Promotion and the Championship title are almost there for Wolves now as they gained a win against their nearest rivals in the race for the top, in a manner that could hardly have been more dramatic. The result left Wolves 9 points clear at the top and 14 points clear of 3rd with the chasers only having 6 games left.
The surprises started before the game with Nuno leaving both Costa and Cavaleiro on the bench and recalling Afobe and Bonatini;
Bennett, Coady, Boly
Doherty, Saiss, Neves, Douglas
Afobe, Bonatini, Jota
It was a lively start to the game and an Afobe cross saw Cardiff scramble the ball away. Then Bamba met a corner at the other end and should have done better with a free header. Ruben Neves then brought a good save from Etheridge with a long range effort before Jota tested the keeper with another fierce shot from the edge of the box.
When the game settled down, Wolves were struggling to make anything happen in the final third and Cardiff were looking the more likely to break the deadlock with Bennett shooting just wide then Wildschutt bringing a good save from Ruddy.
No goals at the break but Wolves were nearly in soon after as Afobe sent Bonatini through. The Brazilian was forced wide but his effort from a tight angle hit the post. Costa replaced Bonatini then Cavaleiro was on for Jota before the vital breakthrough goal came midway through the half. Neves curling a delicious free kick into the top corner from 25 yards. Neves then tried another curler that was just wide before N’Diaye replaced Afobe.
Cardiff were pinning Wolves back now but creating little and there were three good attempts at a breakaway goal. Firstly N’Diaye brought a save from the keeper after being put through by Cavaleiro, then there was a brilliant solo run by Costa that ended with him shooting inches wide. Then Cavaleiro forced another save from Etheridge.
Five minutes of injury time were added with Cardiff lumping balls into the Wolves box to put the defence under pressure. In the 94th minute Cardiff finally got the chance they wanted as Coady is adjudged to have pushed Pilkington. Nadine hit his spot kick low and hard to Ruddy’s left and the keeper made an excellent save. Then remarkably Cardiff had another penalty in the 96th minute following a clumsy challenge by Cavaleiro. Hoilet took this one and hit the bar with the last kick of the match.
Ruddy 8 – a fine penalty save amongst a number of good stops in one of his best games of the season.
Bennett 7 – solid as usual on the right of defence
Coady 8 – another excellent game with many well read interceptions
Boly 9 – quite outstanding and is ending the season in imperious form
Doherty 6 – an unusually quiet game and found little opportunity to get forward
Saiss 6 – worked hard but not at his best
Neves 8 – another fabulous goal and some excellent passes
Douglas 6 – like Doherty was not able to impose himself on the game as much as usual
Afobe 5 – had a bright start but then was mostly seen laying the ball off backwards in midfield
Bonatini 5 – no real threat to the Cardiff defence
Jota 6 – tried to make things happen but got little support in the first half
Subs Costa, Cavaleiro and N’Diaye all made excellent contributions in the second half.
A quite remarkable ending with two penalties not converted in the last two minutes that lead to wild celebrations by staff, players and supporters. Nuno later apologised to Warnock for not shaking his hand in the excitement but Warnock was not accepting that and with immense irony accused the Wolves manager of having no class.
Promotion could be sealed by Wolves as early as Wednesday. If Fulham do not win on both Saturday and Tuesday then the big prize is there for Wolves with a win against Derby at Molineux on Wednesday. If Fulham do keep winning then the celebration may have to wait until next Sunday when Birmingham come to Molineux