London (AFP) – A wonderful strike by Portuguese star Ruben Neves was sufficient to see Wolverhampton Wanderers beat an unlucky Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Friday and extend their lead at the top of the Championship.
The 20-year-old — the most expensive player in the second tier with Wolves paying nigh on £16 million ($21.3 million) in the close season — struck in the first half of a match that saw their opponents reduced to 10 men in the final five minutes with Morgan Fox sent off for a second bookable offence.
Wolves’ victory — the first time they have won four successive away matches without conceding a goal — sees them stretch their lead to seven points over Cardiff who host Hull on Saturday.
“I thought it was deserved but it was tough, credit to Sheffield Wednesday,” Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo told Sky Sports.
“We controlled the game but there is one ‘but’ in our game and that is choosing the right option to get another goal.”
While he celebrated, his Sheffield Wednesday counterpart and compatriot Carlos Carvalhal will see the pressure mount as the Owls’ winless run extended to six.
Adam Reach should have gone closer in Wednesday’s first attempt on goal after 20 minutes as Jordan Rhodes chested it down to him but he blasted his effort well wide.
The lively Reach then turned provider three minutes later as he swung in a terrific cross but Joost van Aken’s header was well saved by John Ruddy.
Neves broke the deadlock in the 34th minute when a clearance from a free-kick fell to him and the 20-year-old caressed it into the far corner from 25 yards for his second goal of the campaign.
Neves showed he is just as effective at the other end as Wednesday pressed hard for an equaliser and he was on hand to block Ross Wallace’s close-range effort as the hour mark approached.
The leaders then went close to doubling their lead first through Romain Saiss whose header went just past the post and then Leo Bonatini saw his shot drift the wrong side of the post.
The game, though, was up for the hosts — whose miserable home record with their visitors reads just one win in 19 clashes since 1964 — when Fox got sent off after clipping the heels of Helder Costa.
The crowd of just under 24,000 voiced their dissatisfaction with Carvalhal — who was sitting in the stands serving a one-match touchline ban — at the final whistle.