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Leeds United 2 v 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers
Barclays Premier League
Saturday, 6th August 2022 Kick-off 15:00
Report: Leeds tame cheating, timewasting, unsporting Wolves
Sunday, 7th Aug 2022 03:54 by Lucas Monk

I did say that it’d be funny, didn’t I?

Rayan Ait-Nouri’s own goal condemned Wolves to defeat - and it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving side. From their pathetic manager, to their timewasting, diving, whinging players, right down to the pond scum who tweeted me the most vile abuse after the game, they are surely one of the most classless and contemptible clubs in the country - hence my delight in the fact that Jesse Marsch has now gotten the better of Bitter Bruno Lage twice in the last six months.

Leeds went into this contest with a (relatively) new manager, new players and a new system, all of which contributed to a palpable pre-match excitement on the part of the supporters. The more than 30,000 optimistic souls who packed out Elland Road for this curtain-raiser weren’t disappointed. Jesse conferred debuts on Rasmus Kristensen, Brenden Aaronson, Tyler Adams and Marc Roca, as Leeds lined up in a 4-2-3-1 with Rodrigo playing off Patrick Bamford.

The start was far from auspicious. On the counter, Wolves caught Leeds cold and in the sixth minute Daniel Podence put the visitors ahead with a rather scabby volley after racing on to Hwang Hee-Chan’s header. Groans filled the air.

But Leeds were strong and Leeds were energetic and Leeds did everything the (majority of) the crowd wanted them to do. Fight for every ball, get stuck in, play the ball forward at pace. Jesse’s Fine Young Men responded well and Roca began to get himself on the ball with increasing regularity.

The lively, bustling Aaronson saw a low drive hit a Wolves defender before José Sá clattered Kristensen from a Jack Harrison free kick. Incredibly, the officials not only failed to award Leeds a penalty but didn’t deign to check the incident through VAR. One wonders what the point of it is in such circumstances if they’re not going to use it. It’s rather like having in your hand a big gun, being faced with an utter monster, like Adolf Hitler or Don Goodman, and instead of shooting the bugger pissing off for a pint and letting them live.

Wolves’s wholly undeserved lead wouldn’t last long, though. After Bamford chanced his arm from distance, Rodrigo levelled the match in the 24th minute. His low shot from an angle tighter than a nun’s you-know-what somehow crept in at the near post and sent the Elland Road faithful into raptures. That’s four goals in his last two games now, counting the Cagliari friendly. I should slag him off more often.

Sá then did his utmost to produce some of the wonderful comedy I admitted to expecting in my preview of this game, taking an unnecessary touch from a backpass that almost carried the ball over his own goal line.

It would be the visitors who threatened the next goal as half-time rapidly approached. Illan Meslier had to make an attentive save from a blatantly offside Leander Dendoncker. The linesman didn’t flag him as such, and this prompted fury on my part, but perhaps it was unreasonable of me to make such a fastidious demand of the linesman as to raise his fucking arm a few inches in the air.

The second half’s early stages saw Wolves establish a foothold in the game. Having chiefly played on the periphery in the first period, they began to dominate possession, seeking to regain their lead through patient passing and probing. Through force of habit, perhaps, they also decided to chuck some more timewasting and simulation into the mix, on top of a disgraceful dive in the first period, which was counterintuitive. United’s response to this was to fall back and drop deep. They weathered the storm, though Diego Llorente, ever the bombscare, pulled a few expletives from people’s mouths when he sent a looping header toward his own net and elicited a fine save from, I suspected, an ever so slightly bemused and exasperated Meslier.

Wolves were in the ascendancy and Leeds were struggling to emerge from their own half. Good thing then that Jesse, contrary to what I believed a few weeks ago, is actually possessed of a tactical mind bigger than a dwarf’s bogey. He threw on Mateusz Klich for Rodrigo and Sam Greenwood for Roca. After an excellent last-ditch challenge from Kristensen denied Wolves a clear shot at goal, Leeds improved and soon took the lead.

The best move of the match produced what turned out to be the winner. Direct, penetrative passing saw Klich thread the ball through Wolves’s defensive lines to Bamford, who as ever was full of running and looking sharp after an injury-hit season, and he drilled the ball across the face of goal and Ait-Nouri, under copious pressure from Aaronson, put a wonderful finish past his own goalkeeper 15 minutes from time.

Leeds then had two gilt-edged chances to kill the match off. Harrison’s excellent cross found the head of Bamford, but Sá, the cruel bastard, denied him a first goal of the season on opening day with an excellent reaction save. The industrious striker then broke through the visitors’s press and tried to pick out the onrushing Klich, but his pass ricocheted off the heel of Max Kilman.

Jesse then substituted the effervescent Aaronson and diligent Bamford for Crysencio Summerville and Joe Gelhardt. It’s most encouraging that all available evidence would suggest that the American is far more willing to hand regular first-team football to the many Fine Young Men in the United ranks than Marcelo Bielsa was last season. If you’re going to have a small squad, it’s surely sensible to top it up where possible with talented youngsters, a commodity which isn’t in short supply at Elland Road.

Leeds negotiated the closing stages well and held on for a well-deserved three points. And then I got the comedic content I’d eagerly anticipated prior to the game. The petulant Lage refused to shake Jesse’s hand, so Jesse gave him an earful to the amusement of Liam Cooper and Archie Gray, who were both clearly pissing themselves with laughter. Jesse then went full Ted (Lasso, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last six months or so) and proceeded to undertake a particularly exuberant, even by over-the-top American standards, victory lap, which included him singing along to Marching On Together and doing a few fist pumps in front of an adoring South Stand. Say what you will, but you would never have caught Bielsa doing that.

In the end this was a fine win for Jesse and his Fine Young Men. Aaronson was perhaps the finest young man on the field. He was like sand on a beach; he got everywhere and irritated quite a few people. His indefatigability and intensity typified a Leeds performance that compensated for its lack of refinement with boundless energy and enthusiasm, which the crowd clearly appreciated.

There were a few problems. Pascal Struijk put as much into this match as any of his teammates in terms of effort and desire and application - but he’s not a left-back. Tell me that he is and I’ll hold you in the same ferocious contempt Robespierre did the French aristocracy. He just isn’t and we certainly need cover for Junior Firpo. Wolves seemed quite aware of this and made a point of looking for balls over the top of the United defence, which led to Podence and Pedro Neto giving us a few problems. Moreover, we were a little perfunctory in our passing in the second period and that allowed Wolves the spell in which they dominated the ball and threatened to regain the lead.

But Jesse’s substitutions ameliorated those issues and won the game. Klich was outstanding and his introduction was the catalyst for the victory in the end. It often goes overlooked, but he’s one of those midfield players who seem to have the knack of popping up in the right places at the right moments, as he did in the build-up for the winning goal.

A win, three points, another Wolves meltdown (from Lage and those illiterate wee shites on Twitter; sadly not of Chernobyl proportions this time, but there’s always the reverse fixture). You can’t really ask for any more than that, can you? Unless you’re one of those people who’d go to see the Nazca Lines and then subsequently, anodynely declare the experience to have been “alright”. That was our first win on opening day since the promotion season, for fuck’s sake! If you didn’t celebrate it as Jesse did then you want shooting, or at the very least slapping in the face with a massive cod or something.

Next up is a trip to Southampton, who kicked off their campaign with a 4-1 defeat to an impressive Tottenham, but not before we discover which immensely boring and completely pointless League Cup fixture we’ll have to contest in the coming weeks. Why haven’t the authorities abolished the bloody thing yet? It’s football’s answer to trainspotting; you’re only interested in it if you’re a massive wrong-un whose hard drive needs inspecting. Anybody who feels genuine, unadulterated excitement about a competition the Moss Side Head Choppers’s reserves won four years running cannot be all there in the head, surely?

Leeds: Meslier; Kristensen, Koch, Llorente, Struijk; Roca (Greenwood 75’), Adams; Aaronson (Summerville 85’), Rodrigo (Klich 65’), Harrison; Bamford (Gelhardt 84’).

Unused substitutes: Klaesson, Gyabi, Hjelde, Drameh, Gray.

Wolves: Sá; Otto, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri; Dendoncker, Neves; Podence, Gibbs-White, Neto; Hee-Chan (Campbell 85’).

Unused substitutes: Sarkic, Mosquera, Boly, Coady, Ronan, Cundle, Hodge, Bueno.

Photo: Action Images

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