Pep Guardiola believes his Manchester City side were made to dig deep to claim all three points at 10-man Wolves, but feels Jack Grealish responded to criticism of his performance in the best possible manner.
The visitors took the lead with just 55 seconds on the clock at Molineux, Grealish converting from close range after Kevin De Bruyne’s cross. Erling Haaland then netted his 14th of the season on 15 minutes, scoring his first goal for City outside the area with a low shot.
Wolves were then reduced to 10 men after an ugly Nathan Collins lunge on Grealish. All the talk at half-time was about Grealish and how his emphatic response to those critics.
After the break, a more resolute Wolves side made life much harder for City. Indeed, their defender Rayan Aït-Nouri had an excellent afternoon to keep them at bay.
But even he was powerless to prevent City grabbing a third, with De Bruyne and Haaland both involved as Phil Foden tucked in a smart finish.
Asked for his thoughts after the game, Guardiola suggested his side were not at their best at times.
Nonetheless, as he told BT Sport, he was delighted to take the win that sends them, for 24 hours at least, back to the top of the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola reflects on tough test
Guardiola, though, insists his side did not have it all their own way and knows Wolves gave his side a tough test.
“The game started really well with the goal and then the red card. It is never easy to come here, so soon after the Champions League. The quality they have with [Pedro] Neto, [Goncalo] Guedes, [Ruben]Neves… this is a big win for us. We struggled a lot.
“A big compliment for Wolves as they made our lives so hard and they fight until the end. It was so important to get the win before the international break.”
On Grealish, Guardiola added: “He had a really good game. He was strong and it was a good goal arriving there. He’s a guy who does not lose the ball. He’ll go to the national team now and hopefully come back fit.
“Fingers crossed all the players come back fit but it is important for them ahead of the World Cup. But hopefully they come back good, ready for the derby.”
Asked if the likes of De Bruyne, Foden and Bernardo Silva had given him help, Guardiola added: Yeah, he was good, he arrived to score, but at times we struggled a little bit, but for that I give Wolves the credit.”
Jack Grealish makes big admission over his record for City
Grealish, meanwhile, admits critics are right to question the amount of goals and assists he has. And he admits he is looking to add to that side of his game.
“It was a long time coming and nice to get off the mark,” he told BT Sport. “Rightly so people have been asking questions, I should be scoring more and getting more assists.
"I should be scoring more and getting assists"
"I'm always going to have people talk about me because of the amount I got bought for"
"Hopefully I repaid Pep for starting me after Wednesday"
A very honest post-match interview from Jack Grealish… 👏
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) September 17, 2022
“I am always going to have people talking about me with the money that was spent on me, but all my career I haven’t scored enough goals. I do want to add that to my game.
“It is nice when Pep defends me. He has been brilliant with me. I probably have to thank him because he gave me the opportunity today after my performance on Wednesday because it probably wasn’t the best. I am thankful to him.”