Wolves beat ten man local rivals Birmingham City 2-0 to celebrate their promotion to the Premier League. Wolves comfortably won with goals for Diogo Jota and Benik Afobe in a carnival atmosphere at Molineux.
Wolves were promoted overnight thanks to a 84th minute Brentford goal against Fulham the day before, ruling out any chance of Fulham catching Wolves. There was a party atmosphere at Molineux, which included a guest appearance of Wolves legend George Elokobi at half-time.
Nuno named Costa in the starting line up with Benik Afobe moved to the bench. Birmingham in contrast were scrapping at the other end of the table facing relegation very much in the face.
Birmingham named ex Wolves player David Davies in a defensive line-up looking to frustrate Wolves, and targeted Jota and Neves for some tough tackling in particular.
Birmingham nearly spoiled the party early on with a chance from Jutkiewicz which needed an excellent double save from John Ruddy to prevent Blues taking the lead. From the replay, after the game, it looked like the goal should have been given offside but that controversy was spared thanks to John Ruddy’s reflexes.
Wolves took the lead in the twenty-first minute which was a characteristic Wolves goal from this season. An inside ball from Romain Saiss, for an overlapping Matt Doherty who was able to cross the ball across the face of the goal for Diogo Jota to slide it home for his easiest finish of the season.
Of all the great goals Wolves have scored this season a wing-back overlapping for a cross for Bonatini or Jota or Afobe to score is the bread and butter play to the spectacular Nutella of Neves’ goals.
It wasn’t all simple for Wolves who saw Ivan Cavaleiro forced off through injury, which looked like a hamstring injury as he pulled up after a long sprint.
Blues made it more difficult for themselves just after half time when they gave the ball away in a dangerous area, releasing Helder Costa to be free on goal. All Harlee Deane could do was bring down Costa with a last ditch mis-timed tackle.
The referee, who had been lenient at best with most of Birmingham hard challenges throughout the first half most notably from David Davis who went in with a high foot on Ruben Neves, made no mistake with this decision. Deane was given a straight red card leaving Birmingham the majority of the second half to play with ten men.
From the resulting free-kick Ruben Neves nearly added to his growing collection of spectacular long-range efforts with a characteristic free kick which struck the net supports just wide of the goal.
Romain Saiss had a great chance to make it 2-0 following a through ball from Leo Bonatini, who had come on to replace Cavaleiro. Saiss tried to slot the ball past Stockale but the Birmingham goalkeeper was able to pull off a smart save down to his right to deny Saiss a well worked goal.
Wolves sealed the victory in style with a goal from Benik Afobe, who made a great run in behind the Birmingham back line. Alfred N’Diaye with a through ball for Afobe who finished beautifully, cooly chipping the approaching David Stockdale.
Wolves will be playing Premier League football next season. Nuno summed up the game in his post match comments that promotion was ‘for the club, the city, the fans.’ However, he was still quick to refocus minds on winning the league and gaining 100 points to top off the season.
Wolves have been the league leaders in the Championship for the majority of the season and have shown considerable quality, grit and mental strength to stay on top and gain promotion with four games left.
This is a moment to savour for Wolves but there is a sense around Molineux amongst the champagne and celebrations that this is just the beginning for Nuno, Fosun and Wolves.