MX23RW : Monday, December 10 07:11:51

Result: Cardiff City rue two missed pens as Wolverhampton Wanderers go further clear

Result: Cardiff rue two missed pens as Wolves go clear
© Offside
Wolverhampton Wanderers beat Cardiff City 1-0 in South Wales to extend their lead at the top of the Championship table, with the hosts missing two penalty kicks late on.

Ruben Neves scored the only goal of the game as Wolverhampton Wanderers edged out Cardiff City 1-0 in a top-of-the-table tussle in the Championship on Friday - a match that saw the hosts miss two injury-time penalties.

The Portugal international picked out the top corner with his free kick 68 minutes in to earn the visitors a win that takes them nine points clear of their second-placed opponents.

There was to be late drama at the Cardiff City Stadium, though, as substitute Gary Madine and Junior Hoilett both missed from the penalty spot in stoppage time in what could prove to be a huge moment in the race for automatic promotion.

Wolves are also now 14 points ahead of Fulham in third and all but assured of a place in the Premier League next season, although Cardiff - beaten for the first time in 14 league matches - are left looking over their shoulder with six games left to play.

Even before the incredible conclusion the match lived up to its billing as both sides traded blows early on, with Sol Bamba powering a header wide at one end and Neil Etheridge being forced into a couple of saves at the other.

Etheridge first kept out a long-range shot from matchwinner Neves, restored to the side tonight following his suspension as one of four changes, before doing likewise from a Diogo Jota attempt from a similar position.

Cardiff, buoyed by the biggest crowd for a league game in Wales since 1976, looked to make their early possession count as Kenneth Zohore came close to a breakthrough, only being denied by a smart John Ruddy tip around the post.

Replays showed that the ball may have been edging wide regardless, and as the half went on it was Wanderers who started to take complete control of possession, eventually ending the half with 70% of the ball.

The first major chance would fall the way of the Bluebirds, though, as Joe Bennett was slotted through down the left but could not find the target with his shot.

On his third Championship start for the club, Yanic Wildschut was the next player to come close for the hosts with his unconventional side-footed free kick from 35 yards, which Ruddy was happy to help wide.

A well-contested first half would ultimately end goalless, but that should have all changed less than five minutes into the second half after Leo Bonatini rounded the keeper, only for the angle to prove too much as his shot hit the post and was cleared away.

Callum Patterson, a key member of Cardiff's recent unbeaten run, appeared to damage his back in clearing the ball and was replaced by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing, seeing Junior Hoilett move to the left flank where he initially enjoyed a little more success.

Wolves made a change of their own as the hour mark approached, introducing attacking midfielder Helder Costa in place of Bonatini, and moments later Wolves felt that they should have had a man advantage as Benik Afobe was hauled down by Lee Peltier - referee Mike Dean adjudging that the full-back was not the last man and issuing just a yellow.

Cardiff did not learn their lesson, however, and Sean Morrison was the next man to give away a free kick in an inviting position, which Neves sent flying past Etheridge from 30 yards for goal number five of the season.

Twenty-eight times this season Wanderers had taken the lead in a league match, going on to win 25 and draw three of those, and they nearly doubled their lead moments later as the same player curled a shot inches wide of the target.

The home side, previously victorious in four of their last five with tonight's opponents, had a couple of penalty shouts rejected as they went in search of a leveller, seeing far more of the ball but struggling to create any real opportunities.

Wolves were looking threatening on the break, with Alfred N'Diaye played through but unable to beat Etheridge at his near post, before Costa missed an even better chance as he curled wide with just the keeper to beat.

Aron Gunnarsson sent a powerful shot wide in between those two Wanderers chances, and Cardiff's big moment to level things up would come in the third minute of added time after Conor Coady challenged Pilkington in the box.

Madine saw the pen saved and, 60 seconds or so later, Cavaleiro slid in on Gunnarsson to gift the hosts a second attempt from 12 yards, which Hoilett sent crashing against the crossbar to move the visitors a step closer to a top-flight return.

CARDIFF CITY (4-2-3-1): Etheridge; Peltier, Morrison, Bamba, Bennett; Gunnarsson, Bryson; Paterson (Mendez-Laing 61'), Hoilett, Wildschut (Madine 71'); Zohore (Pilkington 84')

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS (3-4-3): Ruddy; Boly, Coady, Bennett; Doherty, Douglas, Saiss, Neves; Jota (Cavaleiro 67'), Afobe (N'Diaye 78'), Bonatini (Costa 58')

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Kenneth Zohore in action for Cardiff City in September 2017
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