Wolves came from 2-0 down to beat Manchester City 3-2 in a thrilling game at Molineux to put another nail in the reigning champions’ title challenge.
Ederson’s red card after 12 minutes put City in a tight spot but Raheem Sterling scored twice to hand the ten-man visitors a 2-0 lead early in the second half.
However, goals from Adama Traoré, Raúl Jiménez and Matt Doherty a minute from time ensured that Wolves completed a remarkable turnaround.
Here are five things we learned.
1. Headless Ederson
Ederson's red card against Wolves is the first he has received in his league career.
Claudio Bravo, rather than Kyle Walker, the man to go in goal in his place. 😉 pic.twitter.com/oX2SlPNLm0
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 27, 2019
Ederson is seen by some as the standard-bearer for the modern-day goalkeeper in the Premier League, such has been the immense impact he has had on English football since his move to Manchester City from Benfica. Prior to his arrival in 2017, few ‘keepers in the division were comfortable receiving the ball to feet or venturing far outside of their penalty area to collect loose balls. Nowadays, they are all at it.
The benefits of having a ball-playing goalkeeper are clear in an attacking sense, but there can be drawbacks too, as evidenced 12 minutes into this game when Ederson came charging outside of his box, poleaxed Diogo Jota and was handed his marching orders for his troubles. Martin Atkinson had no option but to brandish the red card and the Brazilian trudged off the pitch, beyond a sour-looking Pep Guardiola.
Ederson’s rush of blood ultimately cost City and it will be interesting to see if his jaded teammates can recover sufficiently for their game against an up-and-at-em Sheffield United in less than 48 hours time. Considering Guardiola has frequently voiced his displeasure at the Premier League’s fixture scheduling this festive period, this was the last thing he needed.
2. VARcical VAR
12': Ederson sent off
23': VAR awards Man City a penalty
23': Rui Patrício saves Raheem Sterling's penalty
24': VAR awards a re-take of the penalty
25': Rui Patrício saves Raheem Sterling's penalty again
25': Raheem Sterling scores the rebound
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) December 27, 2019
Those who have come to the conclusion that VAR and the implementation of it in the Premier League is a sin that needs to be removed from the game with as much haste as it was introduced, might have felt rather vindicated following a remarkable passage of play for the opening goal.
Atkinson initially decided that Riyad Mahrez theatrical tumble inside the box following a coming together with Leander Dendoncker didn’t warrant a penalty in Manchester City’s favour. However, following a lengthy VAR review, Atkinson eventually reversed his decision. It was a penalty call that could certainly be filed in the ‘borderline’ category.
Wolves supporters behind Rui Patricio’s goal were already incensed over the penalty decision and their fury was exacerbated when Raheem Sterling was given another opportunity to score from the penalty spot after Portugal’s No.1 had expertly parried away his spot-kick. Conor Coady cleared the rebound but was adjudged to have encroached into the area leading to the penalty being retaken.
According to IFAB penalties can be retaken if there is an incident of: “encroachment by an attacker or defender who becomes directly involved in play if the penalty kick rebounds from the goalpost, crossbar or goalkeeper”. Sterling had another chance to score, saw Patricio save it but slotted home the rebound. VARcical.
3. Adama the next Bale?
Adama Traoré has now scored three goals from outside the box in the Premier League this season, Riyad Mahrez (4) is the only player with more.
Another string to his bow. pic.twitter.com/kFXJViODgB
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 27, 2019
While playing for a dreadful Aston Villa side and a barely better Middlesbrough one, Adama Traore caught the eye with those lung-busting forays into opposition halves, but the frequent criticism was that once he got into good positions, his brain couldn’t keep up with his legs. His decision-making and end product was all off. That has all changed under the tutelage of Nuno Espirito Santo.
Now 23, Traore has added goals and assists to his game at a time in his development when it was crucial to do so. With ten-man City racing into a 2-0 lead, Wolves needed a moment of inspiration to claw themselves back into it and Traore provided it, lashing a low strike into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box for his fourth goal of the season. Next up he bullied Benjamin Mendy by the byline, seized possession of the ball and laid it on a plate for Raúl Jiménez to score. That’s four goals and assists apiece this season.
Only Eden Hazard and Jamie Vardy have scored three Premier League goals against City in the same campaign during Guardiola’s time in charge. Considering Traore’s goal record prior to this season, that’s a remarkable feat.
In 2010, the Premier League witnessed the birth of an extraordinary winger blessed with speed, balance and finishing prowess in Gareth Bale. Traore has plenty to do to live up to Bale’s billing but his unexpected rise for Wolves in recent months isn’t dissimilar to Bale’s midway through the 2009-10 season. A star has been born on Molineux.
4. Remarkable Rodri
City had their share of fortune over the penalty decision and subsequent retake, but their second goal of the match was an absolute picture with Rodri in charge of the paintbrush. Receiving the ball in the middle of the pitch inside City’s defensive third, Rodri pivoted on the half-turn, took a couple of touches to push himself into space before sliding a beautiful ball into De Bruyne’s path on the halfway line.
The Belgian did what he does best, nudging the ball in behind Wolves’ backline for Sterling to charge through and score with a delightful dink on a game week full of them. De Bruyne’s precision passing and Sterling’s composure in front of goal – penalty situations aside – have been features of this City side for some time, but Rodri’s dominant display was a welcome new addition, despite the defeat.
Retaining possession of the ball consistently is difficult to do at the best of times, let alone when a team is a man light. Yet Rodri managed it with seemingly minimal fuss, completing 59/63 of his passes for a completion rate of 95.2%. Not only that, when the goal was gaping for an onrushing Matt Doherty in the final 15 minutes, Rodri was under his crossbar to head it away. Fernandinho-esque.
5. Nuno matches Conte record
Nuno Espiríto Santo is only the second manager to complete a league double against Pep Guardiola.
Man City 0-2 Wolves
Wolves 3-2 Man City
What a way to join Antonio Conte. pic.twitter.com/ENndCtedEF
— Coral (@Coral) December 27, 2019
Before this season, only Antonio Conte had beaten Pep Guardiola home and away during the same season, when his title-winning Chelsea team won 3-1 at the Etihad and 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Guardiola had never lost to the same manager twice in the same campaign during spells with Barcelona in La Liga and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and since Conte managed it, no-one else has looked close to achieving that in the Premier League.
That is until Nuno came along. Wolves stunned City 2-0 at the Etihad earlier on in the campaign and then came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 in front of a raucous Molineux. Nuno has joined Conte in very exclusive company indeed.
Wolves’ win also denied Guardiola the chance to win his 100th Premier League game in record quick time. A dismal night all round for the City boss.