A marker had been placed here. A result and achievement that showed why Manchester City could become champions this season.
And yet, those 33 minutes. The passage, and it wasn’t short, when Wolves could have scored what, four, maybe five? When City looked all the way out to sea at the back. When they missed Aymeric Laporte and we saw how vulnerable they remain to just one major injury, or opponents with energy and creative verve.
The score really flatters City. Not for their performance in the first half – a profit margin of two goals doesn’t do that justice – but their second. Even the best sides wobble, that’s true. Still, after 45 minutes of excellence, City could have been behind within 15 minutes of the restart of the second half. Vulnerability remains regardless of the summer’s investment.
Kevin De Bruyne (center) celebrates with his teammates after breaking the deadlock during the first half at Molineux
De Bruyne won a penalty from his team when he drew a reckless challenge on Romain Saiss in the 19th minute of the game.
The Belgium international made no mistake with a powerful finish from the spot that gave Rui Patricio no chance
MATCH FACTS, PLAYER RATINGS AND LEAGUE TABLE
Wolves: Rui Patricio, Traore, Boly, Coady, Saiss, Marcal (Ruben Vinagre 8), Joao Moutinho (Dendoncker 78), Neves, Pedro Neto (Silva 78), Jimenez, Daniel Podence
Subs not used: Vitinha, Ruddy, Kilman, Rasmussen
Goals: Jimenez 78
Manchester City: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Ake, Mendy, Fernandinho, Rodri, Foden, De Bruyne, Sterling (Torres 82), Gabriel Jesus
Subs not used: Steffen, Mahrez, Otamendi, Delap, Doyle, Bernbe
Booked: Mendy, Gabriel Jesus, Rodri
Goals: De Bruyne 20 pen, Foden 32, Gabriel Jesus 90
Ref: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
- League One
- League Two
- Scottish Premiership
- Scottish Div 1
- Scottish Div 2
- Scottish Div 3
- Ligue 1
- Series a
- La Liga
Admittedly, City wasn’t at full power in the back and Laporte’s replacement, John Stones, no longer inspires confidence against the best of opponents. Still, Liverpool had a defensive crisis at Chelsea and resolved it with the battlefield promotion of midfielder Fabinho, who looked more convincing than many Manchester City defenders appeared here.
It was a good goal that brought Wolves back into the game after 78 minutes, trailing only 2-1, but questions could be asked of both Benjamin Mendy and Stones. Manchester City still don’t have their Virgil van Dijk, and until he’s found their best plans can always be reversed.
The fact that Manchester City have now matched a record dating back to the 19th century says a lot about their position in English football over the past decade. It was Aston Villa who set the benchmark for season starts, winning their first game in 10 consecutive campaigns between 1891 and 1900. City matched that performance on Monday night.
And the odds weren’t entirely theirs either. Wolves have been a bit of an ogre lately, doing the double over City last season, and there was the matter of injuries and absences – seven out, including Laporte and the mighty Sergio Aguero.
For one thing, it didn’t make any difference. City was excellent in the first half, in a different league actually. By the time Wolves had forged an opportunity, City had two goals ahead and seemed comfortable. Don’t roll out, as City rarely kisses – but is in full charge. Their football was quite beautiful at times, fast, penetrating changes, restless movements, Kevin De Bruyne’s intelligence that set the pace.
Phil Foden scores his team’s second goal with a simple finish after being knocked down by teammate Raheem Sterling
The Wolves players can only watch as Foden’s attempt makes its way into an empty net with Patricio stranded
The Englishman is celebrating with his teammates after he has put the visitors under firm control halfway through the first half
It seems madness to see Phil Foden as an upgrade from the departed David Silva, but he is younger and poses an even bigger threat to the target. Pep Guardiola has waited patiently – as has Foden – but there is no doubt that he is now unleashing a player perfectly suited to the elite Premier League environment. Foden has now started 33 games for Manchester City, scoring 12 goals and 10 assists in that time.
From the second minute on, Wolves were on the back foot. It was then that Raheem Sterling transformed Willy Boly superbly, then took a very clumsy touch and crumpled under the presence of Conor Coady. No tackle as Coady was smart enough not to commit, but just putting himself near Sterling was enough to make the City man fall. Coady reacted furiously, fearing the worst, but referee Andre Marriner was wise. He waved on and decided to give Sterling the benefit of the doubt, too. It seemed like a dive. Marriner charitably chose to see Sterling’s collapse as more of an unfortunate coincidence. He’s a lucky guy.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for new hire Marcal from Wolves, who took just eight minutes to pick up a knock that forced the immediate introduction of Ruben Vinagre. It was an equal replacement and too early in the game to judge Marcal’s influence, but it wasn’t like City needed help. A few minutes later, a free kick from De Bruyne forced Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio’s first save from 25 meters.
The goal came, however, Wolves cracked and the breakthrough came in the 19th minute. De Bruyne had stretched the defense to its limits all night, but one run tempted Romain Saiss to a thoughtless outburst. This time there was no complexity. Marriner pointed to the spot and De Bruyne resigned, now established as City’s problem-solving penalty taker. No mistake this time either. Perfectly positioned on the right, he didn’t give Patricio a chance, not even guess correctly.
Now City turned the screw. There was a pretty fantastic move after 30 minutes involving Gabriel Jesus, Foden and Sterling before Patricio made the save, and a minute later, similar intricate patterns called for a second. This time, the running order was Foden for Jesus, for De Bruyne, feeding Sterling on the left and back to Foden for a super fast finish.
Raul Jimenez hits the cross of Daniel Podence with a fine header at the post to halve the deficit after the break
City goalkeeper Ederson can only watch as Jiminez’s (left) powerful header makes its way to the net
Jimenez works his way back to the half after withdrawing one in Molineux Monday night during the second half
At the time, the only question was how much, but Wolves are a tidy side and City is prone to decline. At the end of the half, Wolves served notice with a Raul Jimenez header and after half time it was another game. Shock after shock troubled City, and with a better finish Wolves could have led.
First, Adama Traore chose Daniel Podence, whose shot went just wide from 12 meters on the corner. Shortly after, a shot from Ruben Neves – which could have been hit harder – was taken off the line by Kyle Walker, before Podence broke through again and Stones passed, but this time ended with a weak attempt at chip. To end a short spell that could have seen Wolves score, Traore cut one back to Jimenez who fired his shot off the perfect position.
Wolves finally got what they deserved at 78 minutes, although their goal raised constant questions about City’s backlash. Podence even gave De Bruyne nutmeg on his way to Jimenez, changing his header from eight meters. But could Mendy have carved the cross, could Stones have taken on a challenge? And why are we still asking these questions when Guardiola has had many months to address these weaknesses? It’s not enough to blame one man’s absence. It can’t be that City is vulnerable when Laporte is out. Not if they are able to take the game to such heights as an attacking force.
Ultimately, Wolves hit the hunt for second, giving City some emphasis after four minutes of injury time. De Bruyne chased hard to win the ball back from Boly, before feeding Jesus whose shot broke off Coady on the way to goal, misleading Patricio. So the best team won, and in a field where many will leave with nothing this season. It was a result of champions. Yet it didn’t feel that way. In many ways, it felt like City just picking up where they were fired. Brilliant, but …
Gabriel Jesus (right) scores his team’s third goal in the last minute of stoppage time with a deviated attempt
Jesus drives off in celebration after putting down the Premier League showdown in the 95th minute
Scroll down to read Sportsmail’s live runner from the game.