goalkeeper stranded.