Birmingham 0-1 Wolves: Leo Bonatini sends Championship leaders four points clear
By Simeon Gholam
Last Updated: 05/12/17 8:38am
Wolves extended their lead at the top of the Sky Bet Championship back to four points with a battling 1-0 win at Birmingham on Monday night.
Leo Bonatini struck the only goal of the game after eight minutes at St Andrew's, to restore their advantage back over second-placed Cardiff. More importantly for Nuno Espirito Santo's men, they're back to being 10 points clear of Bristol City in third.
Birmingham were unchanged while Ruben Neves was suspended for Wolves. Alfred N'Diaye took his place in central midfield.
Birmingham, however, who saw Harlee Dean sent off after 84 minutes for a second bookable offence, remain in trouble in the bottom three.
Birmingham set up to defend deep and in numbers, but their game plan came undone almost immediately when Jonathan Grounds played a horrendous square pass across to Ivan Cavaleiro right on the edge of the box. His initial effort was saved by David Stockdale, who then got back up to deny Diogo Jota, but he couldn't do anything to stop Bonatini, although goal line technology was needed to prove it crossed the line as Michael Morrison attempted to clear.
Wolves continued to dominate the half but only created one more big chance to double their lead, but Stockdale was there again to keep out Cavaleiro's fierce drive after 24 minutes.
Steve Cotterill made a change at half-time as Stephen Gleeson replaced Jota. And the Birmingham academy product started brightly for the Blues before nearly allowing Wolves in for a second on the hour, losing the ball to Bonatini, who then fed Diogo Jota, but he dawdled on the ball in the box and Stockdale managed to smuggle the ball clear.
Birmingham: Stockdale (7), Roberts (6), Morrison (5), Dean (4), Nsue (5), Grounds (4), Kieftenbeld (5), Ndoye (6), Jota (4), Boga (5), Jutkiewicz (4)
Subs: Gleeson (5), Adams (n/a), Davis (n/a)
Wolves: Ruddy (6), Bennett (6), Coady (7), Boly (7), Doherty (7), Douglas (6), Saiss (6), N'Diaye (6), Cavaleiro (6), Diogo Jota (8), Bonatini (7)
Subs: Costa (n/a), Price (n/a), Enobakhare (n/a)
Man of the match: Diogo Jota
And Stockdale was called into action after 64 minutes to deny Wolves substitute Helder Costa, who was played in by Bonatini but then tried to be too clever in his attempt to skip past the Birmingham goalkeeper, who managed to deny him.
Birmingham tried to get back into the game, but any hopes of getting level ended when Dean picked up a needless second yellow card for a push on Diogo Jota in the closing stages.
Man of the match - Diogo Jota
In what turned out to be a fairly underwhelming display from Wolves, it was Diogo Jota who stood out on his 21st birthday. Constantly proving a thorn in Birmingham's side and threatening regularly on the counter attack.
Steve Cotterill: "The goal was disappointing for us and a setback. Stockdale has made two great saves and we're really disappointed that one has managed to get over the line. It was just a loose pass and that individual error is what's costing us. Then when we go a goal down it becomes more difficult.
"But I thought the second-half performance warranted us getting something out of the game. I've seen Wolves numerous times this season and they've blown teams away. I think we had them on the ropes in the second half for a little while but we just didn't quite have that knockout punch we needed."
Nuno: "Winning is good but how you win is also important. That was not our best [in terms of] how we played and we felt that everybody and the players knew they should perform better. It's a good result but it was a tough game.
"I thought we began well but then we lost some momentum in the second half. Birmingham started playing a lot of long balls and it put us into trouble. We had chances to kill the game and I think we should do better."
Both sides are back in action in the Sky Bet Championship at 3pm on Saturday, with Birmingham travelling to Fulham and Wolves hosting Sunderland.