Sheffield Wednesday 0 Wolves 1 – Report and pictures
Wolves went seven points clear at the top of the Championship after beating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0.
Ruben Neves scored the game's only goal – a superbly placed 20-yard shot in the first half.
Wolves survived a couple of scares with Adam Reach wasting Wednesday's best chance.
Nuno's team weren't at their best but after Morgan Fox's late red card they saw out the game comfortably.
Function, adjective; designed to be practical and useful rather than attractive.
One moment of brilliance aside from their record signing, this was Wolves tonight, writes Tim Spiers at Hillsborough.
For the third game running Nuno Espirito Santo's team were well below the very high standards they've set in the past few months. However for the third game running they also didn't concede a goal – and for the second game in three it took a solitary strike to win all three points.
Wolves keep being called the Manchester City of the Championship but in truth their early success this season has been defined by remarkably consistent and organised defending, as a unit.
Yes they possess the magic and the flair going forward but when that isn't in great supply, as it wasn't here and as it often won't be during a 46-game season, they rely on being superbly well-drilled and organised. They kept their 12th clean sheet in 22 matches tonight.
And if this is Wolves' bad patch, you reckon they might still do okay this season.
As well as being functional, they're also history boys. For the first time in Wolves' 140-year history they have won four away games in a row without a conceding a goal.
They've also become the quickest Championship team to reach 50 points since...well, Wolves, in their title-winning 2008/09 season. And perhaps most remarkably of all they've already won as many games (16) as they managed in the whole of last season.
Diogo Jota may have been off the pace, Romain Saiss a shadow of the player he's been this season and Wolves' passing game was haphazard to put it kindly...but they won.
And to be honest, if they continue doing so, nothing else matters.
Nuno made one enforced change from the team that drew 0-0 with Sunderland last weekend, with Ruben Vinagre replacing the injured Barry Douglas at left wing back.
The hosts were deprived of no fewer than nine first team players including Fernando Forestieri, so often the scourge of Wolves in recent years, as well as ex-Wolves striker Steven Fletcher, George Boyd, Sam Hutchinson and Barry Bannan.
Wednesday came into the game winless in five and in 15th place in the table, with under-fire boss Carlos Carvalhal watching from the stands after an FA charge.
Meanwhile Wolves were seven unbeaten and brought the best away record in the league to Hillsborough.
But in the opening 30 minutes there was little to separate the two teams in what was a scrappy and dull opening in freezing Yorkshire.
Wolves couldn't get their passing game going at all, failing to generate any tempo or rhythm, while Wednesday's main tactic of targeting Vinagre and swinging crosses into the box was fruitless.
Nuno's team, as in their last two encounters, didn't look themselves and they should have been punished on 21 minutes when Adam Reach skewed horribly wide from a great position, before John Ruddy saved a glancing Joost van Aken header.
A stoppage to allow Leo Bonatini for treatment for an injured shoulder came at the right time...and then Ruben Neves came to the party with the game's first moment of genuine quality to open the scoring.
Ivan Cavaleiro's cleared free kick dropped nicely for the Portuguese midfielder whose calm, side-footed 20-yard finish into the bottom corner was befitting of a much grander stage...a moment of genuine beauty from a class act.
Wolves should have taken charge but they continued to look jittery. Ruddy came for a free kick and was in no man's land but the ball was bundled wide, while Ryan Bennett became needlessly embroiled in a running battle with Jordan Rhodes during which he fouled the striker twice in 30 seconds and appeared to knee him in the thigh. The home fans bayed for blood but the referee dished out only a yellow card.
Nuno will have asked for more tempo from his team – and to cut out the sloppy passes – but if he did they didn't listen, with Wednesday starting the half stronger.
A couple of Owls corners were dealt with before Neves was in the right place at the right time to intercept Gary Hooper's header back across goal with Rhodes lurking for a tap in.
Going forward Wolves continued to lack the vibrancy and creativity we've become accustomed to this season but they still forged a couple of chances, namely for Saiss who sent a header wide and Bonatini who rolled an effort just past the post on the turn.
At the other end substitute Lucas Joao sent a six-yard header over but was penalised for a foul, before Nuno called for captain Danny Batth to try and shore things up with Bennett going to right wing back and Doherty switching flanks.
Wednesday now had two big target men up front in Joao and fellow sub Atdhe Nuhiu, with their intentions clear, while Wolves were resorting to hoofing it clear (yes you did read that correctly) in what was the most 'typical Championship' encounter Nuno's team had been involved in this season.
With 15 minutes to go, though, Ruddy had yet to be forced into a memorable save. Wolves countered occasionally with Bennett making a great overlap only to fail to pick out the unmarked Cavaleiro.
But at the other end they started to better cope with Wednesday's aerial bombardment – and with five minutes to go their cause was given a helping hand when Morgan Fox was sent off for a second booking.
Wolves looked to exploit the gaps and Cavaleiro fired just wide but thereafter it was a fairly comfortable final few minutes as Wolves extended their unbeaten run to eight matches.
21 – Adam Reach is free 15 yards out but blazes his shot wide in what's a let off for Wolves.
34 – GOAL – Ivan Cavaleiro's right wing free kick is cleared to RUBEN NEVES who calmly places a delicious 20-yard shot into the bottom corner.
43 – Ryan Bennett is lucky to avoid a red card after kneeing Jordan Rhodes in the thigh as part of a running battle between the pair. Bennett also fouls Rhodes twice in 30 seconds, but gets away with a booking.
85 – RED CARD – Morgan Fox fouls Helder Costa and earns his second booking of the night.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2): Wildsmith; Palmer, Loovens (c), Van Aken, Fox; Wallace, Butterfield (Joao, 63), Jones, Reach; Rhodes (Nuhiu, 63), Hooper. Subs: Kean, Venachio, Abdi, Pudil, Matias.
Red card: Fox (85)
Wolves (3-4-3): John Ruddy; Bennett, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty, Saiss, Neves, Vinagre (Batth, 66); Cavaleiro (N'Diaye, 91), Bonatini (Costa, 72), Jota. Subs: Norris, Miranda, Gibbs-White, Enobakhare.
Goals: Neves (34)
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire)
1st (51 points from 22 matches)