Wolves 2-0 Birmingham City: Championship – as it happened

Rob Smyth on 15 April 2018

Full time: Wolves 2-0 Birmingham

Peep peep! That was a fairly comfortable win for Wolves, who now need one point to formally clinch the title and five to reach 100. Diogo Jota and Benik Afobe scored classy goals, and some of the football they played was really lovely. Thanks for your company, congratulations to Wolves, bye!

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89 min Gardner’s overhit free-kick from the left bounces off the top of the Wolves crossbar.

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GOAL! Wolves 2-0 Birmingham (Afobe 87)

From 1-1, almost, to 2-0. Afobe, put clear by a fine angled pass from N’Diaye, chips the ball classily over the outrushing Stockdale.

Afobe celebrates scoring the second.
Afobe celebrates scoring the second. Photograph: Nigel French/PA

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86 min Birmingham almost nick an equaliser! A long free-kick is headed down towards Jutkiewicz in the six-yard area. Ruddy smothers the chance but the ball breaks to Jutkiewicz, whose shot on the turn is blocked by the keeper. He should have played it back to Morrison, who would have had a clear shot at goal from eight yards.

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84 min Yet another lovely move from Wolves. Helder Costa releases Douglas, who looks up and cuts the ball back to Afobe in space. He moves the ball onto his leftg foot and smacks a rising shot just wide from 12 yards.

83 min Birmingham just can’t get the ball, which must be a particularly miserable state of affairs when you are a goal and a man down.

80 min “I haven’t actually seen too much of Wolves this year,” says Matt Dony. “Do you think Neves is really good enough to tear up the Premier League? Or will he merely be ‘a decent player’, one of those ones who kind of fall in between the Championship and the Premier League?”

I don’t think he’ll tear it up but he’ll be comfortable. Wolves should do well next season.

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79 min In the last ten minutes, Wolves have had 93 per cent possession. Birmingham make their final change, with Craig Gardner replacing Ndoye.

78 min Wolves are passing the clock down. They are so smooth and confident in possession. After a long passing move, Helder Costa flashes a low ball across the face of goal.

75 min N’Diaye fouls Maghoma 20 yards from goal, a fair way to the left of centre. Maghoma curls the free-kick a few yards over the bar. Ruddy had it covered and pulled his hand down at the last minute.

74 min Another Wolves change: Benik Afobe replaces the goalscorer Diogo Jota.

74 min On reflection, I don’t think that was a penalty - Roberts put hands on Saiss but it was not enough for a foul.

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73 min A brilliant little through pass from Bonatini releases Saiss, whose stabbed low shot is saved well by Stockdale. It looked like Saiss was being manhandled by Roberts in the area before he shot, but there were no appeals for a penalty.

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70 min A Wolves substitution: the brilliant Ruben Neves is replaced by Alfred N’Diaye.

66 min Diogo Jota wins a corner off Harding. It’s swung in by Douglas and claimed confidently by Stockdale.

64 min Birmingham are stll in this game you know. A right-wing corner breaks to the substitute Maghoma, whose low shot is kicked away by Douglas in the six-yard box.

62 min Another Birmingham substition: Maghoma replaces Grounds.

61 min Another slick move from Wolves. Doherty plays a one-two with Bonatini and drives a low cross that is cleared inside the six-yard box by Roberts.

58 min Birmingham almost equalise through a fine effort from Jutkiewicz, who rolls Coady and whacks a rising drive from a tight angle that is fingertipped over by the leaping Ruddy.

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57 min “You’re doing a championship MBM on a Sunday?” sniffs Nick Parmenter. “Is this a punishment or demotion of sorts?”

55 min Word to the wise: don’t mis-spell Harlee Dean’s name when you Google him.

54 min Birmingham bring on a defender, Marc Roberts, for Kieftenfeld. When play finally resumes, Neves whistles a fine free-kick just wide of the far post.

DEAN SENT OFF FOR BIRMINGHAM

52 min Harlee Dean is sent off for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity. He was the last man and lunged desperately at Helder Costa, who was about to skip through on goal.

Dean, shown red.
Dean, shown red. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Offside/Getty Images

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51 min Wolves have picked up where they left off before half-time. Birmingham are doing well to stay in the game as they are being outclassed.

47 min Boly dinks a nice pass down the left for Diogo Jota, who scoots away from Harding and through on goal. Stockwell comes to meet him and makes a good save with his chest.

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46 min Peep peep! Birmingham begin the second half.

“Afternoon Rob,” says Simon McMahon. “Congratulations to Wolves, one of the truly great names in English football. About time they were back in the big league. Anyone who has read Scott Murray’s The Title can’t fail to have a soft spot for the team of the magnificent Stan Cullis.”

Amen to that. It’s a glorious book, too. Do yourself a solid and buy it.

Half time: Wolves 1-0 Birmingham

Peep peep! Wolves lead through a classy team goal, scored by Diogo Jota, and have controlled the game without creating many chances. Birmingham aren’t out of this, but they need more going forward. See you in 10 minutes for the second half.

45+3 min Helder Costa plays a lovely reverse pass to release the underlapping Doherty, whose first-time shot is vitally blocked by Morrison.

Doherty fires a shot at goal.
Doherty fires a shot at goal. Photograph: Philip Oldham/BPI/REX/Shutterstock

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45 min This is a decent little spell for Birmingham. Harding swings a long angled cross to Jutkiewicz, who heads over from 15 yards. It wasn’t much of a chance.

43 min Morrison is booked for a foul on Diogo Jota.

41 min Grounds’ cross is won in the air by Jutkiewicz and almost comes to Davis. Ruddy rushes from his line to claim the ball.

40 min As well as Birmingham have defended, they have been poor going forward. There was that early chance for Colin, but generally they have struggled to keep the ball. They need to find a way to get Jota into the game.

38 min Wolves’ passing is so clean and confident; it’s lovely to watch. It will be fascinating to see if they have the courage to play the same way in the Premier League. I hope and think they will.

35 min Helder Costa turns superbly away from Grounds down the right and cuts the ball back to Bonatini, whose deflected shot is comfortably saved by Stockdale.

32 min Grounds is booked for a fierce body check on Diogo Jota.

29 min A long spell of Wolves possession is accompanied by olés from the fans. Eventually Douglas loses the ball to Colin, and that’s that.

27 min It’s been a game of few chances, one per side really. Wolves are still dominating possession.

24 min The Wolves fans are unhappy that Davis was not penalised for a lunge at Neves. He did get the ball, though his studs were showing.

GOAL! Wolverhampton 1-0 Birmingham (Diogo Jota 21)

Wolves take the lead with a lovely team goal. Neves and Saiss played fine passes to release the right wing-back Doherty, who fizzed a beautiful first-time cross into the six-yard area. Diogo Jota got in front of Harding to tap it into the net. That was a goal of gorgeous simplicity.

Jota scores the opener.
Jota scores the opener. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Action Images via Reuters

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17 min Neves tries to hit another Goal of the Season contender from 25 yards. It’s too close to Stockdale, who saves comfortably.

16 min An early Wolves substitution. The injured Cavaleiro is replaced by Leo Bonatini. I think he’s torn a muscle in his leg.

15 min Birmingham will be really pleased with this start. They have kept Wolves at arm’s length and had the best chance on the break.

11 min Colin is denied by a superb double save from Ruddy! Jutkiewicz’s short pass put him through on goal - he was offside but not flagged - and he belted a left-footed shot that was beaten away by Ruddy. The ball came back to Colin, who adjusted his body smartly to hit a deflected volley back towards goal. Ruddy got straight to his feet and leapt to his left to palm the ball away.

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9 min It’s all Wolves, though Birmingham have been solid and compact defensively.

7 min “Ah, Conor Coady,” says Ian Copestake. “He is one of the reasons why I never allow myself (any excitement) to believe that youth players bigged up as the next Gerrard, etc will be anything but sold on. Woodburn included.”

I’m the same. I never got over Jules Maiorana.

6 min Wolves are having lots of possession, with the centre-backs spread as wide as the pitch allows. It’s a very expansive system.

3 min A quiet start to the match - on the field, that is. Off it, the Wolves fans are making a wonderful racket.

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1 min Peep peep! After a belting chorus of Hi Ho Wolverhampton, the home side kick off.

I say this every time I MBM a Championship game, but Keith Andrews is such a good pundit. I hope somebody has signed him for the World Cup.

Nuno speaks! “I’m very, very proud. We have done fantastic work in all parts of the club. Thank you to all our fans. The boys are focused and relaxed today, which is the best way to be to play a football game.”

Wolves’ promotion was confirmed last night, and there have been suggestions that the players will have been celebrating by quaffing pints of Promotion Juice. In the circumstances I think it would be pretty distasteful if, when the match kicks off, the Wolves players are anything other than 100% ABV.

Team news

Wolves (3-4-3) Ruddy; Bennett, Coady, Boly; Doherty, Neves, Saiss, Douglas; Helder Costa, Diogo Jota, Cavaleiro.
Substitutes: Norris, N’Diaye, Batth, Afobe, Gibbs-White, Hause, Bonatini.

Birmingham (4-4-1-1) Stockdale; Harding, Morrison, Dean, Grounds; Colin, Ndoye, Kieftenbeld, Jota; Davis; Jutkiewicz.
Substitutes: Kuszczak, Roberts, Maghoma, Gardner, Lowe, Dacres-Cogley, Lubala

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Preamble

Hello and welcome to live coverage of Wolves’ promotion party at Molineux. Yep, the pack is back! Today’s game against Birmingham will be the backdrop to a celebration of the 42 matches that have gone before – the ones that have put Wolves back among the elite of English football. It’s faintly absurd that a club of this size have spent only four of the last 34 seasons in the top flight, but they have a chance to change that over the next few years.

Nobody would begrudge them this achievement, except maybe Neil Warnock. They have clearly been the best team in the Championship. They have played some beautiful football. Most of all, they have kept feeling fascination; looking, learning, moving on.

Today’s match doesn’t really matter, but Wolves will still want to win and put on a show. They need eight points from the last four games to reach 100. And they probably wouldn’t be devastated if they ushered Birmingham towards relegation.

Kick off is at 12pm. The party started at 7.15pm last night.

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