Cardiff 2 Wolves 1 – Report and pictures
Wolves crashed to a fifth defeat in six as Cardiff came from behind to win 2-1.
Doherty gave Wolves the lead in the 18th minute when he fired home after Raul Jimenez's header had been saved.
Cardiff equalised in the second half when the defence and Rui Patricio failed to deal with a high ball into the box and Aron Gunnarsson volleyed into the net from close range.
And with 13 minutes left the hosts took the lead when Junior Hoilett curled home a stunning strike from 20 yards.
Wolves have very fond memories of their last trip here...their memories of this Friday night though will be nothing but miserable.
Five defeats in six, edging towards the relegation strugglers, a team bereft of confidence – this is getting pretty serious now, writes Tim Spiers at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Wolves had never lost under Nuno Espirito Santo after taking the lead. They'd never failed to win on a Friday night under him either. Yes, it's unknown territory for Wolves under the man that fans have worshipped like a demigod for 15 months.
It was all going so well when Matt Doherty gave them an early lead. Nuno had enlisted a back-to-basics approach that including hoofed clearances (!) and plenty of physicality. It was working, Cardiff were frustrated.
But their downfall, as it has been time and again this season, came in front of goal.
As at Arsenal three weeks ago, they couldn't find a killer second goal. That elusive clinical touch was so sorely lacking.
Indeed, even when they were busy winning in the first half, they didn't look like scoring from open play. They created a few half chances when chasing the game, but keeper Neil Etheridge had barely a thing to do.
Nuno's ballsy selection of Romain Saiss at centre half raised eyebrows aplenty but Saiss played well, he wasn't the issue.
It was up front, where the ball just didn't stick all game and Wolves couldn't create or find a goal when it mattered.
It's been their bugbear all season long. Adama Traore, Helder Costa, Diogo Jota and Ivan Cavaleiro cost £48million in total but have contributed three goals and no assists between them all season.
Before this game they'd created the fourth most chances in the league and had the fifth most shots, but they've mustered just 13 goals.
It's not good enough – and at this rate it will cost Wolves a successful season.
Nuno sprang one of the biggest team news surprises of his Wolves tenure, handing Romain Saiss his first start of the season at right centre-back – a position he struggled in during pre-season – and dropping Ryan Bennett.
Ivan Cavaleiro was also dropped, with Adama Traore making his second Wolves start. Young academy wing-back Ryan Giles, who impressed in the summer friendlies, was handed a spot on the bench in the league for the first time, however £12m man Leander Dendoncker wasn't involved.
Cardiff had makeshift striker Callum Paterson up front again after his run of three goals in five matches.
At a soaking Cardiff City Stadium there was a big-game atmosphere in the build-up reminiscent of that effective title-decider back in April – and indeed the first half felt like a Championship match.
Whereas a few teams have matched Wolves' three-at-the-back formation this season to try and counter them (yes, including Cardiff), it was Nuno's team who took a leaf out of their opponent's book, to great effect.
They were physical, raw, kept it simple and yes, hoofed the ball clear on several occasions as they went back to basics to try and grind out a result.
Normally hoofing it clear would probably lead to a fine of two weeks' wages from Nuno, but with a team in need of a result they were happy to sacrifice their usual style – and it was working well.
Saiss, Conor Coady and Willy Boly were all impressive in the first half, especially the former who slotted seamlessly into the back three.
In front of them Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho were tight and compact and the wing-backs rarely ventured forward.
The problem came up front where the ball just wasn't sticking. Wolves often looked for Traore with a long ball over the top to utilise his pace, but neither he, Raul Jimenez or Helder Costa seemed to keep possession for more than two touches, much to Nuno's clear frustration. It meant Wolves couldn't build up any momentum and the ball kept coming back at them.
However it was a successful half in terms of scoring first and earning that all-important lead. It came to them via the rare source of a set piece, with Jimenez's near-post header from Moutinho's outswinger well saved, but Doherty lashed home the rebound into the roof of the net. It was his second goal in three appearances at this ground.
Wolves always look a better team when in front but Cardiff certainly had their moments in a fractured half.
They were within a whisker of equalising when Joe Ralls' fabulous hit smacked the post after Wolves failed to clear a corner.
Set pieces and Aron Gunnarsson's long throws were Cardiff's main route to goal and it almost worked when Sean Morrison's header across goal just evaded Sol Bamba.
Other than that, the half was bereft of chances and also quality. Wolves had an opportunity to race through four-on-two on the counter but a dreadful Traore touch ended that one, while Cardiff had a penalty shout turned down after Vinagre clashed with Callum Paterson, who thick, bushy moustache made him look like his surname should be Carolgees.
All that mattered, though, as the teams went in at the break, was the scoreline.
It was a slow, fairly turgid start to the second half with the two sides regularly giving possession away.
Wolves fashioned a chance when Moutinho and Costa combined down the left before the latter crossed towards Jimenez, who was already on the floor but headed goalwards, straight at the keeper.
Neves was then booked for a late trip, his fifth yellow of the season meaning he'll miss Wednesday's game against Chelsea.
But that blow paled into insignificance when, minutes later, Cardiff equalised.
Seconds after Arter flashes a fabulous volley inches wide via a Coady deflection, Wolves miserably failed to deal with a high hoof into the box from a cleared corner.
Morrison was all alone to head to Gunnarsson who had the time to take a touch and volley home from six yards, past a flailing Patricio who neither came nor went to collect the high ball. It was statuesque defending from the whole defence and a dreadful goal to concede.
Nuno reacted by introducing Morgan Gibbs-White in place of Traore. Wolves went close on the counter when a brilliant Morrison blocked denied Jota (who had replaced the anonymous Costa) a tap-in from Jimenez's cross, but it was Cardiff who had the momentum and a passionate home crowd now fully behind them.
They took the lead with 13 minutes to go in stunning fashion. Wolves made a couple of blocks in the box and the ball came out to Junior Hoilett who curled a majestic 20-yarder into the net via the bottom of the bar.
Wolves looked rocked. Cavaleiro replaced Vinagre as Nuno went for broke with eight minutes to go and the Portuguese forward almost made an instant impact but shot straight at Neil Etheridge from a good position, before the same player found Gibbs-White with a cross and he flashed a volley over.
They threw everything at the hosts in the closing stages but Wolves couldn't repeat any late Cardiff heroics and slipped to a miserable defeat.
18 - GOALLLL!! Doherty gives Wolves the lead! Moutinho's outswinging corner finds Jimenez, whose bullet header is saved well by Etheridge. Doherty, though, is in the right place at the right time to fire in on the rebound - on his 200th appearance for the club no less.
37 - Cardiff hit the post! Camarasa floats in a corner and finds Morrison at the far post. His header is blocked and cleared, but only as far as Arter, whose sweetly-struck left-footed effort smacks the woodwork.
65 - Goal! The Bluebirds equalise through Gunnarsson. Wolves keeper Patricio gets caught in no man's land as Morrison heads the ball down to Gunnarson, who duly finishes the chance from close range.
77 - Goal! Hoilett puts the hosts ahead in sublime style. Saiss gets in the way of Reid's attempt, but the ball falls to Hoilett, who curls in off the underside of the crossbar. Patricio may have been at fault for the leveller, but he could not do a thing about that.
Cardiff (4-1-4-1): Etheridge; Ecuele Manga, Morrison (c), Bamba; Camarasa, Arter (Harris, 76), Gunnarsson, Ralls, Hoilett; Murphy (Reid, 66), Paterson
Subs not used: Smithies (gk), Peltier, Bennett, Ward, Mendez-Laing
Goals: Gunnarsson (65), Hoilett (77)
Wolves (3-4-3): Patricio; Saiss, Coady (c), Boly; Doherty, Neves, Moutinho, Vinagre (Cavaleiro, 82); Traore (Gibbs-White, 72), Jimenez, Costa (Jota, 66)
Subs not used: Ruddy (gk), Bennett, Giles, Bonatini
Goals: Doherty (18)
Referee: Andre Marriner (West Midlands)
11th (16 points from 14 matches)
Wolves host Chelsea at Molineux next Wednesday.