In the first 68 minutes of the most important match in the Championship—second-placed Cardiff City hosting league leaders Wolves—it didn’t seem like a title decider. There were few real chances to speak of. No team seemed to dominate the match. In other words, it was tepid. Insipid even. However, the last 25 minutes produced some of the most incredible and wild drama that I have ever seen in a football match.
It began with a free kick. Wolves’ Diogo Jota was brought down outside the box. Talisman midfielder Rúben Neves stepped up to take the free kick. It was perfect. The ball flew into the top left corner of the net, sending the Wolves fans into raptures. After this moment, Wolves put more and more pressure on Cardiff. In the 85th minute, Hélder Costa received the ball and made a Cardiff defender fall with an outrageous turn. However, Costa, alone and in front of the goal, inexplicably missed the target.
When referee Mike Dean gave five minutes of added time, Cardiff was not putting much pressure on the goal. However, with two minutes left in the match, Cardiff launched a ball into the box. Wolves captain Conor Coady was marking Anthony Pilkington, a Cardiff forward who received the ball, and Pilkington went to ground, perhaps a little too easily. Dean awarded Cardiff a penalty, a dubious decision with the minimal contact. Gary Madine, another Cardiff forward, stepped up to take the penalty. However, Wolves keeper John Ruddy produced a fantastic save to save the match. Or so it seemed, because, with seconds to play, Wolves winger Ivan Cavaleiro produced a silly challenge in the box, bringing down a Cardiff player. Dean awarded the Bluebirds yet another penalty. This time, Junior Hoilett stepped up to take the penalty. It rocketed off the crossbar. Dean blew his whistle, and Wolves somehow escaped with a victory at the home of their title-pursuing rivals.
After the match, hwoever, the drama did not end. Nuno Espírito Santo, the Portuguese manager for Wolves, ran onto the pitch to celebrate with his players upon hearing the full-time whistle. Afterwards, Nuno left to offer his hand to his counterpart, the controversial Cardiff manager Neil Warnock. However, clearly upset with Nuno’s celebration, Warnock repeatedly told Nuno several things unfit for print and refused his handshake. Even in the press conference, Warnock doubled down, saying that he would not accept any type of apology from Nuno, although Nuno graciously expressed regret for his actions in his own press conference.
Wolves are now in a very comfortable position, 9 points ahead of Cardiff and 11 in front of Fulham and the automatic promotion places. They face Derby County at Molineux on Wednesday. Cardiff, meanwhile, will travel to face Aston Villa on Tuesday.