Super Wolves march on in style
Wolves were back to their sparkling best in front of another Molineux full house and sit 11 points clear at the top of the table in this memorable season. After a winter where defensive solidity has been the bedrock of their continued success, the Wolves attack have come out of hibernation after a midwinter break in the sun and showed again here a quality of football rarely seen at this level.
Nuno selected the same team that had won at Ipswich last week with Saiss not considered because of a tight hamstring, with Bonatini and new loanee Benik Afobe giving Wolves a very strong bench;
Bennett, Coady, Boly
Doherty, N'Diaye, Neves, Douglas
Costa, Jota, Cavaleiro
Wolves were in the ascendancy from the word go and were ahead after five minutes with an exceptional goal. An excellent long ball forward by Coady sent Cavaleiro away on the left. He was tackled as he tried to cut infield with the ball falling to Neves who curled a sumptuous shot from 25 yards that hit the inside of the post and bounced in.
Sheffield were then getting plenty of the ball without causing any undue concern to the Wolves defence while Jota, Costa and Cavaleiro were a constant threat at the other end. And all three of these were involved as Wolves doubled their lead on the half hour with another stunning goal. Cavaleiro, Costa and Doherty opening up the Blades defence before the ball was played into Jota who executed a one-two with Cavaleiro before applng the finish.
Wolves could easily have increased their lead with Boly heading just over from a corner, and then after Costa was withdrawn after taking a couple of knocks, sub Bonatini was inches wide with a shot on the turn. And Sheffield's chances were gone with just over 15 minutes to play. Jota was put through on the left but the United keeper came out of his area and clattered into the striker with a red card the inevitable consequence.
From the resulting free kick, Cavaleiro's shot took a deflection and meant that the first job of the substitute keeper was to take the ball out of the net. Cav is then immediately taken off with Afobe making his return. And then Jota is also rested with Gibbs White coming on. And Afobe almost crowned his return to the club when he was narrowly wide with a header from a Doherty cross.
Ruddy 7 - highly impressive number of clean sheets to his name this season but he isn't having to work too hard to achieve that. Made some good catches from crosses though
Bennett 7 - been a model of consistency since coming in to the team
Coady 8 - continues to be a revelation and a contender for player of the season
Boly 8 - this level of football just seems too easy for him at times
Doherty 8 - back to his best here playing almost as a winger rather than wing back
N'Diaye 8 - in for the injured Saiss and the Morroccan won't find it easy getting his place back if Alf keeps this form going
Neves 9 - Fabulous goal and Wolves fans still pinching themselves to realise the club have bought in a player of this quality
Douglas 7 - one of the quieter performers on the day but didn't put a foot wrong
Costa 8 - how good to see Helder back to the form that made him player of the season last year
Jota 9 - back to his best and the one that seems to have benefitted most from the well timed winter break in Spain to absorb some Vitamin D
Cavaleiro 8 - unrecognisable from the player that struggled for consistency and form a year ago but is now one of the best players
Bonatini 7 - a lively cameo from the bench and so close to breaking his scoring duck
Afobe 7 - got a huge welcome back and another that came so close to a goal
Gibbs White 7 - getting a run of sub appearances now and is starting to really look the part
Mind the gap was one of the phrases on the lips of Wolves fans after this game. Partly to recognise the lead they have at the top of the league, but could also have been apt to describe the huge difference i
n quality between them and a Sheffield United team that started the day 7th in the table. The gap looked more like three divisions on the day. If Wolves maintain anywhere near this standard of play then the title is a formality, but Nuno will be reminding the players to keep their feet on the ground until the job is done. QPR at Molineux next Saturday and another entertaining show like this one would go down a treat.