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Leeds United 0 v 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Barclays Premier League
Monday, 19th October 2020 Kick-off 20:00
Deflected goal sends Leeds to defeat
Tuesday, 20th Oct 2020 21:40 by Tim Whelan

After a lot of optimism coming into this game this was a bit of a reality check, as a strong second half showing from Wolverhampton Wanderers saw then take the three points.

After two wins and two highly creditable performances against Liverpool and Man City there were some on social media who were suggesting we were contenders for the league title, especially as several of the pre-season favourites have been unconvincing so far. A bit optimistic perhaps, but what was beyond doubt was that victory in this came could have taken us as high as second in the table.

There was a setback for Leeds before the game had even started. Captain Cooper had been struggling with an injury suffered on international duty and during the warm-up he decided it wasn’t going to stand up to the strain of ninety minutes of Premier League football. So young Strujik had to deputise, but once again he was able to perform very capably in our back line.

Wolves came out looking like Portugal in disguise in their away kit, which they pretty much are anyway with five of their internationals in their starting eleven. As a football purist I thought they ought to be wearing their distinctive gold shirts, as there was no colour clash, unless it was a cunning plan to make Helder Costa forget which side he was playing for.

But in the early stages Costa managed not be distracted by the opposition wearing his national team’s colours, and seemed to be getting some joy down the flanks against Wolves makeshift left back Romain Saiss. He also had a penalty shout after some slight contact from Moutinho, but the referee thought he had gone to ground rather easily, so nothing doing.

Leeds had made a lively start and we had the ball in the net in the first ten minutes, when Harrison sent a looping header in to the box for Bamford to head home, but Wolves had moved up in unison to leave him comfortably offside. No need for VAR to get involved on that occasion. We continued to dominate possession for the rest of the half, but without creating many more chances.

It was starting to resemble some of the home games of last season, with Leeds struggling to break down an opposition who were content to sit deep, when we much prefer to play teams who come out and a leave a few gaps for us to run into. Bamford struggled to find space and although we put a few good moves together, the final ball was often lacking.

We did have a shot from Ayling that was well saved by Patricio, and an even better opportunity when a corner from Phillips found it’s way through to Rodrigo, and his shot was well struck but straight at the Wolves keeper. And possibly the best chance of the half fell to the visitors, as Saiss overlapped on their left and supplied a great pull-back to Podence, forcing Meslier into an excellent save.

This season Wolves have tended to play better in the second half, and this game was no exception, and they came out looking like they might be interested in all three points after all, rather than settling for just the one. Podence began to look lively and Phillips started to struggle to control the midfield, and might have been a bit worn out after his efforts at international level.

A ball across the box from Podence found it’s way through to Saiss, who produced an excellent strike into the far corner, only for VAR to eventually rule it out due to a marginal offside in the build-up. Referee David Coote had been in the news for his VAR antics in the Merseyside derby while Michael Oliver was in the middle and this time the roles were reversed, so well done to Oliver for spotting that Podence’s sleeve was a fraction ahead of Ayling when the ball was played through.

But Wolves eventually did get the breakthrough in the 70th minute. Strujik slipped as Raul Jimenez picked up the ball on the Wolves right, but that didn’t seem to matter as he was quickly back on his feet and we had several players racing back to defend. But the slip gave Jimenez the opportunity to cut back inside, and although he was forced to move along the edge of the area he was able to cut back onto his right foot for the shot.

Which might not have mattered if Phillips hadn’t got his head to the ball to try to block, but only succeeded in producing a deflection that left Meslier completely wrong-footed. Though the goal was originally credited to Jiminez, it’s now gone down as an own goal, so presumably it would have gone wide if the Yorkshire Pirlo hadn’t intervened.

The goal prompted Bielsa to make his first change of the night. Costa had struggled to get involved after the interval and it was no surprise to see him taken off, but I didn’t expect to see Poveda came on rather than record signing Raphinha. That’s what comes of having so many wingers to choose from.

Strujik struggled on for a few minutes after injuring himself with that slip, but Bielsa wanted to get Pablo on for some much-needed creativity, so he was taken off, with Phillips moving back into defence. And just to complete his sorry evening, Phillips was to pick up a shoulder injury that will keep him out for six weeks, as we continue to run out of options in central defence.

The final substitution saw Raphinha finally get a run out for the final eight minutes, which became fourteen once all the injury time was added after a number of stoppages. He made a few promising runs down the left and we forced a couple of corners, but the Wanderers managed to hold on for the win fairly comfortably.

This was a reality check for Leeds after the promise of the first four games, but the performance was nowhere near as bad as some have made out, as social media swings wildly from one extreme to the other. You could say we deserved a draw against a strong Wolves side who have made a good start themselves apart from their untypical defeat at West Ham.

So it’s the midland side rather than ourselves who are outside title contenders, but we’ve done OK so far. Now if we can just find a few fit central defenders in time for Friday’s trip to Villa Park…

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