Wolves 3-0 Sheffield United: Nuno's men restore 11-point lead against Blades
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 03/02/18 8:30pm
Wolves restored their 11-point lead at the summit of the Sky Bet Championship with a classy 3-0 win over Sheffield United at Molineux on Saturday evening.
Record signing Ruben Neves scored his fourth goal of the season in sublime fashion when he curled the opener from 25 yards (5), before Diogo Jota doubled the lead after a flowing passage of play (30).
United goalkeeper Simon Moore was sent off for a wild kick on Jota (73), before Ivan Cavaleiro sealed the resounding victory when he hit a deflected free-kick past replacement stopper Jake Eastwood (77).
Nuno Espirito Santo's side affirmed their title as champions-elect with victory, while the Blades remain five points adrift of the play-offs with 16 games of the regular season remaining.
Wolves: Ruddy (6), Bennett (6), Coady (6), Boly (7), Doherty (7), Douglas (6), N'Diaye (7), Neves (8), Jota (8), Costa (7), Cavaleiro (8)
Subs: Bonatini (5), Afobe (6), Gibbs-White (5)
Sheffield United: Moore (5), Basham (5), Stearman (6), O'Connell (5), Baldock (5), Evans (6), Holmes (6), Fleck (6), Stevens (6), Wilson (5), Clarke (5)
Subs: Eastwood (5), Donaldson (5), Leonard (5)
Man of the match: Ruben Neves
It was a frantic opening, with both sides aware that the game's first goal would likely set the tone for the remainder. The hosts were the scorer of that invaluable opener and the manner in which it came was sumptuous.
George Baldock dispossessed Cavaleiro on the edge of the area, but the ball dropped at the feet of Neves who took a touch before curling an exquisite effort past Moore via the post.
The tempo slowed following the goal and Sheffield United were afforded time to build attacks by the hosts, but John Ruddy was largely untested but for a tame James Wilson shot and within 25 minutes, Jota made it two.
It was almost poetry in motion. Wolves swept the ball from left to right with ease, before Matt Doherty crossed for the Portuguese, who played a delightful one-two with Cavaleiro before slotting the second.
Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo named an unchanged starting lineup following last weekend's 1-0 victory over Ipswich, leaving loan signing Benik Afobe on the bench.
Chris Wilder made just one change of his own as Ryan Leonard dropped to the bench, giving January signing Ricky Holmes his first chance from the start in a Blades shirt.
Despite being two goals behind, Chris Wilder's men emerged with increased confidence after the break but though Ricky Holmes sliced an effort wide, their evening was curtailed when Moore was given his marching orders for a 'kung-fu' kick on the energetic Jota.
Cavaleiro converted the resulting free-kick via a deflection off Blades frontman Leon Clarke and though returning striker Benik Afobe twice went close to a goal on his second debut, the result was never in doubt as Wolves saw out an impressive victory.
Man of the match - Ruben Neves
It is hard to believe that this man is just 20-year-old. He puts on a typically stellar show for the league leaders once again, capped by his stunning goal that put Nuno's men in control after just five minutes.
Nuno Espirito Santo: "I think it was a good performance, definitely. I think the boys enjoyed the game and they played really well - we controlled it. Sheffield United were able to play good football, it was a good crowd, good support and a good day for us.
"That is what football is all about, to enjoy it. Even working hard and defending is enjoyable - it is part of the game. I enjoy every moment. I think the second goal really put us into the game and I thought it was important to achieve that. Now we have to focus on ourselves and think about the next game against QPR. Nothing else changes."
Chris Wilder: "They were in the mood and we couldn't lay a glove on them, so congratulations to the opposition because they were outstanding today - they full deserved the result. That's possibly the first time somebody has done that to us and it's the third of February. When we came into the division, people were saying that was going to happen every three or four weeks and it's taken until now for it to happen.
"It might happen a few times before the end of the season, but I'm not so sure it will. The boys are hurting and they are disappointed but sometimes you've got to hold your hand up and say that we've been outplayed by arguably the best team in the division by a long way."
League leaders Wolves welcome QPR to Molineux in a week's time, while the Blades play in front of Sky cameras once more when they host Yorkshire rivals Leeds on Saturday at 12.30pm, live on Sky Sports Football.