A West Midlands derby which, at Molineux, could see Wolverhampton Wanderers clinch the title after securing automatic promotion after Fulham dropped points at home to Brentford.
Birmingham still without Che Adams after his red card away to Bolton two games ago. Cheick N’Doye started in the midfield, as Garry Monk set out his side in what looked like a five at the back, but played out as two banks of four.
Wolves played a 3-4-3 as they have been all season, with Willy Bolly at the back who’s always a key figure in stopping the opposition in defence. Birmingham, surprisingly, had the first chance in the game where Maxine Colin forced John Ruddy into a sensational double save, the closest Birmingham came all half.
Ivan Cavaliero started the game on the wing but he was substituted early when Leo Bonantini replaced him. The possession count was never going to be in the away sides favour, standing at 78% Wolves after twenty minutes played. Nuno’s men were too comfortable and it did not seem like Blues were going to do much in the game to test the hosts bound for the top flight.
It seemed Harlee Dean had sold himself when Matt Doherty was open on the right hand side who received the ball and slid it through for Diego Jota Silva who tapped home to put the Wanderers ahead, Jota’s 16th goal of the season. The game hotted up, N’Doye coming into contact with superstar Ruben Neves but no free kick, the game began to grow to the potential of a proper derby.
The party atmosphere really began to emerge after Jota’s opener in the 21st minute. Before the half time interval, the visitors did come back into the game, but they couldn’t afford any chances that really tested Ruddy in the Wolves goal. So at the break, Wolves led the midlands derby 1-0.
In the second half the game was hotting up, Harlee Dean getting more involved at the back, Mikael Kieftenbeld became more of a key figure, seeing himself block a few passes which in the end helped his side break up the pitch. Lukas Jutkiewicz seemed a bit alone up front, maybe that was the idea from Birmingham’s perspective, although Jota & Colin were struggling to create anything down the wide areas of the pitch. David Davis was having a quiet game in the middle, it was total Wolves domination, just how Nuno Esporito Santo likes it. Leo Bonantini was key to Wolves’ attack as they surged forward but the visitors who were in relegation trouble themselves did well to hold off their opponents.
Birmingham were defending well until Ruben Neves slipped a through ball through to Helder Costa who was near enough one on one with Stockdale. Blues captain Dean brought Costa down and was shown a straight red card to see Blues down to ten. Kieftenbeld suffered as Blues sacrificed a midfielder for a defender, Marc Roberts entered the fray.
From here on in Blues were never going to get anything, a snap shot from Jutkiewicz saw Ruddy give the boys in royal blue a corner but nothing came from that a Bolly headered to safety. A latter opportunity for the visitors to get into the game , but Jutkiewicz, again, failed. Michael Morrison was there with him, if only he had passed, the match could have ended very differently. Instead, it ended in Bournemouth loanee Benik Afobe making it 2-0 with a smart finish to send the Blues fans home with a 2-0 defeat.
Premier league next for Wolves, for Birmingham, Garry Monk’s side still have three cup finals against Sheffield United, Queens Park Rangers and Fulham.
RCB Coady (C) , CB Bennett , LCB Bolly
RWB Doherty , RCM Neves , LCM Saiss , LWB Douglas
RW Costa , CF Jota , LW Caveliero
RB Harding , CB Morrison , CB Dean (C) , LB Grounds
RM Jota , RCM N’Doye , LCM Kieftenbeld , LM Colin
Possession – Wolves 76% , Blues 23%
Shots on goal – Wolves 13 , Blues 9
Shots on target – Wolves 6 , Blues 4
Corners – Wolves 4 , Blues 4
Fouls committed – Wolves 11 , Blues 10
Yellow cards – Wolves 0 , Blues 2
Red cards – Wolves 0 , Blues 1