A late flurry helped Manchester City to a 4-1 victory over Wolves to extend their winning run to 21 matches, although the away side had briefly put that run under serious threat.
Connor Coady equalised with Wolves’ first shot and indeed first touch inside the City area following an early own goal by Leander Dendoncker, before late goals from Riyad Mahrez and a double from Gabriel Jesus won all three points for the home side.
City started far faster than at the weekend against West Ham, and it took Joao Cancelo roughly 100 seconds to pick out a sharp run of Raheem Sterling through the defensive line, although Rui Patricio did well to come out and smother the effort.
Sterling’s runs were excellent all half, but although similar through balls found him several times the Wolves defence managed to recover on each occasion. Jesus was also nearly found by a telepathic de Bruyne no-look pass, but again Patricio was sharply off his line to collect.
It felt like a goal was coming, yet when it did arrive on 15 minutes, it was a Wolves player whom the home side had to thank.
Rodri played a superb ball over the top into the feet of Riyad Mahrez, and the Algerian’s square ball across the six yard box resulted in Dendoncker turning into his own net with Sterling lurking just behind him.
For context, it took Wolves 18 minutes to touch the ball inside City’s final third, and indeed they did not manage a touch inside the opposition area all half.
Despite their dominance, it was only in the closing minutes of the half that City truly started to stretch the away defence.
First, a loose pass in midfield allowed a quick City counter, which resulted in Mahrez having a shot well blocked from a Jesus chest down. Next to try was de Bruyne, with his 20 yard effort well blocked by Nelson Semedo for a corner, a corner from which City thought (and arguably did) score their second.
City worked the ball to Mahrez, whose sharp cross was flicked on by Bernardo Silva to Aymeric Laporte to volley home from close range. However, the offside flag was quickly raised, despite Laporte’s insistence otherwise.
The replay made that view understandable.
Laporte looked onside. But no, here comes Stockley Park to make “correct” decisions to improve the game.
The lines of on and offside literally overlapped, with the line from Laporte being drawn from his upper arm as he pointed ahead of him.
It is not the first time (Sadio Mane at Goodison Park quickly springs to mind), but it is still no less ridiculous than it was initially that these ‘goals’ are being ruled out due to the predicted length of a player’s armpit.
With the final action of the half, City had another chance to double their lead, but Silva’s header from a Jesus cross was brilliantly clawed out by Patricio, with Silva then blazing the rebound over the bar from a tight angle.
Half time: Manchester City 1-0 Wolves
The opening exchanges of the second half gave no indication for what was going to occur.
City seemed determined to secure the second goal as soon as possible, with Wolves still not existing as any sort of an attacking threat. However, they did have Patricio doing his best impression of Jan Oblak as he kept them in it with a string of superb saves.
The best was arguably the first, as de Bruyne arrowed a shot towards the bottom corner which the Portuguese somehow got fingertips on to turn the ball wide.
Mahrez was also denied with a typical curling shot towards the far post, while Jesus was also guilty of missing the target when well placed.
Then, from absolutely nothing, Wolves equalised.
Joao Moutinho swung in a freekick, and Coady dived forward to direct a header powerful into the ground and into the bottom corner.
The goal swung the game around completely.
Having been utterly untroubled all game, suddenly City were clinging on. Adama Traore found himself 1v1 with Ruben Dias but the defender did brilliantly to deflect the ball away for a corner.
From the resulting cross, Laporte almost diverted into his own net, before slack play by Rodri saw Wolves with a 5v3 counter which ended with an excellent block by Laporte before Traore blazed well over.
As quickly as it started, the away side’s attacking impetus disappeared, and suddenly City were constantly pouring forward. Jesus was played in on Patricio who saved well, before minutes later the Brazilian shot over when in on goal yet again.
Sterling’s backheel flick dribbled inches past the far post from a Mahrez cross, before he went even closer soon after as his 20 yard strike clipped the post.
In the 80th minute, the pressure finally told.
Mahrez found the overlapping run of an unmarked Kyle Walker, with his low cross deflecting into the path of Jesus to smash home past Patricio and two covering defenders. The goal had definitely been coming, but the game had carried the undeniable feel of being one of those days for City.
Or, as it turned out, not.
Mahrez consummately curled home from inside the area in the 90th minute following Rodri’s high pressing, and there was still time for Jesus to grab a second, as he turned in the loose ball following Patricio’s save from a Gundogan effort.
The full time score gave the appearance of an easy victory, but in reality it had been anything but.
Full time: Manchester City 4-1 Wolves
Man of the Match: Riyad Mahrez
Made the first, created the opportunity for the vital second and scored the third. When City were toiling, it was his runs and passing that helped regain control, and without him it is very possible the winning run would have ended at 20.