Wolverhampton Wanderers vs Leeds United. Premier League.
Report and free match highlights as goals from Jack Harrison, Luke Ayling, Rasmus Kristensen and Rodrigo lift Leeds United out of the Premier League relegation zone with a 4-2 win at Molineux. Jonny and Matheus Cunha had briefly threatened a comeback before Jonny was sent off
Saturday 18 March 2023 20:10, UK
Leeds moved out of the Premier League relegation zone thanks to a thrilling 4-2 win against Wolves at Molineux.
Jack Harrison put Javi Gracia's side ahead after six minutes and when Luke Ayling and substitute Rasmus Kristensen - 23 seconds after coming on - extended the lead in the second half, the points looked to be secure.
But a Wolves comeback followed with a stunning goal from Jonny and a deflected effort from Matheus Cunha putting the game back in the balance. Jonny's subsequent red card halted the home side's momentum and Rodrigo's goal finally sealed it.
Wolves: Sa (5), Semedo (4), Dawson (5), Kilman (5), Jonny (5), Neves (7), Lemina (6), Gomes (6), Neto (6), Jimenez (5), Podence (5).
Subs: Collins (4), Sarabia (6), Traore (7), Cunha (7), Moutinho (5).
Leeds: Meslier (7), Ayling (8), Wober (7), Koch (6), Firpo (6), Roca (7), McKennie (6), Gnonto (8), Aaronson (7), Harrison (8), Bamford (6).
Subs: Kristensen (7), Rodrigo (7), Summerville (7), Struijk (6).
Player of the match: Jack Harrison
After Leeds started the day in the relegation zone, Gracia's team are now up to 14th in the Premier League table - just one place and one point behind Julen Lopetegui's Wolves. And it is Wolves who will be the more nervous after this showing, a second straight defeat that leaves them only three points clear of the relegation zone.
The latter stages of the game were disjointed following a series of VAR reviews, the first leading to Jonny's red card after the player had initially been given a yellow card by referee Michael Salisbury.
The second was more controversial as Salisbury had been instructed by the VAR to check for a foul on Adama Traore in the build-up to Rodrigo's goal. Marc Roca pulled the winger's shirt but the referee appeared to decide it was not significant enough to disallow the goal.
It sparked scenes of anger and frustration among those on the Wolves bench with Matheus Nunes receiving a red card despite not featuring in the game.
Julen Lopetegui made two changes to the Wolves team that lost at Newcastle as Joao Gomes came in for his full debut. The other change was one that the coach made at half-time at St James’ Park with Pedro Neto in for Adama Traore.
Leeds also made two changes. One of them was enforced with Weston McKennie replacing Tyler Adams in midfield. The other switch from the draw with Brighton saw Wilfried Gnonto return to the starting line-up ahead of Crysencio Summerville.
Wilfried Gnonto was the brightest player on the pitch in the early stages, tormenting the defenders on the left flank. His cut back was just asking to be fired into the net and Harrison did just that, beating Jose Sa with a high shot away to the goalkeeper's left.
Cunha's second-half goal ended a streak of over a year since a striker scored a Premier League goal for Wolves but they were wasteful once more. Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Nelson Semedo all spurned good chances before the break.
They were punished for that early in the second half when Ayling found space at the far post to nod in Roca's right-wing corner. When Kristensen came on to promptly dispossess Jonny and slot into the corner of the net, it should have put Leeds in total control.
The game just never felt like that and Wolves' comeback was not a huge surprise, even if the nature of the goals was dramatic. Illan Meslier came out of his box to sweep up but then saw the ball deposited back over his head from long range by Jonny.
Cunha's deflected shot then wrong-footed Meslier and Wolves looked in good shape to get something from the game with Molineux rocking. Jonny's red card changed that, a studs-up foul on Ayling after he lost control of the ball.
It was a mess after that with the temperature up on the pitch and on the benches. But in the aftermath, though Wolves were blaming the referee, they will reflect on their own sloppiness. For Leeds, it feels like a huge day in their season.
The Wolves boss was left unhappy by a series of decisions by the officials, starting with an apparent foul inside the penalty box by Junior Firpo on Semedo in the first half that was not overturned following a VAR review.
"We had a clear penalty. Very clear. The ref and VAR thinks the opposite. Maybe I do not understand my sport. Junior Firpo does not touch the ball. Nelson touches the ball and he suffered a big knock, I had to change him in the second half."
He was similarly perplexed by the decision to allow Leeds' fourth goal after Traore had his shirt pulled in the build-up, the player effectively stopping in expectation of the award of a free-kick. "It was a very clear foul again. I have seen the image, he is fouled very clearly."
Lopetegui also confirmed that Wolves intend to appeal the red card against Nunes. "He was very unlucky. The linesman bumped into him, not Nunes bumping into him. I think they will change that decision. The image is very clear. He does not have the intention."
Asked if he will demand an explanation for the decisions, Lopetegui said: "I do not want an explanation. I am not waiting. In the last match it was the same. Today, it was clear. I want fair decisions. I do not have that sensation. It is imbalanced. We are very unlucky.
"I can make a book. Liverpool, Nottingham Forest, Newcastle, today. But I do not want the focus to be only on this because it is not in our control. If we are going to stay in the Premier League, we have to focus on the things in our control.
"The second goal we conceded was a stupid goal for us. We made a big effort in the second half. We were close to drawing the match but we missed a lot of chances again. Football is about being effective in both boxes and we did not do it.
"We have to continue and I have to be critical about the bad things but we do not deserve to lose this match. We have to keep working to do better and accept the situation.
"We have 10 matches, 10 finals. We are going to have 15 bad days but we have to try to use this bad energy to become stronger in defeat."
"They deserve the reward, the three points, because we showed a very good face today," said Gracia afterwards. The victory was achieved without Tyler Adams, one of Leeds better players this season, as Weston McKennie and Marc Roca were paired in midfield.
"Weston and Marc played very well. We have played some games with Weston and Tyler and other games with Tyler and Marc but today both played, in my opinion, at a very good level. But to get this result it was the whole team playing well, not only them."
Gracia's introduction of Kristensen certainly paid off, the defender scoring immediately after coming on. The coach joked that the Dane scoring his first goal for Leeds was all part of the plan. "That was my answer. First, score the goal, and then try to defend."
It was a smart tactical switch by Gracia, removing the impressive Gnonto and changing the formation to cope with the changes made by Wolves. "We tried to be more compact," he explained. "We played 5-3-2 and after that 5-4-1 to be more compact and get the points."
Wolves are back in action after the international break with an away game against Nottingham Forest on April 1, while Leeds face a testing trip to leaders Arsenal on the same afternoon.