Wolves 3-2 Preston: Leo Bonatini scores twice as Wolves cement top spot
By Press Association
Last Updated: 21/10/17 6:36pm
Wolves strengthened their position at the top of the Sky Bet Championship as a second-half double from Leo Bonatini helped them earn a hard-fought 3-2 win against Preston.
Preston impressed in the first half but Ivan Cavaleiro gave Wolves a 44th-minute lead with his second goal of the season and Bonatini doubled their advantage from the penalty spot just before the hour mark, and then grabbed his seventh goal of the campaign four minutes later.
Wolves then looked set to cruise to a third successive win - and a fifth in six games - but Preston, who had arrived at Molineux on the back of a nine-game unbeaten run, made them battle all the way for it.
Jordan Hugill, who was a summer target for Wolves, reduced the arrears with his seventh goal of the season in the 65th minute when he scored for the third straight game, and Wolves defender Conor Coady turned the ball into his own net on 76 minutes to ensure a tense finish.
Tempers became frayed as the visitors pressed for an equaliser, and Preston midfielder Alan Browne was sent off for a second bookable offence. Browne left the pitch without being shown the card and had to return to be formally dismissed by referee Stephen Martin.
Wolves almost gifted Preston the lead in the 14th minute after a misplaced pass from full-back Barry Douglas. Darnell Fisher fed a short ball into the path of Daniel Johnson, whose low drive from 20 yards was turned away by goalkeeper John Ruddy.
Johnson was presented with another gilt-edged chance in the 29th minute after Hugill had dispossessed Wolves central defender Roderick Miranda. Tom Barkhuizen picked up the loose ball and crossed into the path of Johnson, whose first-time close range drive flashed over the bar.
That second let-off finally sparked Wolves into life, and Cavaleiro gave them the lead on the stroke of half-time. Matt Doherty fed the ball to Douglas and his cross flew straight to Cavaleiro, who made no mistake by bundling the ball home at the far post.
Wolves looked a different proposition after taking the lead, and they appeared to have made the game safe with a quick-fire double from Bonatini. First he converted from the penalty spot after Doherty had been upended by Josh Harrop. Bonatini then had the simple task of stabbing the ball into an empty net after goalkeeper Chris Maxwell had beaten away a shot from Jota.
That should have been game over, but Preston grabbed a lifeline when Hugill powered home a header from a Browne cross. That put Wolves on edge and their nerves really were jangling when Barkhuizen crossed from the right and Coady sliced the ball into his own net.
Nuno: "Three points is important but what does not leave us totally pleased is our performance. In the first half, there was too much stopping, too much holding. Preston are a good side and their game plan was all about controlling our game. In the second half we were much better.
"Refereeing is difficult and it is unfair for me to judge all the situations but what I saw was too much holding on our players - he (referee Stephen Martin) must stop this and punish them. It's football, and holding is not part of football. It is good that we scored three goals against a side that had the best defence in the league but at the same time we conceded two."
Alex Neil: "It is a feeling of frustration as much as anything. I thought that the penalty was extremely harsh. I have seen it back and there was not much contact. Then if you look back at the third goal our goalkeeper is clearly impeded and the referee chooses to do nothing about it.
"To add insult to injury at the end of the match there is a melee in the middle of the pitch, two of our players get booked, one gets sent off and one of theirs is booked and we have clear video footage that one of their players elbows Ben Pearson straight in the face. I know it sounds like sour grapes but I am fed up getting bad decisions against us at times."