Raheem Sterling’s second-half penalty earned Manchester City a sixth Premier League win in a row and kept the reigning champions roaring along at the summit as they saw off 10-man Wolves 1-0.
City climbed to top spot for the first time this season last weekend and took full advantage of playing before Liverpool and Chelsea on Saturday with a hard-fought – if somewhat controversial – win at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola’s men were given a huge helping hand by Raul Jimenez’s silly sending-off in first-half stoppage time for two bookable offences in the space of 31 seconds.
Wolves again felt hard done by when referee Jonathan Moss adjudged that Bernardo Silva’s cross hit Joao Moutinho on the arm, giving Sterling the opportunity to convert the resulting penalty with 66 minutes played for his 100th Premier League goal, which proved enough for a slender victory.
Wolves were only undone by a last-gasp goal in last week’s loss to Liverpool, and they managed to contain City in a first half that saw the hosts register just two attempts on target.
However, the visitors were reduced to 10 men when Jimenez was booked for a foul on Rodri and again penalised almost straight after for failing to retreat when the free-kick was taken.
Ilkay Gundogan had a header blocked on the line by Conor Coady and City’s pressure eventually told when Sterling calmly converted the match-winning penalty, which Wolves’ players argued should never have been given as Silva’s cross appeared to hit Moutinho on the armpit, rather than his arm.
Jack Grealish blasted over a great opportunity soon after, while Silva and Sterling had attempts saved by Jose Sa, but Wolves struggled to pose a sustained threat at the other end as they went a fourth game without scoring.
What does it mean? City tighten grip on top spot
This fixture tends to provide goals, with no English league fixture to have been played at least 60 times since the Football League was formed in 1888 averaging more per game, but Sterling’s solitary strike from the spot was the difference in this latest encounter.
Guardiola will perhaps be a little concerned that his side did not manage to truly kill off the match, but they saw out a 32nd victory in 40 Premier League games in 2021 – only Liverpool in 1982 (33) have won more in a single calendar year in English top-flight history.
City now boast a four-point lead on Liverpool and a five-point advantage over Chelsea, though both sides have a chance to close the gap when they host Aston Villa and Leeds United later on Saturday.
Raul red costly
Jimenez’s dismissal was surely the most ridiculous you will see in the Premier League this season, the Wolves striker seeing red for the first time in his 102nd game in the competition.
He is also the first Mexican to be sent off in the Premier League, and Wolves, whose only serious attempt arrived in the second minute of stoppage through a Max Kilman header that Ederson tipped over, ultimately could not hold on.
Sterling was City’s biggest threat and now has five goals in his last eight appearances in all competitions, this latest one seeing him become the third player this year to join the Premier League’s 100 goals club after Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.
The England international is the 32nd player to reach triple figures for goals in the competition overall, and the eighth-youngest at the age of 27 years and three days.
City welcome Leeds United to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday, while Wolves travel to Brighton and Hove Albion the following day.