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Wolverhampton Wanderers shock Manchester City as Guardiola watches from stands

Observing from the directors’ box, Pep Guardiola witnessed a stunning turn of events as Wolverhampton Wanderers upset the reigning treble winners in a 2-1 victory.

Following his yellow card in Manchester City’s 1-0 loss against Newcastle earlier in the week, Guardiola could not join his team on the sideline in their match against the Wolves. This marked the Spaniard’s third caution in domestic play this season, triggering a one-game suspension that compelled him to witness every City fan’s nightmare unfolding before him.

Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City, reacts from the stands, serving a touchline ban suspension during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at Molineux on September 30, 2023 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Leading up to the game, anticipation surrounded the question of who would fill the void left by Rodri, who was serving a three-game suspension. Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovačić stepped up to the plate, making his fifth appearance of the season for City as he assumed the pivotal role of Rodri’s replacement.

Ederson, Kyle Walker, Rúben Dias, and Phil Foden returned; while Kevin De Bruyne, John Stones, and Bernardo Silva remained sidelined through injury.

Starting Man City XI: Ederson; Walker, Akanji, Dias, Aké; Kovacic, Nunes, Foden, Doku, Alvarez; Haaland.

Subs: Ortega, Carson, Phillips, Grealish, Gomez, Gvardiol, Bobb, Lewis

Starting Wolves XI: Sá; Dawson, Kilman, Toti Gomes; Semedo, Lemina, Joao Gomes, Nouri; Neto, Hee-Chan Hwang, Cunha.

Subs: Bentley, Bueno, Otto, Hodge, Doherty, Boubacar Traore, Kalajdzic, Fabio Silva, Sarabia.

What started as a high-press match for Manchester City, quickly turned into an unsuccessful race to get a win on the road. 

The Wolves seized the lead at home in just 12 minutes when winger Pedro Neto capitalized on a turnover in the Wolves’ defensive half; he sprinted down the right side, outpacing Nathan Aké. Running the ball to the top of the six-yard box, his attempt to pass to Matheus Cunha inadvertently deflected off Dias’ shin, chipping the ball over Ederson and finding the back of the net.

Despite being down, City retained control of the ball, continually creating chances in the attacking third.

In quick succession, they were granted two free-kick opportunities just outside the 18-yard box, featuring Julián Alvarez, who had blanked last weekend. However, with 11 attempts on goal, City failed to convert and capitalize on these promising chances.

As the first half unfolded, the Wolves also had their share of opportunities yet they struggled to get the ball out from under their feet and muster any meaningful attempts on goal. 

City concluded the half with a free kick from Foden, who found the head of Dias attempting to make amends for his earlier own goal, sending it directly toward Wolves goalkeeper José Sá.

Having won 18 of their last 20 premier league games, City entered the second half down a goal and looking for a comeback – and a comeback they made.

After a free-kick was drawn in the 56 minute outside of the 18-yard box by Oscar Bobb, Alvarez curved the ball into the inside left corner. Sá was able to get a hand to it, but it wasn’t enough due to the power and precision from Alvarez – it was pinpoint perfection from the World Cup winner.

The equalizer gave City fans a glimpse of hope that they could win this game, which they should’ve been able to all along. Just ten minutes later, however, that glimpse of hope was diminished.

Yet another turnover in the Wolves’ defensive half sparked a swift counter-attack down the right flank, which had been notably vulnerable for City throughout the match.

Nelson Semedo crossed the ball into the 18-yard box, hoping to find the feet of Cunha, but the cross was cleared by Manuel Akanji. Akanji, seemingly confident that he had cleared the ball enough, stood motionless as he observed Cunha lay off the ball to Hwang, who calmly placed it into the right side of the goal. Walker, who earned a yellow card in the first half, attempted to clear the ball with a header but fell short of success as Wolves retook the lead.

Hee-chan Hwang of Wolverhampton Wanderers scores his team’s second goal during the Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester City at Molineux on September 30, 2023 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Jack Thomas – WWFC/Wolves via Getty Images)

Tension started to mount when Jack Grealish, who recently returned from a thigh injury, entered the game in the 79th minute.

In a heated moment, Hwang drew a tackle in the Wolves’ defensive half, leading to Jeremy Doku receiving a yellow card for attempting to roll Hwang off the field to resume play and prevent the Wolves from wasting more time – Sá felt left out of the action and decided to join the argument with the ref, receiving a yellow card for himself in the process.

An extra six minutes of added time saw City press forward, yet they struggled to convert any of their opportunities.

Erling Haaland found himself deprived of clear chances at the net, with former West Ham defender Craig Dawson closely shadowing him and stifling any potential opportunities.

With just eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers, City suffered their first league defeat since May – marking their second setback within only four days.

What initially seemed to be Wolverhampton’s worst start to a Premier League season in four years took a stunning turn, leaving City fans dismayed as the Wolves emerged with three points against the reigning treble winners; City had been on the cusp of their best-ever start to a Premier League season, making the upset all the more shocking.

As they return home defeated, City have much to figure out ahead of their match against Arsenal. 

If they hope to get out of this slump and become champions again, it’s time Guardiola makes some changes.

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