MAN CITY 1, WOLVES 0
A controversial penalty from Raheem Sterling broke the resolute defensive display by 10-man Wolves as Manchester City temporarily moved four points clear at the top of the Premier League.
Sterling’s spot kick midway through the second period, his 100th Premier League goal, was all that separated the two teams.
City, whose seven-match winning streak came to an end in midweek at RB Leipzig in the Champions League, recorded an unconvincing victory.
They had a ridiculous 72 per cent possession and 24 goals attempts to Wolves’ three but could not put their opponents to the sword.
And deep into second half stoppage time, Wolves, who had a numerical disadvantage for more than half the match, would have snatched an unlikely point through Max Kilman’s header but for a fine save from Ederson.Embed from Getty Images
City manager Pep Guardiola said: “We were much better with 11 players and with 10 from Wolves. It is so difficult against a team who defend the way they defend.
“It is difficult to play against a team which defends with eight players. They are so good ay defending and had only lost twice in their last 10 games and today was a third.
“We had to be patient. We created enough chances but maybe we were not so clever in the final third and clinical enough to convert them, but it was a good result for us.
“We only conceded one chance in the 92nd or 93rd minute.”
Guardiola added he only saw the penalty on the field and not on television.
On Sterling’s century of Premier League goals, he added: “It is a great number at his age. It is a lot and congratulations to him and the same for Ederson (on his 100th clean sheet for City).
“The great keepers, they don’t always have many saves to do, but what they have to do, they do.”
Sterling said: “Scoring 100 Premier League goals is a lovely achievement. There are some fantastic players in that list. I’m really honoured to be in it now.
“Every time we play Wolves at home it’s always a difficult one. They’re always a difficult side to break down.
“We knew we had to keep patient. They kept it really tight, but we knew if we kept playing we’d get an opportunity – and we did.
“Wolves are always a difficult side to play against, home and away. Each game has its different challenges. We’ve always found it very difficult to break Wolves down and it was the same again today.
“We keep saying ‘next game’. That’s all we can keep doing. We need to do the same in midweek.”
Of the penalty, Wolves manager Bruno Lage said: “I believe in VAR and that it can help this game and the referee.
“The referee saw his arm and the rules say he is trying to create a bigger body. But the ball touched here [his armpit]. But after the referee whistles it’s a VAR decision.”
And on Jimenez’s red card, he added: “The first yellow card. He did not touch the guy and it is in our half and we had 10 men behind the ball. I don’t believe in tactical fouls when you are in transition.
“The first yellow card is a crazy decision for me, in my opinion. A hard decision to accept.”
Only three of the side that started Tuesday’s defeat by RB Leipzig kept their places for City, Jack Grealish, Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Kyle Walker, who was sent off for a rash challenge, was one of those to drop to the bench, along with Kevin de Bruyne, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez while Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Rodri came in.
However, there were two changes from last Saturday’s league win at Watford, Phil Foden and Walker making way for Zinchenko and Jesus.
There was just the one change for Wolves from their loss to Liverpool, Hwang Hee-Chan, was replaced by Joao Moutinho.
City paid tribute to honorary club president Ian Niven who has died aged 97 with one minute’s applause before kick-off.
It was an opening half which was dominated by a sickening clash of heads involving Wolves’ teammates Kilman and Ruben Neves and the Raul Jimenez’s sending-off.
Those incidents dominated an opening period in which neither goalkeeper had a serious goal attempt to save.
There was a stoppage of almost five minutes after Kilman and Neves collided while challenging for an aerial ball.
Both physios dash on to help the stricken duo with Neves needing lengthier treatment and Kilman having to have his cut forehead bandaged.
It was a worrying time for Wolves after Jimenez fractured his skull last season after a clash of heads with Conor Coady.
Then in the second of seven added minutes came the bizarre dismissal of Mexican Jimenez.
Booked for a foul on Rodri, Jimenez failed to retreat 10 yards when he cut out Rodri’s quickly taken free kick, surely one of the softest dismissals of the season as he left referee Jonathan Moss with little option to produce a second yellow card in the space of 31 seconds.
Jimenez was reluctant to leave the pitch, but eventually did so throwing his protective head guard to the ground in disgust.
Then in the eighth minute of added time, City had a penalty shout rejected for handball by Kilman as he tried to cut out a Grealish cross.
Wolves had succeeded in frustrating City in the goalless opening period.
However, the sending off altered the dynamics of the game as City laid siege to the visiting goal straight from the restart.
Jesus had two early chances and Ilkay Gundogan then had a goalbound effort headed off the line by Coady as the onslaught continued.
Guardiola, looking for the breakthrough, brought on Foden for Gundogan only 11 minutes into the half.
The breakthrough came midway through the second half, again clouded in controversy.
Moss pointed to the spot for handball by Joao Moutinho who tried to cut out a cross by Bernardo Silva.
Moutinho claimed it struck his armpit, but VAR official Andre Marriner upheld the decision, even though radio pundit Jonathan Woodgate described the award as “outrageous”.
Sterling, who had missed his last three penalties, rolled home the kick for his 100th Premier League goal.
City ought to have doubled their lead minutes later, but Grealish blazed over from six yards at the far post as he ought to have converted Sterling’s cross.
Bernardo Silva also went close with his effort saved by the legs of goalkeeper Jose Sa.
City made a second change with 17 minutes left as Grealish made way for De Bruyne who was continuing his comeback from injury.
De Bruyne almost immediately set up Jesus whose angled shot was well kept out by Sa who also beat out an effort from Foden.
Yet in the second of four added minutes, 10-man Wolves almost snatched an equaliser with their first on target goal attempt of the match.
Substitute Daniel Podence crossed from the left and Kilman’s far-post hearer was brilliantly turned over the bar by Ederson to preserve a 100th clean sheet for City.