Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez scored twice in the space of 134 first-half seconds as Wolves eased to a 2-0 home Premier League victory over Cardiff City.
Wolves’ win was a first in four top-flight games and tightened their grip on seventh place in the table.
The result was never in doubt after Jimenez scored his 11th league goal of the season in the 18th minute to double his side’s advantage on Saturday.
Cardiff, who stay in the relegation zone, have now lost three consecutive matches, conceding 10 goals in the process.
John Ruddy, making a first top-flight appearance since May 2016 as Wolves gave him game-time ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final with Manchester United, had an early scare in gathering Aron Gunnarsson’s effort at the second attempt after initially fumbling.
But it was Wolves who struck twice in quick succession to seize full control. In the 16th minute, a magnificent passing move was finished off by Jota from 10 yards after the eventual goalscorer, Jimenez and Morgan Gibbs-White were all involved in the build-up.
Sol Bamba was to blame for the hosts’ second, losing possession to Jimenez in a dangerous area, the striker then seeing his improvised cross played back to him by Jota before completing a simple finish.
These three for that first goal…
— Wolves (@Wolves) March 2, 2019
With Cardiff in disarray, Leander Dendoncker had time to hit the post and force a fine save from Neil Etheridge, while Bamba had to leave the pitch on a stretcher before the break.
Wolves, who replaced Jota almost immediately after the restart, should have extended their lead when Etheridge superbly denied Ruben Vinagre, after the wing-back opted to shoot instead of play in Adama Traore.
A third goal proved elusive with the impressive Etheridge superbly keeping out Jimenez late on, but it mattered little with Ruddy not having a second-half save to make until the 87th minute.
What does it mean? Bluebirds miss chance in concerning display
On a day where Southampton were away at in-form Manchester United, Cardiff would have sensed an opportunity to make up ground towards the bottom of the table. Instead, they performed poorly at both ends of the pitch and remain 18th, two points adrift of safety.
Meanwhile, Molineux is becoming a fortress for Wolves, who have now won five of their last six games there, having only tasted victory in four of the opening 12 this season.
— Wolves (@Wolves) March 2, 2019
Serving Jimenez crucial for Wolves
When Wolves have Jimenez involved in the game and get their pacey attacking players closer to him, they look a completely different side – as highlighted by their free-flowing display here.
The former Benfica star was superb, finishing with a goal and an assist, setting up a total of four chances for his team-mates with a combination of his strength and skill coming to the fore.
Bad day for Bamba
It was a miserable afternoon for Bamba, who foolishly lost possession trying to beat Jimenez with a piece of skill deep in his own half ahead of the second goal. His day then got worse as he left the field with an apparently serious injury sustained as he chased down Traore.
Key Opta Facts
– Wolves have won 12 league games this season, their highest total of wins in a top-flight campaign since 1980-81 (13).
– Cardiff have lost five of their last seven Premier League matches (W2), conceding two or more goals in each defeat.
– Wolves have lost just one of their last seven matches in the Premier League (W4 D2).
– Wolves’ Diogo Jota has been directly involved in nine goals in his last seven games in all competitions at Molineux (5 goals, 4 assists).
Wolves go into next Sunday’s Premier League trip to Chelsea with confidence, while the pressure is on Cardiff as they host West Ham a day earlier.
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