Jesus and Mahrez send Manchester City 15 points clear with win against Wolves
Manchester City’s Gabriel Jesus (centre) celebrates scoring his first goal of the game against Wolves. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters
Jamie Jackson at the Etihad Stadium
Manchester City’s record sequence of wins now stands at 21 thanks to two late strikes from Gabriel Jesus and another by Riyad Mahrez.
Conor Coady’s first goal for Wolves since April 2018 had appeared to halt City’s run, but Pep Guardiola’s team can still dream of surpassing Bayern Munich’s record mark of 23 straight wins for Europe’s top five leagues. City had hogged the ball, but as against West Ham last time out, were unable to convert this into a telling advantage until late in the game.
They squeezed home 2-1 against David Moyes’s side, and had not added to Leander Dendoncker’s own goal until Jesus and Mahrez made the scoreline comfortable. City, then, have equalled a club record 28 matches unbeaten, and are 15 points ahead of Manchester United with 11 games left: it is their title to lose.
Guardiola demonstrated the quality of his squad by replacing John Stones, Ilkay Gündogan and Fernandinho from Saturday’s game – all substitutes – with Aymeric Laporte, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling.
Nuno Espírito Santo made one change from the draw with Newcastle: Ki-Jana Hoever came in for Willian José at right wing-back in a 3-4-3 as Wolves looked to extend their own unbeaten league run to six.
They began as so many sides have to against Guardiola’s: defending. João Cancelo slipped in Sterling and his shot was parried by Rui Patrício, Wolves’s goalkeeper.
City’s left-back was again involved when finding a roving Kevin De Bruyne along his flank. The captain drove in a clever ball but for no material yield. Here, though, a familiar pattern was established: City tapping percussive passes around at pace and, when possession was ceded, their pressing executed as ruthlessly.
Mahrez demonstrated the latter when squeezing Romain Saïss near Wolves’s goal, the ball came to De Bruyne, and the Belgian’s shot claimed a corner. De Bruyne chipped this towards Rúben Dias and the visitors were again in scramble mode.
Moments later Mahrez floated in a cross towards a leaping Sterling and Patrício punched away.
The keeper was helpless when City struck, though. This derived from a fluid move in which Rodri fed Cancelo who fed De Bruyne who returned the ball to Rodri. The Spaniard found Mahrez with a curving pass that dropped into the the right channel. The Algeria international took in his stride and zipped in a cross that saw Leander Dendoncker scoring an own goal as Sterling lurked.
This felt like the contest was over already after only a quarter of an hour unless Wolves could stop the blue wave flooding them again. Nuno’s men looked strongest when trying to hem City in close to Ederson’s goal but the home side’s class allowed them to escape.
Wolves had succeeded in moving the contest into the middle third, to their encouragement. But, then, City upped the tempo and a whirl of passes ended with Mahrez going in behind but Wolves just about survived.
City’s No 26 was in the mood but as throughout the half – Mahrez’s assist apart – the final ball was lacking.
This was reminiscent of the win over West Ham, total domination not being reflected in the score. Laporte had a strike ruled offside by VAR – it was marginal – and Silva’s effort on the stroke of half-time was saved well to his left by Patrício.
A glaring statistic was that Wolves had yet to enter City’s area as the second half started. Silva, then Cancelo, showed how with two crosses in quick succession that were aimed at Sterling and Gabriel Jesus.
Next Sterling backheeled Cancelo’s pass to De Bruyne, he turned the pace on, and unloaded a shot across Patrício, whose fingertips steered wide. The Portuguese performed the same from the right side – this time a flying leap saving Mahrez’s shot.
Guardiola’s concern was obvious. West Ham had nicked an equaliser before the break before Stones found a winner and the manager did not want his side to again be pulled back given their control. But, now, they were sucker-punched. A Rodri foul on João Moutinho won Wolves a free-kick taken by the latter. It swung in from the right and as Rodri and Dias lost Coady, the captain headed in expertly to Ederson’s left.
Nineteen minutes later, however, City’s closing salvo began, first through Jesus, then Mahrez, and then – in the dying moments, Jesus again after VAR overturned the on-field decision for an offside.