Wolves 2 QPR 1 – Report and pictures
Wolves held on for a tense 2-1 win over QPR and extended their lead to 13 points.
Alfred N'Diaye opened the score in the 12th minute when he turned in Ivan Cavaleiro's cross and then Cavaleiro turned provider again for the second when handing Helder Costa a tap-in.
QPR pulled a goal back after half time when Conor Washington's spectacular overhead kick beat John Ruddy and Wolves rode their luck several times in a poor second half display.
Conor Coady cleared off the line in the final minute but Nuno's team saw it through.
Well that was a big more nervy than it needed to be.
Wolves were magnificent for spells of this open, entertaining clash, writes Tim Spiers at Molineux.
But they contrived to nearly throw away two points after what by Wolves terms could be termed a minor capitulation in the second half.
Nuno's team had an air of suave sophisticated in a first half display that was very easy on the eye. The stunning, delicious, intricate passing and moving that characterised last week's win over Sheffield United was back, with the dynamic Portuguese triumvirate of Jota, Costa and Cavaleiro having a metaphorical party.
At one stage it seemed only a matter of how many goals they would score, or how much fun another packed Molineux house would have.
Cue 6ft 6in beanpole striker Matt Smith. As at Loftus Road, his introduced caused Wolves no end of problems and they began to look, for one of just a few occasions this season, vulnerable.
A two-goal lead was halved and the visitors looked to take advantage of a large number of careless passes and clearances.
They very nearly did – Ruddy, Bennett and Coady had to save them – but despite some serious late pressure they just saw it through.
Not every week will be the same – Wolves have won games in all manner of ways this season – but three points and a 13-point lead (owing to Derby's draw with Norwich) is all that really matters.
Nuno unsurprisingly named the same XI that had beaten Sheffield United 3-0.
Romain Saiss was still absent with a hamstring problem, while Leo Bonatini also missed out through injury.
Saiss' absence has opened the door for Alfred N'Diaye who has produced two excellent displays in two weeks – and the first 12 minutes were all about the Senegal international.
The midfielder, in contrast to his last two performances, made a sloppy start to the game, conceding possession carelessly including one slack pass which let Conor Washington in for one of two good early chances for the striker.
Wolves hadn't really got out of the blocks – but then thanks to N'Diaye they soon took control.
Cavaleiro, who'd made a confident start with a couple of dummies, crossed from the left and N'Diaye, making a late dart into the box, turned home from close range.
That settled Wolves down and the rest of the half was was mostly about how many Wolves would score.
On 21 minutes they doubled their advantage when one of many free-flowing moves saw Cavaleiro play a one-two with Jota and then played in Costa who couldn't miss his open goal, to score his first from open play since returning from injury last September.
There were other chances – Jota flashed across the face of goal and a penalty appeal turned down after being released by Ruddy, another Jota effort was blocked after superb silky work from Costa and then Costa couldn't connect properly from Cavaleiro's cross.
The fearsome Portuguese trio up front were purring, ably supported by a team at the top of its game.
You expected Wolves to ram home their advantage in the second half. However, as with the first half, they made a sluggish start – and this time there was a consequence.
Tall striker Matt Smith caused Wolves no end of problems in the reverse fixture, coming off the bench to score the winner, and his introduction at half time sparked the visitors into life with Wolves unable to deal with his aerial presence.
Ruddy saved the striker's header from a corner but could do nothing to block the follow up – a spectacular overhead kick from Conor Washington which flew into the roof of the net.
Molineux was suddenly on edge and Wolves were uncharacteristically haphazard. Boly completely missed the ball from a deep free kick and Smith crashed a volley wide from 12 yards.
Nuno's team still looked threatening going forward – Jota was twice denied by last-ditch blocks – but at the other end QPR were getting plenty of joy down both flanks.
A corner was carelessly allowed to drop in the six-yard box but Wolves scrambled clear, Ruddy made a fine save to deny Wszolek after another dozy N'Diaye moment and then Ryan Bennett produced a magnificent goal-saving sliding block from a dangerous low cross.
Nuno attempted to reverse the trend by sending on Benik Afobe and Morgan Gibbs-White for Cavaleiro and Costa but with 10 minutes to go the contest was finely poised.
The subs combined nicely when Afobe headed Gibbs-White's cross not far wide. And then came Afobe's big moment – a superb opportunity from six yards out from Jota's cross...but he turned it wide.
This came just after the striker peeled wide right to cross low for Doherty who got his bearings wrong from a great position.
The subs had made their required impact with Gibbs-White showing gumption and confidence on the ball, not least when he nutmegged someone.
Wolves looked to be back in the ascendancy but they had to endure a late wobble. Ruddy saved from Washington who was through on goal and Eze's follow-up was cleared off the line by Coady.
There were a couple of hairy moments in the dying minutes but Wolves saw it through for another big victory in their promotion chase.
5 – Big chance for Conor Washington but his 12-yard shot is turned wide by John Ruddy.
12 – GOAL – Ivan Cavaleiro's cross is turned in by ALFRED N'DIAYE after he darted late into the six-yard box.
21 – GOAL – Cavaleiro plays a one-two with Jota and is in on goal, he tees up HELDER COSTA who can't miss from close range.
51 – GOAL – Wolves don't deal with a corner and CONOR WASHINGTON beats Ruddy with a spectacular overhead kick.
53 – Boly misses a free kick and Matt Smith crashes a free 12-yard volley over the bar.
73 – Magnificent sliding block from Ryan Bennett ahead of Smith from Wszolek's cross.
84 – Benik Afobe turns Jota's cross wide from a great position.
90 – Coady saves on the line from Eze after Ruddy blocks Washington's shot.
Wolves (3-4-3): John Ruddy; Bennett, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty, N'Diaye, Saiss, Douglas; Costa, Jota, Cavaleiro (Afobe, 64). Subs: Norris, Batth, Miranda, Vinagre, Gibbs-White, Mir.
Goals: N'Diaye (12), Costa (21)
QPR (5-3-2): Smithies, Robinson, Perch (Eze, 42), Onuoha, Lynch, Bidwell, Wszolek, Freeman, Cousins (Smith, 45), Scowen, Washington. Subs: Ingram, Baptiste, Chair, Osayi-Samuel, Oteh.
Goals: Washington (51)
Referee: Geoff Eltringham
1st (71 points from 31 matches)