Ruben Neves produced a decisive moment of quality to extend Wolverhampton Wanderers’ lead at the top of the Championship to seven points and pile more pressure on Sheffield Wednesday manager Carlos Carvalhal.
While Wolves’ Portuguese manager Nuno Espirito Santo continues to churn out results – even when his team are not at their fluent best – his compatriot Carvalhal continues to drift away from the play-off places. A “Carlos Out” banner could be seen unveiled by fans close to the full-time whistle.
This game was the one in which Carvalhal endured his one-match touchline ban and his mood will not be improved by this defeat, stretching their winless run to six matches, with Morgan Fox being dismissed for a second booking late on.
Carvalhal served his touchline ban by sitting in the stands, keeping a low profile with his collar turned up. With his assistant Lee Bullen patrolling the technical area in his absence, the Yorkshire side made a solid enough start.
Wolves’ only early sight on goal came when Ivan Cavaleiro dragged a shot wide from the edge of the penalty area. Wednesday grew in confidence and spurned chances when Adam Reach sliced wide, then Joost van Aken had a header saved by John Ruddy.
Tensions started to rise when Wednesday failed to put the ball out of play while Leo Bonatini was on the ground, needing treatment. That was quickly followed by Wolves’ Diogo Jota being booked for clattering into Liam Palmer.
There was an immediate reaction from Wednesday’s Jacob Butterfield, who also saw yellow for his challenge on Cavaleiro.
From the free-kick, Cavaleiro found Willy Boly, who headed the ball back towards the edge of the area, and Neves then took advantage by drilling a 20-yard strike beyond goalkeeper Joe Wildsmith.
Wednesday could count themselves unlucky to be behind at the break and they started the second half brightly, forcing three corners in quick succession. They then gave Wolves a scare when Gary Hooper headed the ball into a dangerous area, but Neves made an important clearance.
The home side tried to add to the pressure with a double substitution as they looked to go more direct with Lucas Joao and Atdhe Nuhiu thrown on. They instantly wasted a chance in the air, though, as Joao headed over with his first touch.
Wednesday’s hopes were effectively ended in the 85th minute, when Fox received his second yellow for fouling Helder Costa after the Wolves winger had got the better of him.
Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2) Wildsmith; Palmer, Loovens, Van Aken, Fox; Wallace, Jones, Butterfield (Joao 64), Reach; Rhodes (Nuhiu 64), Hooper. Subs Kean (g), Matias, Pudil, Abdi, Venancio. Booked Butterfield, Fox. Sent off Fox.
Wolverhampton Wanderers (3-4-3) Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Saiss, Vinagre (Batth 67); Cavaleiro (N’Diaye 90), Bonatini (Costa 72), Jota. Subs Norris (g), Gibbs-White, Miranda, Enobakhare. Booked Jota, Bennett, Neves.
Referee Darren Bond (Lancashire).