Wolves – Leeds: Wolverhampton Wanderers narrowly edged a 1-0 victory in a thoroughly entertaining, back-and-forth affair with a fellow mid-table Premier League side at Molineux Stadium on Friday.
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The game’s only goal went down as an own goal scored by Illan Meslier, but the young French goalkeeper couldn’t have been more unlucky to (not) see the ball come off the crossbar and hit his back.
Leeds entered matchweek 25 in 11th place, with Wolves two points behind them in 12th. The result sees the sides flip-flop, though Leeds have played on less game.
3 things we learned: Wolves – Leeds
1. Wolves on the front foot: It’s been quite some time — perhaps since the early days of the 2020-21 season — since we’ve seen take the game to an opponent of similar quality the way they did against Leeds, particularly in the first half. While the shot numbers were even (9-8 in favor of Wolves), the location of shots told the real story: 7 from inside 12 yards for Wolves, compared to 2 for Leeds. Nuno Espirito Santo’s side played some uncharacteristically free-flowing football with the considerable talent in the team, and it was a joy to witness.
2. Patricio stands on his head: Patricio was nothing short of sensation on Friday, particularly in the second half — both as Leeds looked for the opener and even more so as they chased an equalizer. Leeds were relentlessly dangerous on set pieces as Raphinha served up gem after gem, but the big Portuguese ‘keeper made a handful of tough saves as he more than earned his clean sheet.
3. Leeds unlucky not to earn a point: Marcelo Bielsa’s side extended its draw-less run of results to 15 games (7W-0D-8L), though they were hardly battered in defeat — a rarity of late. On just about any other day, Leeds could have had two or three goals, if not more. The ball was in the back of the net once, late in the second half, but the narrowest of margins ruled it out for offside. As their performances have gone, Bielsa’s bunch were as controlled and calculated as any time this season.
The first half was fantastically wide open as neither side seemed particularly interested in controlling the middle third of the field, with Leeds pressing high in Wolves’ defensive third before retreating into their own, and Wolves setting the line of confrontation deeper but breaking out just as quickly. There were counter-attacking chances for all.
Pedro Neto so nearly opened the scoring in the 12th minute, only to be denied by a stellar, full-stretch save by Meslier. Neto won the ball 35 yards from goal and Neto unleashed a picture-perfect curler from 30, but Meslier saw it all the way and was up to the task.
Leeds somehow managed to not score in the 27th minute, despite Mateusz Klich crossing the ball off the near post and Leeds having a pair of follow-up attempts.
Wolves should have taken the lead a minute later. Neto found Nelson Semedo on the lung-busting overlap, but Semedo put his shot straight into the body of Meslier from 12 yards out.
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Leeds were denied twice in quick succession in the 63rd minute, first by Patricio and again by Conor Coady. Raphinha floated an dangerous free kick into the box where Liam Cooper headed it just within Rui Patricio’s reach. Patrick Bamford followed up with a header of the rebound, but Coady headed it away from inside the six-yard box.
Seconds later, Wolves broke the deadlock with a fair bit of good fortune. Traore cut inside from the left wing and unleashed a powerful strike that crashed off the crossbar and came back into play. Meslier was on the ground after diving to his left, and the ball bounced off his back and rolled ever so slowly over the goal line.
Cooper was denied by Patricio in the 67th minute after yet another brilliant free kick from Raphinha. Again, the ball floated into the box and found Cooper at the back post and he did well to get plenty of power on the strike, but Patricio was in the right place once again.
Bamford finally beat Patricio in the 78th minute, but he had strayed ever so slightly offside before the through ball played him in behind Wolves’ defense. The margin looked to be less than a foot — an agonizing outcome after a well-worked goal.
Patricio saved the day once more in the 93rd minute. Helder Costa corralled the ball after it was launched into the penalty area and managed to turn his defender the wrong way to open up an unimpeded view of goal. Costa fired but put it too close to Patricio who made the kick save look easy.