Bristol City 1-2 Wolves: Leaders open up 10-point lead after second-half comeback
By Dan Long
Last Updated: 31/12/17 7:28am
Ryan Bennett scored a stoppage-time winner as Sky Bet Championship leaders Wolves came from behind to beat Bristol City 2-1 at Ashton Gate.
The game sparked into life with the dismissal of defender Danny Batth (10) after a studs-up lunge on Hordur Magnusson, before Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo was sent to the stands after impeding on the home side's technical area.
Bobby Reid fired in the game's opener when he finished off a slick Robins move (53), but Barry Douglas levelled for Wolves with a free-kick after City goalkeeper Frank Fielding was given his own marching orders for a foul on Matt Doherty (63).
And when Marlon Pack conceded a needless free-kick on the edge of the Bristol City area, Bennett capitalised and headed home Douglas' delivery to ensure the Midlands club took a 10-point lead into 2018.
Bristol City: Fielding (5), Wright (6), Flint (6), Baker (6), Magnusson (7), Brownhill (6), Smith (6), Pack (6), Bryan (7), Reid (7), Paterson (6).
Subs: Steele (5), Taylor (5), Eliasson (N/A)
Wolves: Ruddy (7), Batth (4), Coady (6), Boly (6), Doherty (6), Douglas (9), Saiss (7), Neves (6), Jota (6), Costa (5), Bonatini (5)
Subs: Bennett (7), Cavaleiro (6), Enobakhare (N/A)
Man of the match: Barry Douglas
Wolves' dominance as league leaders had somewhat waned in December, with just three goals scored in four games prior to the unprecedented 2-2 Boxing Day draw with Millwall, and they were tested from the off at Ashton Gate.
Lee Johnson deployed a back three for the first time since March and, with Magnusson playing in an advanced role, the Iceland international created two dangerous openings for the Robins inside the first 10 minutes - Wolves 'keeper John Ruddy coming to the rescue on both occasions.
Four minutes later Wolves were down to 10 when Batth took a heavy touch and lunged in on Magnusson as he tried to regain possession, before Nuno was forced to take a pew in the directors' box as referee Peter Bankes stepped in to prevent the escalation of a touchline war of words.
Within eight minutes of the second half getting underway, the hosts capitalised on their one-man advantage and took a deserved lead thanks to an effortlessly-crafted move, initiated by Josh Brownhill and finished when Reid tucked Jamie Paterson's low cross under Ruddy.
Lee Johnson made just one change for this top-of-the-table clash as Matty Taylor was replaced by Jamie Paterson. For Wolves, Danny Batth and Leo Bonatini replaced Ryan Bennett and Ivan Cavaleiro as the leaders looked to return to winning ways after their 2-2 draw with Millwall on Boxing Day.
There was further drama just after the hour mark when Fielding was sent off after he brought down Doherty as he latched onto Ivan Cavaleiro's threaded ball and Douglas - who had earlier hit the post with a free-kick - made no mistake at the second attempt.
Wolves were presented with a golden opportunity to seal the three points deep into added time after a tussle between Pack and Romain Saiss and when Douglas delivered another set-piece to the far post, Bennett rose above Nathan Baker to power the winner home.
Man of the Match - Barry Douglas
After his early free-kick hit the post, it looked as though it wasn't going to be the Scot's day, but two stunning deliveries sealed an important victory for Nuno's men in their march towards the title.
Lee Johnson: "It was a disappointing result because we were in complete control of the game until Frank Fielding was sent off. In retrospect he probably should have let the lad go round him and score so we kept our man advantage. But that is easy to say. Frankie has been fantastic for us this season and had to make a split second decision.
"You have to give huge credit to Wolves for the character they showed after going down to 10 men. It was very disappointing to lose the game so late, but there was a huge deflection involved so I can't be too critical of my defenders. Wolves are a good side and it is going to be very difficult to close a 10-point gap on them."
Nuno: "First of all I was sent from the dugout because I encroached one foot onto the pitch, not for any disrespect. We will appeal (against) the Danny Batth sending off. I need to look at it again, but I believe I have seen challenges made against us in the Championship that were not red cards.
"When you get a man sent off so early in a game you firstly have to become compact and defend well, which we did. But what character my players showed to also go forward and create the sort of chance that led to our first goal. I am very proud of the players, but I am already thinking of our next game against Brentford."
The Robins face another test when they travel to the Midlands in a New Year's Day clash with fellow promotion hopefuls Aston Villa; Wolves have an extra day to prepare for their next league game, as they welcome Dean Smith's Brentford to Molineux on Tuesday January 2.