|Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 v 0 Leeds United|
Barclays Premier League
Friday, 19th February 2021 Kick-off 20:00
Leeds go down to unlucky defeat at Molineux
Saturday, 20th Feb 2021 17:55 by Tim Whelan
Leeds matched Wolverhampton Wanderers for possession and chances, but in the end the game was decided by two key moments, and both times the fortune favoured the home side.
Marcello Bielsa made just one change to the starting line-up in terms of personnel, with Roberts in for Alioski, the man he replaced during the game at Arsenal. But there were several other changes in terms of position, with Shackleton taking his turn as the defensive midfield player in the absence of Phillips, with Struijk dropping back into central defence.
This left everyone playing in their usual positions apart from Dallas at left back, and of course the Ulsterman always seems at home whatever role he asked to perform. As a result the defence had a more solid look and the debacle of the first hour at Arsenal was not going to be repeated. And although Wolves enjoyed plenty of possession early on they didn’t cut Leeds apart and instead kept tying their luck from distance.
That said, they do have several players adept at shooting from outside the box. The first effort from Semedo was straight at Meslier, though our young custodian was stretched by the second effort, a curling shot from Neto that he did well to turn back the post. This must have boosted his confidence after his error last week, and he went on to produce the commanding performance he needed to get into our good books.
It also looked like Meslier had permission from the boss to belt the ball clear when he felt in danger of losing it in a dangerous position, rather than trying to control it. That’s the kind of football I like, none of this new-fangled fannying around at the back. At the other end Liam Cooper could have had a hat-trick from Raphinha’s excellent deliveries from set-pieces, but he couldn’t quite convert any of them.
The first came midway through the first half, and with the pace on the ball it only needed a flick into either corner to put Leeds in front, but Cooper could only send it straight at Patricio. But the Wolves keeper was nearly embarrassed by a shot from Klich from a narrow angle that came back from the post, before a couple of efforts from Struijk from the rebound that were scrambled away.
So we went in level at half-time, with Wolves slightly shading the possession but Leeds still well in the game. And just after the hour mark another Raphinha free-kick led to another Cooper header, which was firmer this time but still straight at the keeper, before a shot from Bamford was blocked. And before the ball had gone out of play Wolves were breaking downfield for the move that led to the only goal of the game.
Traore controlled the ball on touchline before moving inside on a powerful fun past several players, before striking a powerful shot from over 20 yards out. We had a second of relief when the ball came crashing down off the bar, only for it to strike Meslier on the back of the head and bounce into the net. The young Frenchman certainly didn’t deserve an own goal to his name after his much-improved performance.
This promised Marcello Bielsa to make his first change to try to get back into the game, with Shackleton making way for Pablo Hernandez, with Klich dropping a little deeper. And we would carve out numerous chances in the time that remained, only for the evening to end in frustration. Cooper had his third chance from a Raphinha delivery, this time stretching but just failing to get the touch he needed to turn the ball goalwards.
Then Roberts struck a powerful shot that Coady blocked with his head at some personal cost, being hit so hard that he needed treatment before he could continue. This was the second time in the match Coady had been hurt by Roberts, having been caught by a late challenge from the same player in the first half.
Then with 15 minutes left Bamford was played through on goal and scored with a superb finish, only to be denied by a linesman’s flag. When they went to VAR it looked like the heel of a Wolves defender was playing him on, but they didn’t over-rule the original decision. Bamford is finding it all hard to take in the wake of his disallowed goal at Palace earlier in the season, and could find himself in trouble for a sarcastic tweet after the game.
For the last ten minutes Helda Cost and Alioski entered the fray in place of Harrison and Klich, with Dallas moving back into midfield. Costa had a great chance to score against his former club, but couldn’t get enough power into the shot and gave Patricio the chance to save with his legs. Our last chance was a looping header from Raphinha that the keeper managed to beat away, and that was about it.
As time ran out Wolves were intent on taking the ball to the corner and wasting as much time as possible, and five minutes of injury time weren’t enough for Leeds to force an equaliser. So for the second time in a week a team went above us in the table as a result of beating us, but after the quality of our performance we shouldn’t have too much to worry about.
I wouldn’t go quite as far as Bielsa did in his post-match interview when he said that “there were few periods of the game that we didn’t dominate”, especially in first half, but this wasn’t a game that we deserved to lose. They say that luck evens itself out over the course of a season, so roll on Southampton on Tuesday night.
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