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Battling Leeds go down at Wolves
Thursday, 23rd Nov 2017 22:18 by Tim Whelan

Wolverhampton Wanderers 4 Leeds United 1. By our man at the Elland Road beamback clutching his free bottle of coca-cola.

Yes, I’m going to admit that I’m writing this without actually making it Molineux last night, having tried to get a ticket but failed. But I love a good beamback, and there was at least the compensation of listening to Norman Hunter’s forthright views before the game. The great man said that in January we need to sign players in at least four positions, and amongst other things that Lasogga “can’t tackle a hot dinner”.

Then it was over to LUTV for the game, with Ben Parker as the expert summariser, alongside the lovely Emma and her, er, womanly attributes. Thomas Christiansen had kept faith with the starting eleven who had served him well with the win on Sunday, and the only change to the matchday squad was Stuart Dallas’ return to the bench after injury.

We began the game in determined fashion and enjoyed quite a lot of possession during the first quarter of an hour, but without coming close to creating a decent chance. At the other end the first warning sign came when a piece of trickery from Cavaleiro took him to the byline, and he sent a great ball across the face of goal which was scrambled clear.

And on 15 minutes a mistake by Berardi on the same flank allowed Cavaleiro to take possession, and the Wolves man’s progress was rudely interrupted by Cooper as he cut inside into a dangerous position. That might have solved the immediate problem, but Wolves were left with a free kick from a promising position, and Douglas stepped up and sent it over the wall and right into the top corner, where Lonegran had no chance of reaching it.

The goal inspired the home side to step up the pace, and further chances came as Bonatini sent a header wide, and we were lucky that Cavaleiro’s powerful shot from outside the box was straight at Lonergan. But we couldn’t keep him out for long, and in the 26th minute he beat three defenders on the edge of the box and hammered a shot which Lonegran got a hand to but couldn’t keep out. Excellent footwork from Cavaleiro, but he was given too much space and the keeper might have done better.

We kept battling away at the other end, but Roofe was getting a bit isolated and it was becoming ever more apparent that he doesn’t have the physical presence to play as a lone striker. During this period Vieira and Phillips picked up yellow cards, and the referee’s inconsistency was becoming irritating, especially when a Wolves player escaped similar punishment for blatantly tripping Roofe after slipping over.

At half time we had some more opinions from Norman, saying Berardi was always going to struggle as a makeshift left back against a quality winger, and Hernandez needs to do more work tracking back. While the compere said it was another great beamback turnout, with over 800 of us inside the pavilion. Yes, congratuations to Leeds for taking 800 fans to, er, Leeds.

The early part of the second half was to be our best spell of the whole game, and it began in great fashion, as Saiz sent a long ball into the area, while Aloiski got free of the defence and made no mistake with his volley, to send the ball past Ruddy into the net. Inevitably the Macedonian treated us to his trademark goal celebration, running over to the Leeds fans making the love heart sign he does with his hands.

We continued go forward and for a while Wolves seemed rattled, and it began to look as though we could get at least a point from this game. But such hopes were dashed in an instant as Vieira slid in for a tackle but missed the ball, and picked up a second yellow card as Jota fell over his leg. It looked a very soft booking to those of us who grew up watching football in the Norman Hunter era, and even last night there were worse challenges that had gone unpunished.

Christiansen tried to shore things up with his first two substitutions, with O’Kane replacing Hernandez and Ekuban giving the attack a bit of physical presence in place of the struggling Roofe. But with Leeds down to ten men there were always going to be gaps at the back, and Wolves capitalised with a route one goal in the 72nd minute.

A long punt downfield from Ruddy was headed on, and when Jansson missed the ball as he tried to intercept Jota was clear through on goal, and he beat Lonegran with a wonderful chip. All three Wolves goals had been well taken, but all of them due in part to defensive errors from Leeds.

And so it continued four minutes later, as Lonegran could only parry a shot he could have held, and we lost possession again on the edge of the box. As Bonatini was played in Lonegran came out to challenge and seemed to have got to the ball, only for the referee to rule otherwise and point to the spot. So we conceded out second debatable penalty in successive games, and this Wolves side are good enough not to need any help from the officials.

Costa stepped up and duly smashed the ball into the corner of the net, leaving Lonegran no chance even though he went the right way. That was enough for more than a few in the pavilion, who started to make for the exit in their droves, but I’d paid my £10 and I was damn well going to stay till the end.

Dallas came on for Saiz, but it was far too late for him to have any effect, and by the end we could be thankful that we managed to see out the closing stages without any further damage to our goal difference. On the way out I manged to snatch a brief conversation with our Norman, once he’d finished moaning about the penalty.

Yet another of his complaints was that we’d created a goalkeeping problem for ourselves at the start of the season by releasing Rob Green, and he agreed with me that the priority is to have a goalkeeper who can save goals rather than this fancy idea of passing out from the back. And it has to be said that Wolves are demonstrating that having an ex Norwich and England keeper is no impediment to playing excellent football.

In truth I hadn’t been expecting much from this game, in theory the hardest match of the season away to the league leaders. Despite a few errors we should be hard on the side for this performance, as they battled hard against very good opposition and didn’t get much luck on the night. If they can reproduce this form they stand a good chance of getting a win at Barnsley on Saturday to keep in touch with the top six.

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Photo: Action Images

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