Raheem Sterling’s 100th Premier League goal came via the penalty spot and gave 맨체스터시 a sixth consecutive win in the competition. This is a precious victory as here was an odd contest that featured serial ill-temper, head clashes, a ridiculous sending-off for Raúl Jiménez and, until Sterling’s intervention, Wolves threatening to escape with a point despite the mountain of chances created by the champions.
Even Jonathan Moss’s award of Sterling’s spot-kick was controversial as Bernardo Silva’s cross hit João Moutinho’s armpit – is this, 사실은, handball? – and VAR duly backed the referee. Sterling’s penalty was one of those slow, straight down the middle affairs that had José Sá diving right and, 그래서, the wrong way.
In scoring the No 7 became the 32nd to achieve the century, joining Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Romelu Lukaku, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané as the active players on the list. City might have had more: a Sterling dink in had the clumsy Jack Grealish missing an open goal, 그때, 나중, close-range shots from Silva and Gabriel Jesus were somehow blocked.
Pep Guardiola’s shuffle of his stellar pack had featured Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez starting on the bench against an XI including Adama Traoré, who scored both in Wolves’s 2-0 win here two years ago.
Instantly what would be the pattern was set. City prodded the ball about in those familiar percussive rhythms, while Wolves hoped to nab it and unleash the speed of Traoré, as when Jiménez hit a pass along the left and Rúben Dias was turned.
Silva has been receiving weekly notices for his dazzling displays and Romain Saïss soon saw why. João Cancelo thumped the ball to his feet and a hip-sway later the Portuguese was firing marginally wide of Sá’s goal.
There was nothing slight about how Traoré barged Rodri over near the technical area in the first sign of bad mood. This caused Guardiola to yelp in protest and signalled Bruno Lage’s side would mix it when required. This came in a phase in which Wolves had quietened City, a Silva run-and-cross to the lurking Grealish a rare foray. Jesus provided another collector’s item when next trying to claim a penalty: running past Saïss the Brazilian stuck out a leg in a transparent manner and hit the deck. Moss, correctly, was not interested.
Next came a pause due to a fierce clash of heads between Rúben Neves and Maximilian Kilman. The latter, face bloodied, was bandaged up and continued, as did the former. Moments later, another break in play. Sterling galloped past Saïss, who appeared to receive a hand in the face. Cue the Moroccan going down and being branded a “cheat” by the home faithful.
In this strange passage, Jiménez’s sending-off trumped all. After being booked for fouling Rodri he stood at close range, blocked the free-kick, saw yellow again then red. The Mexican became pantomime villain, dawdling, twice throwing one of his gloves to ground – the crowd punctuating this with jeers. Humour, 그러나, became bad temper when Neves went down near goal and City continued on and Grealish’s cross appeared to be met with a handball by the top of Kilman’s right arm, but no penalty was awarded. City were furious at this, Wolves at the contest not having stopped.
Underlying all of this was how City were disrupted and thus the second half had to be, for them, about finding their usual poise. For a while, they continued to grasp and come up empty-handed. A Sterling burst in Wolves’ area had him losing the perpendicular with Rayan Aït-Nouri challenging but, once more, Moss was not interested, and more frustration followed when Ilkay Gündogan’s header was cleared off the line by Connor Coady.
But City thumped at the door and Sterling, from the spot, was the one to finally force a way through, Wolves ruing an added-time chance to pilfer an equaliser as Ederson collected from a corner.