Rodrigo seals vital victory for Leeds over 10-man Wolves in furious thriller
Leeds United, a year to the day since coming from 2-0 down to win at Molineux after Raúl Jiménez was sent off, enjoyed another crazy victory over Wolves to climb five places and two points above the Premier League’s relegation zone.
In a game as chaotic as it was thrilling, on an afternoon of torrential downpours, sunshine and double rainbows, Jonny Otto gave one goal away, scored a 40-yard volley and was sent off six minutes from time. Wolves, after a run of one win in six games, are immersed in the battle for survival: sitting three points above the bottom three having played a game more than most of their rivals.
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This was only Leeds’ second win since Jesse Marsch was dismissed eight games ago but Javi Gracia’s side will have belief after flying into a winning lead through goals from Jack Harrison, Luke Ayling and Rasmus Kristensen.
Rodrigo racing clear to clip the ball over José Sá to make it 4-2 in the seventh minute of stoppage time, only for Michael Salisbury, the referee, to be sent over to the VAR and witness Adama Traoré’s shirt being gently pulled in the build-up and then allow the goal, summed up an absolutely bonkers afternoon. Matheus Nunes, an unused substitute, was shown a straight red card for his reaction, triggering another three-match suspension.
Gracia, who led Watford to the FA Cup final with a 3-2 win over Wolves at Wembley in 2019, agreed this felt like a cup tie – and that Leeds need to play all their remaining games with that mentality. “All the games are important for me,” the Leeds manager said. “At this stage of the season, the points are really important and we need them. Now there are 11 games and all the games are a final now. We have to play with that feeling.”
With the rain lashing down, Leeds manufactured the perfect start as the recalled Wilfried Gnonto made the most of space afforded to him by Nelson Semedo and pulled the ball back for Harrison to follow up his crucial equaliser against Brighton with an emphatic left-footed finish here.
Wolves rallied with some bewitching approach play combined with a familiar lack of penetration. Their luck was out two minutes after the first goal as Semedo appeared to be tripped by Junior Firpo but no penalty was forthcoming. Julen Lopetegui, the Wolves manager, said: “I don’t understand how [the referee] doesn’t call the foul – in the same way as in the last match against Newcastle [last weekend]. Maybe when you have the same mistakes a lot of times against you, it’s not balanced. The referee decisions until this moment [since my arrival], I can make a book – it’s incredible.”
Wolves could have equalised from an array of finely orchestrated moves: after Daniel Podence’s effort was saved, Pedro Neto’s weakly struck follow-up was cleared off the line. Then Max Wöber blocked as Semedo looked certain to score after Max Kilman, popping up on the left wing, delivered an exquisite low centre across the corridor of uncertainty.
An ill-tempered end to the first half, with Craig Dawson, Firpo and Weston McKennie all cautioned, did little to set the scene for how crazy the game would turn in the second half.
Ayling, who scored the last-gasp winner here in last year’s thrilling affair, lost Rúben Neves to find space at the back post and head in Marc Roca’s corner to make it 2-0.
Then, from Harrison’s left-wing centre, Kristensen capitalised on Jonny’s indecision and shot home from a tight angle. Leeds were in dreamland; the points looked safe.
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They had to withstand a 20-minute battering however as Jonny volleyed home from 40 yards over Illan Meslier, who had rushed out his area to head clear, and substitute Matheus Cunha became the first centre-forward to score for Wolves in the league in over a year, his shot deflecting in off Wöber.
Anything looked possible at this stage. But the sense of chaos in this intense amphitheatre was contagious and when Jonny overstepped the mark and landed his studs in Ayling’s ankle, it was little surprise when VAR asked Salisbury to change his yellow card to red.