Leeds Utd 2 (Rodrigo 24, Ait Nouri og 74)
Wolves 1 (Podence 6)
6th August 2022, Premier League.
I was convinced this would not be an easy win for the Mighty Whites and my pre-match prediction was a 2 – 2 draw. Although delighted to be wrong, I have to say Wolves can consider themselves unlucky not to come away with at least a point. For a third game running against the Old Golds from Wolverhampton though, the rub of the green favoured us and once again we came from a goal down to win valuable points.
My biggest fear was that the pace of Wolves would undo us on the break – much as we saw Cagliari, Palace and even Brisbane Roar do to us in pre-season. To concede from a counterattack as early as the 6th minute did get me a bit uptight, therefore! Wolves broke quickly and played a diagonal ball out to their left where Neto out-muscled Kristensen far too easily. He then clipped the ball to the back post where Hwang Hee-Chan was in acres of space to head down and set up Podence who was also running in free as a bird! He mishit his shot but, hitting it hard into the turf probably confused Meslier and the ball sneaked in under the bar. It was a horrible goal to concede and we must do something about getting caught like this.
Not everything went for us today; we ought really to have had a penalty when Sa completely missed his punch and instead clattered into Kristensen but, as with a few unfathomable VAR decisions we’ve already seen this season, that one was waved away.
You make your own luck though they say and Leeds plugged away and eventually got on terms in the 24th minute after a little spell of interplay between several Leeds players that once again suggested we are starting to understand each other’s movement. Roca chested the ball down and fed it through to Bamford who in turn chested it down to Jack Harrison. His first effort to thread the ball to Aaronson was cut out but Brenden wasn’t having that and he battled to win it back and then it broke to Harrison again. This time it was Jack’s turn to harry and hassle the defender and his endeavour was rewarded when the ball ricocheted to Rodrigo. The Spaniard showed last week that he is starting to hone his finishing and once again he delightfully turned a defender inside out before smashing a powerful shot inside the near post. Sa will be annoyed about it but it was a fine strike.
The rest of the first half saw Wolves revert to the same MO we saw from them twice last season; they merely attempted to make the playing time as short as possible. Going down at the least challenge, taking an age over any stoppage or set piece and generally shit-housing their way through the game. I remember thinking last season that if Wolves do this every game then it can’t be much fun supporting them at the moment. Referees are supposed to be looking for a higher threshold of contact for fouls this season but we saw little evidence of that from Rob Jones today; Wolves conned him all game. Illan Meslier pulled off one fine save in the first half in front of the Kop.
The first twenty minutes of the second half was all Wolves and Leeds temporarily seemed unable to get hold of the ball or keep it when they did. Wolves won a few corners and had a few more pops at goal without ever looking too dangerous and Leeds held on to see that period out before we once again got our act together, something that pretty much coincided with the arrival of Matty Klich on the pitch who replaced Rodrigo. Leeds then won a couple of corners and Robin Koch put a header over and Pascal Struijk put one wide. Then seconds after Leeds replaced Marc Roca with Sam Greenwood, Elland Road got what it wanted.
Tyler Adams threaded the ball through to Matty Klich, Klich threaded a similar ball through to get Bamford in behind the Wolves back line and his inch-perfect low ball across the face of goal would have been turned in for a debut goal for Brenden Aaronson had Ait-Nouri not touched it home first!
It was another lovely well-worked goal that would, under the previous regime have been described as Bielsaball! More was to follow as Diego Llorente weaved down the left to feed the ball through to Jack Harrison and his pin-point cross should really have been buried by Patrick Bamford. Sadly Sa managed to claw it away; it is to be hoped that a 100% Bamford will start to put those chances away soon as he did last week. Summerville and Gelhardt then got minutes as Bamford and Aaronson were withdrawn and there was just time for the obligatory Sam Greenwood free kick that, as with every one we saw from him in pre-season, flew over the bar. We know he can do it..
So, in summary, a great start in terms of the three points,( it took us five games to reach that mark last season!) and, in patches, we again looked to have found the Jesse Marsch way of playing and worked well together with a far better understanding than we saw in Australia; it’s clearly evolving. The whole performance though was far from perfect; that tendency to get caught on the break is worrying and that period where we allowed Wolves to dominate the possession will be punished by better teams than this one from the Black Country. The stats were actually in favour of Wolves over the 90 minutes (yes I know only one stat really counts!). I know it’s early days so we can’t be too critical and there are clear signs that it’s coming together. Another step-up is needed now next week to ensure we improve on that dire result and performance we saw at Southampton last season.
Possession 39% 61%
Shots 12 15
On Target 4 6
Corners 6 4
Fouls 13 9