In a fascinating opener to the weekend's Premier League action, promoted side Wolverhampton Wanderers held reigning champions Manchester City to a 1-1 draw, in a game that ebbed and flowed throughout.
Wolves took the lead in the second half in controversial fashion, but City hit back through an Aymeric Laporte header which was his first goal for the club. Honours even then, but the home side will certainly be the happier of the two teams.
City frustrated with a point
The match-up between the runaway Championship winners and Pep Guardiola’s Centurions was unlikely to disappoint and from the opening minutes it was full of incident.
Nuno Espirito Santo refused to abandon his principles, sticking with an unchanged side from the previous week’s defeat at Leicester City, with his three centre backs expected to crowd out any potential space for their visitors to exploit. Pep Guardiola reverted back to his preferred 4-3-3 formation after experimenting vs Huddersfield Town.
City were probing with intent from the start, but the hosts were causing problems of their own. The visitors found gaps down Wolves’ inside-right channel but were wasteful around the penalty area, and Wolves were well organised, full of energy and sporadically found the space behind the full-backs, without taking full advantage. Vincent Kompany seemed off the pace, and an early booking surprised no one.
In an eventful match, City hit the post twice in the first half. Sergio Aguero was first, just seconds after Wolves had correctly had a goal disallowed for offside. His snap shot cannoned off the post and spun behind for a goal kick.
The highlight of the half came soon after, Wolves keeper Rui Patricio brilliantly turning Raheem Sterling's 25-yard drive onto the crossbar. The Premier League champions were sloppy in possession however as the home side kept their shape and discipline and harried the visitors to prevent them the freedom to attack.
Moutinho showed his experience in midfield whilst Helder Costa was causing plenty of problems down the right side.
In the second half, City again failed to stamp their authority on the game, and a short period of Wolves pressure brought them the opening goal after 57 minutes in very controversial circumstances. Moutinho’s cross found Willy Boly in acres of space in front of goal, but he missed his attempted header and the ball struck his hand and nestled in the back of the net.
With City having a good shout for offside too, it was a moment of luck for the home side as they capitalised on some rather poor officiating.
The goal stirred City into life as they pressed forward searching for an equaliser. David Silva was incensed after not gaining a penalty following a Ruben Neves challenge though it looked like a 50-50 kind of decision.
However, City kept probing and were level in the 69th minute when Aymeric Laporte powered home a header from Ilkay Gundogan’s free kick for his first ever City goal and in turn levelled the scores at Molineux.
Both sides had opportunities to win it in the closing stages, with City almost snatching three points when Aguero's free-kick clipped the bar with virtually the last kick of the game. Before that, Rui Patricio made another superb save from a point-blank Gabriel Jesus header though the City striker should have done better with his effort.
Despite the fortunate nature of the home side’s goal, they fully deserved a point from the game. City brought on all their big guns including Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez but Wolves held firm.
Wolves league position tells us little
After three games, Wolves find themselves in 13th position in the Premier League, with only two points. On the surface, the table suggests they have had a difficult start to life in the Premier League.
Strictly speaking that is true, but they should take far more positives than negatives from their opening trio of games. Whilst they may have displayed opening day nerves at home to Everton, they showed fortitude and character to come back and grab a point.
Against Leicester City they were the victims of some bad luck and struck the woodwork three times and showed just how good they were by matching Manchester City for 90 minutes.
Nuno Espírito Santo has his side well-drilled and disciplined and with a set of attacking players that can cause any opposition problems, they should be happy with their start to the season, even if their league position does not reflect that.
De Bruyne absence hits home
Whilst the knee injury to Kevin De Bruyne last week was clearly bad news for Manchester City, there was a general feeling that City could cope with his absence because of the wealth of options in midfield within the City squad.
The game against Wolves however would have been the perfect game for him to change the momentum into City's favour. The visitors struggled to break down a disciplined back five, and when they did occasionally find an opening, they were wasteful or denied by Rui Patricio’s brilliance.
De Bruyne has the ability to control a match and find passes and gaps where you didn’t know they existed, and with even David Silva struggling to impact the game, and City’s pacey full-backs failing to get behind the opposition defence, his absence was felt for the first time.
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