Raul Jimenez strikes again as Wolves hands Leeds a 1 – 0 defeat. Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds showed two initial adjustments from the 1-1 draw with Manchester City as Ezgjan Alioski and Tyler Roberts were replaced by Jack Harrison and Rodrigo before a late change had Pascal Struijk brought in for the captain Liam Cooper following the warm-up.
Kalvin Phillips can curse his luck for being Leeds’s finest performer, as it was his deflection on Raúl Jiménez’s shot that settled the match and allowed Wolves to move from 15th to sixth in the Premier League. On balance Wolves deserved the victory, having turned Leeds’s early ascendancy around, doing so particularly convincingly following the break.
Nuno Espírito Santo stood down Rúben Neves for Joâo Moutinho as he sought a victory that would leapfrog Wolves over Leeds, who began with a point more than their six. The opening threat was Phillips’ corner from the right and while the delivery was repelled the ball went back into the area and Patrick Bamford should not have missed the target from close range. Moments later Phillips swung in a second corner and Bamford eventually headed home but was offside.
Already Leeds dictated, Helder Costa along the right causing Wolves all kinds of problems. The Portuguese’s cross was headed firmly by Rodrigo and though misdirected, no visiting defender challenged the forward. Conor Coady did better when Rodrigo’s laser-like pass had Bamford running in behind, the Wolves skipper sliding to intercept.
Next a sweeping play that took in Harrison, Bamford, and Rodrigo moved Leeds from their half into Wolves’ area, the latter teeing up Costa whose shot was wide. This prompted the maroon-shirted visitors to catch the mood in a sequence in which Nuno’s men zipped the ball about until Maximilian Kilman attempted to emulate Rodrigo’s defence-splitter but overhit badly.
A further sign of Wolves evening the contest out had Neto racing down the right, Leeds being stretched precisely where they would not want. Neto was proving his team’s Costa: causing trouble along his flank, one pass he received from Willy Boly being tapped infield then crossed before Leeds scrambled away.
After a lull the contest reawakened: Luke Ayling’s attempt skidded over the turf and was stabbed away by Kilman. Then, Neto – once more – forced the issue for Wolves and won them a rare corner, as like prizefighters the teams traded blows. Moutinho pinged in from the right quadrant and the unmarked Jiménez spurned a gilded chance to score.
Bamford was soon guilty of the same charge: Harrison’s ball found the No 9 with goal gaping but he missed. And, on half-time, Illan Meslier made a first save, beating out Daniel Podence’s 10-yard shot.
Leeds began the second half with Phillips continuing his chief orchestrator act, finding Harrison along the left, before a free-kick was claimed that the No 23 swung in. But this failed to threaten and Wolves responded. A Neves-Podence counterattack had Leeds back-pedalling and, a little later, Romain Saïss’s strike beat Meslier before VAR chalked it off due to Podence being offside before receiving along the right from Coady. Podence’s increasing influence had him forcing Meslier to make a second sharp save though the resulting corner was a disappointment – Neves’s touch lacking poise.
Wolves began to dominate as the half wore on. Neves scampered across Leeds’s area and only a slip prevented him unloading a shot. Leeds had lost the rhythm that had bewitched Wolves before the interval. The previously incisive Phillips was reduced to hitting a dead ball sideways and when it came back the midfielder this time went backwards to Meslier.
Still, the home side remained on terms. Required was a flash of inspiration, a moment to elevate one of the protagonists into a winning position. Instead Phillips’s misfortune gave Wolves a lead they hung on to despite a late rally from Leeds who should feel that they allowed this match to slip.