Wolves 3 (Traore 55, Jimenez 82, Doherty 90) Manchester City 2 (Sterling 25, 50)
Super Wolves produced one of their best performances in many years in an unimaginably dramatic game as they came from two goals down to beat champions Manchester City 3-2 at an electric Molineux.
City had goalkeeper Ederson sent off before VAR awarded Pep Guardiola’s side two first-half penalties, both saved by Rui Patricio, only for Raheem Sterling to net the rebound off the second.
Sterling doubled City’s lead against the run of play soon after the break before man of the match Adama Traore started the comeback then set up Raul Jimenez to equalise before Matt Doherty grabbed a last-minute winner.
This remarkable victory moved Wolves up to fifth at the halfway stage of the season, eight points behind City, leaving fans wondering if they are now serious challengers to the champions – it was that good.
There have been some excellent performances under head coach Nuno Espirito Santo – the two home wins against Manchester United and the 4-3 success against Leicester spring to mind – but this was right up there among them.
Wolves’ dominance was shown in the possession stats – City had just 37.8 per cent, the lowest figure recorded by a Guardiola team.
The never-say-die spirit from Wolves was shown by the fact they have won more points from losing positions than any other side in the Premier League this season,14.
Victory also meant Wolves became only the second team after Chelsea in 2016-17 to complete the double over City, while it was the first time since 1960-61 that they have done so in the top flight.
Wolves were unchanged from the side that won 2-1 at Norwich six days before – a rare luxury given their hectic schedule at home and in Europe.
City were hit by the absence of striker Gabriel Jesus, who was missing through illness and didn’t travel.
That meant a recall for Sergio Aguero, who was making his first start since November 10 at Liverpool.
Their other change was in midfield, where Rodrigo replaced Ilkay Gundogan, who dropped to the bench.
A packed Molineux under the lights can be an intoxicating arena, and there was almost a nostalgic feel before kick off, with the respective teams’ gold and sky blue shirts shining brightly through swirling fog.
Wolves’ determination was shown in the early seconds when Diogo Jota showed he was not going to be intimidated by Kyle Walker, with a mutual shoulder charge that won him a free kick.
Jota was the central figure involved in the first drama that unfolded in the 12th minute.
Chasing a measured through ball from Conor Coady, the Portuguese forward was clean through on goal with only Ederson to beat when the goalkeeper charged out of his area and appeared to jump into him, sending him sprawling and hurting his right forearm.
Referee Martin Atkinson had little option but to send the Brazilian off, and Aguero was sacrificed to allow Claudio Bravo to replace Ederson just 14 minutes into the contest.
But that was only the start of the drama.
When Riyad Mahrez tumbled theatrically with Leander Dendoncker’s hand on his right shoulder in the 23rd minute, Atkinson signalled a goal kick but he was overruled by VAR and City were awarded a penalty.
Patricio saved Sterling’s first effort diving low to his right and Coady hacked clear, but then VAR ruled there had been encroachment.
Replays stopped at the point Sterling struck the ball showed City’s Bernardo Silva and Wolves’ Romain Saiss, as well as the body if not planted foot of Jonny Castro Otto were in the box.
Undeterred, Patricio repeated his heroics by pulling off a similar save from Sterling, palming to his right, only this time the ball fell to the former Liverpool man, who tapped home almost apologetically.
Wolves and their fans were furious, and several objects were hurled from the South Bank, including a metal hip flask which Atkinson took the fourth official as City celebrated.
The vociferous home support chanted “It’s not football anymore!”
But after the initial disappointment of conceding, Wolves gradually worked their way into the game, and went on to boss the first-half possession 61 per cent to 39.
Both Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves sent long-range shots too close to Bravo as they looked to drag Wolves back on level terms.
Traore, who scored both goals in Wolves’ 2-0 win at the Etihad in October, was being doubled-marked every time he got near the ball.
But he managed to evade his pursuers to engage Jimenez in a one-two to free himself on the edge of the box, only to screw horribly wide left footed as he fell.
Unfortunately for Wolves, City made them pay dearly for that miss as their world class players combined in devastating style five minutes after the break.
Kevin De Bruyne sprayed an immaculate ball through to Sterling, who galloped clear of Dendoncker before delicately lifting the ball over Patricio, who came racing out to reduce the angle but was powerless to stop such a sublime finish.
Wolves were in no mood to surrender however and gave themselves a lifeline in the 55th minute.
Traore, who was playing more centrally than out wide, received a short pass from Neves and surged forward before despatching a fierce low drive beyond Bravo’s right hand into the bottom corner.
In doing so, he became only the third player to score three goals in a single Premier League season against Guardiola’s City, following Eden Hazard and Jamie Vardy in 2016-17.
That was the cue for the home side to pile forward. Crosses rained in but City held firm with any number of blocks am clearances, while Romain Saiss and Doherty headed off target from Moutinho’s pinpoint deliveries.
Wolves continued chipping away at City and they deservedly levelled in the 82nd minute.
Traore typified their approach by barging Benjamin Mendy off the ball as the left back tried to usher the ball out of play and crossed to Jimenez to prod under Bravo for his 17th goal of the season in all competitions.
Jimenez has been directly involved in 26 goals in all competitions this season (17 goals, nine assists) – more than any other Premier League player.
Doherty grabbed a sensational winner, taking a backheel from Jimenez in his stride before curling home a low left-footed shot.
Even then, there was still time for Sterling to curl a free kick against the top of the bar.
But this night belonged to glorious Wolves.
Wolves: (3-4-3): Patricio 8; Dendoncker 7, Coady (c) 8, Saiss 8; Doherty 9, Neves 8, Moutinho 9, Jonny Castro Otto 9 (Vinagre 72 minutes, 8); Traore 9, Jimenez 9 (Bennett 90+4 minutes, 6), Jota 9 (Neto 79 minutes, 8).
Substitutes: Ruddy, Vallejo, Kilman, Cutrone.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ederson 3; Walker 6, Fernandinho (c) 6, Otamendi 6, Mendy 5; De Bruyne 7 (Gundogan 67 minutes, 6), B Silva 7, Rodrigo 6; Mahrez 6 (Garcia HT, 6), Aguero 6 (Bravo 14 minutes, 6), Sterling 8.
Substitutes: Joao Cancelo, Zinchenko, Foden, Angelino.
Sent off: Ederson (12).
Referee: Martin Atkinson 8/10.