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By Tom Collomosse For The Mail On Sunday
16:55 18 Mar 2023, updated 19:39 18 Mar 2023
- Leeds defeated Wolves 4-2 on Saturday in what was a thrilling game at Molineux
- Jack Harrison opened the scoring for Leeds before Luke Ayling made it 2-0
- Rasmus Kristensen produced a driving shot in the second half to score their third
- Jonny’s got one back for Wolves with a sublime volley but received a red card
- Matheus Cunha would strike home a second, making a nervy finish for Leeds
When Diego Costa is acting as peacemaker, you know things really have gone out of control.
The Wolves forward has spent his career ready to start a fight in a phone box but this time he was restraining Matheus Nunes, a fellow unused substitute, who had just been shown a red card and was preparing to turn his fury on referee Michael Salisbury.
The reason for Nunes’ anger was Salisbury’s decision to allow Rodrigo’s injury-time fourth for Leeds following a VAR check, even though there appeared to be a shirt pull on Adama Traore at the start of the move.
Yet the match had long since descended into fury and bitterness as the tension of the tightest Premier League relegation battle in years took hold.
Leeds moved out of the bottom three but Wolves were outraged, with members of Julen Lopetegui’s backroom team requesting to speak to Salisbury after the game.
Jonny was also sent off for Wolves for a dreadful challenge on Luke Ayling and there were eight bookings as referee Michael Salisbury never managed to establish control.
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
WOLVES (4-3-3): Sa 6; Semedo 5 (Traore 57, 7), Dawson 5 (Collins 46, 6), Kilman 6, Jonny 4; Neves 7 (Moutinho 76, 6), Lemina 4.5, Joao Gomes 6; Neto 5.5 (Sarabia 46, 7), Jimenez 6, Podence 6 (Cunha 57, 6.5).
Sent off: Jonny
Subs (not used): Bentley, Toti, Nunes, Costa.
LEEDS (4-2-3-1): Meslier 6; Ayling 6.5, Koch 7.5, Wober 7.5, Firpo 5 (Struijk 81); McKennie 7, Roca 6; Harrison 8, Aaronson 6.5 (Summerville 81) Gnonto 7 (Kristensen 61, 6.5); Bamford 6 (Rodrigo 67, 6).
Booked: Ayling, Firpo, McKennie, Roca
Subs (not used): Robles, Cooper, Sinisterra, Rutter, Gray.
Referee: Michael Salisbury 5
Remarkably, Leeds scored with all four of their shots on target, through Jack Harrison, Ayling, Rasmus Kristensen and Rodrigo.
Three goals down, Wolves rallied through Jonny and Matheus Cunha but their woeful defending had left them needing snookers, and their challenge faded when they were reduced to 10 men.
Bosses Julen Lopetegui and Javi Gracia were hopping around their technical areas throughout with Lopetegui barely able to contain his rage at the officials.
But he would do just as well to examine his team’s defending. Rodrigo’s goal came on the counter-attack when Wolves were pushing but the home side were so slack for the first three.
‘It’s a very good win,’ said Gracia. ‘Our players were amazing and deserved this reward.
‘You try to keep as calm as you can but it’s normal in games like these to feel stress. Now I have time to recover and enjoy the points.’
Wilfried Gnonto has been one of the best attackers outside the traditional big six this term and he skipped past Nelson Semedo in the sixth minute, with Harrison stationed on the penalty spot to slam home the Italian’s cut-back.
The home side were convinced they should have had a penalty minutes later when Junior Firpo tried to clear but made contact instead with Semedo’s boot.
After a VAR check, the reprieve was upheld, to the fury of Lopetegui. Lopetegui was already smarting after seeing Wolves denied a clear spot-kick in their 2-1 defeat at Newcastle and the Spaniard could not contain his anger this time.
Now Wolves were piling on the pressure. Pedro Neto miskicked in front of goal and allowed Max Wober to clear.
Wober came to Leeds’ rescue again shortly before the half-hour mark with another block, this time from Semedo. Then Ruben Neves went desperately close with a swerving effort.
Though they were riding their luck, Leeds were showing the sort of grit they lacked under Jesse Marsch this season.
Leeds thought Craig Dawson should have been given a second yellow card when he impeded Patrick Bamford, moments after collecting a booking for a foul on Harrison.
Leeds hung on until the break and then – after Mario Lemina’s close-range strike was rightly ruled out for offside – doubled their lead five minutes afterwards.
It was awful defending as nobody followed Ayling’s run to the far post, meaning he was alone in the six-yard box to head in Marc Roca’s corner.
There had been an air of desperation to Wolves’ attacking throughout and before the hour mark, they had used four substitutes. One of them, Pablo Sarabia, guided a golden chance wide, moments after Lemina had fluffed his shot when presented with an even better one.
Yet when Leeds made their changing, it was devastating. Less than a minute after replacing Gnonto, Kristensen beat Jonny to Harrison’s cross and with Max Kilman half-asleep, drove in number three.
Jonny had had a desperate game but made up for it a little with a spectacular goal soon. Illan Meslier moved out of his area to head clear and was slow to return, so when Roca’s header fell to Jonny, he beat Meslier on the volley from 35 yards.
Wolves somehow failed to halve the deficit when Sarabia sent fellow sub Adama Traore away on the right, only for Raul Jimenez to steer a perfect low ball against Meslier. Lopetegui threw his arms in the air as the South Bank howled in pain.
Another low cross from Traore produced another scramble before Wolves grabbed a second when Cunha’s low drive clipped Wober on its way into the net, leaving Meslier helpless. Leeds were rocking now and Meslier had to be smart to touch over a rising effort from Sarabia.
Jonny then completed a bizarre performance when he was shown the red card following a VAR check after a very bad challenge on Ayling. Rodrigo added insult to injury by scoring the fourth in the closing stages of stoppage time. That was when Nunes lost his cool but it is Lopetegui who will spend the next two weeks fretting.